Heritage Bulletin blog
The Heritage Bulletin Blog ran from July 2012 to January 2020, covering a huge range of subjects, from a day in the archives, to extracts from the WVS bulletins, and histories of various WVS/WRVS services.
It’s 219 articles have become a valuable resource in themselves, why not search them or just browse to discover something new.
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Learning to structure a catalogue for an accession at the Royal Voluntary Service
In my last blog
I wrote about my first experience of the accession process, for the
Royal Voluntary Service Archives & Heritage Collection, as I unpacked the
extensive records of the Ebley Silver Threads over 60s Club, that had been collated
by Mary Curtis the leader of the Gloucestershire Club from 1966 to 2008. In
this month’s blog however I turn my attention to my first encounter of structuring
and cataloguing, which began after the receipt of a signed gift agreement from
the collection custodian to transfer the documents to the archive.
The first step
was to design a suitable structure, so that the collection could be
incorporated into the searchable archive, based on the initial review of the
contents. It would have been a daunting task were it not for the helpful
beginners guide to hierarchical archive structures, included in volume 6 of the WRVS Heritage Bulletin, and the comprehensively mapped out catalogue
structure helpfully pinned to the archive storeroom wall. In the course of
reviewing the documents it had become apparent that despite the inclusion of
the personal records of Mary Curtis, detailing her association with the WRVS over
46 years, it should be classified as the records of a local office as it
covered the activities of the Stroud and Gloucestershire group over an
This meant that
the collection Fonds (WRVS) and Sub Fonds (LO) levels of the catalogue structure
were quickly in place, and the Series based on the location of the activity
could be determined. As Ebley is situated in the Stroud region of
Gloucestershire the question was therefore only whether the village was in the
rural or urban area. Surprisingly however, this was not a straightforward
answer as it appeared to be referenced both ways, but ultimately it was decided
that it was most often classified as being in the Stroud Urban District and so
the Series abbreviation was settled upon (STD UD). An abbreviation of Ebley
Silver Threads over 60s Club could then be slotted easily into the Sub Series
catalogue structure only needed to be developed into Files, Sub Files and if
appropriate Items. To aid this construction process a large sheet of paper was
found and an outline of what the collection should look like was mapped out
from the notes taken during the preliminary review.
As the bulk of
the collection was made up of the photographic records of the week long Club
holidays around the United Kingdom, which many members of the Club participated
in between 1970 and 2007, this became the first File (HOL) with the individual
locations as Sub-Files. This meant that the Sub File abbreviations could adopt
an existing structure used elsewhere in the archive. Other Files were also
incorporated for the Club Activities (ACTV) which were not associated with the
holidays, such as Easter Bonnet making or the more frequent activities such as
Christmas parties and day trips. For Member linked activity (MEMB) such as
gatherings for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries and departures another File
As a WRVS Local
Office there were also circular notices (CN) and regional publications (PUB) to
include (which would have a wider relevance within the archive) as well as the
Club records such as meeting minutes (MIN), general administration (ADMIN),
finance (FIN), publicity (PBY). All of these were references which had been
created previously in other catalogued projects and consequently the
utilisation of them for this collection helped maintain consistency across the
also needed to be space to incorporate the personal records of Mary Curtis
(CURM). This File included Sub-Files for all the letters and correspondence
(CORR), newspaper cuttings (NEWS), ideas and reminders (NOTES) she accumulated
in her role as Club Leader, as well as the recognition (AWARD) she received
over the course of her work with the older citizens of Ebley from 1962 to 2008,
as a dedicated member of the WRVS.
structure was complete the processing could begin with items carefully gathered
together and referenced in accordance with the entry into the archive catalogue
(CALM). Throughout this process the original order of the collection was
maintained in the physical files. Whilst the majority of the documents received
were incorporated into the catalogue, with only those not connected to the WRVS
Club or which were available in other archives excluded, only a selection of
the photographs from each of the holidays were included. No restrictions were
placed on how many photographs could be included in the final catalogued
collection but images were selected based on content or if annotations had been
added. Overall the selected photographs for cataloguing were those which it was
felt could visually record, describe and place the activities of the Club.
I have now
finished processing this accession (phew!) and the catalogue records will be
online next time we update the Archive Online pages. Until then I will be
applying my new skills to the Aylesbury Local Office Collection!
Lets take a trip back in time to this month 67 years ago where the WVS are very busy all over the country and sending in stories to the Bulletin mainly concerning unusual requests, their members and a very active Darby and Joan. Its time for the News Flashes from October 1949.
.- Many odd queries. A Polish woman from the Russian Zone of Germany asked W.V.S. to trace her husband whom she last saw before the 1914-1918 war and who sent his last letter from Philadelphia in 1919!
.- When the Meals on Wheels van broke down recently The Yorkshire Evening News loaned a van and driver. On another occasion the proprietor of a local ice cream business used his luggage brake and drove the car himself so that the old people were supplied as usual with their hot meal.
.- A request for hats came from the hospital. The " Old Folk " were going to Margate and had nothing to protect their heads from the sun. Could we help ? We have a cupboard where W.V.S. store everything and anything unnamed, and which we call " The Lost Paradise." We managed to unearth twelve very ancient and tired-looking specimens, but strange to say, fashionable now. Bought bunches of artificial flowers from a local sale to trim them, also two more felt hats at 1/- each, making a total of fourteen. They were cleaned, brushed and reshaped and sent to the hospital that very same afternoon, also three for the men.
.- Gifts of nightdresses and a dressing gown, sent into the Office in response to the Clothing Appeal, seemed providential as they were passed immediately on to a needy " Joan " who had to be rushed into hospital to undergo an operation.
.- W.V.S. staffed the Information Tent at the County Agricultural Show and afterwards provided a splendid canteen for the workmen who dismantled the stands. The men appreciated this service enormously and their only complaint was that W.V.S. had not provided a canteen for them when they erected the stands!
.- At a Carnival held in Neyland (Pembs.) recently a lorry was arranged to represent the Neyland Darby and Joan Club. Children were dressed to represent the Darbies and Joans and the W.V.S. helpers. A table was set for tea and at another Darbies were playing dominoes. This lorry gained 3rd prize.
.- Troops in transit have made full use of the Britannia Club. On three occasions the Club was opened at 7.30 a.m. for the benefit of men given shore leave. One day it was almost crowded out by a seething mass of troops in jungle green. When naval vessels were here on a four days visit large numbers of the ship's personnel were in the Club, taking part in the various tournaments and attending the dances, which they appeared to enjoy tremendously. We were delighted to receive four parcels of magazines from Ardler, Burnley, Dunkeld and Headquarters (Technical magazines). Last, but certainly not least, six parcels from Eastbourne W.V.S., who also very kindly sent a grand parcel of sheet music and song books, which were greatly appreciated by our band.
.- A member offered to make 200 cakes for a Garden Party given in aid of the local Animal Clinic. This was in answer to an appeal by Brighton Centre.
.- A Darby aged 58 cycles 1 1/2 miles weekly from outlying village of Allerthorpe to attend the recently opened Darby and Joan Club.
The front cover of this month's Bulletin reported "A plan for supplementing rations of farm workers is under trial by the Ministry of Food with the aid of W.V.S., Ipswich. Meat and cheese sandwiches and cakes are collected from a depot in the town and taken by W.V.S. to the fields. Workers pay on delivery and give orders for the next round. These farm workers seem well pleased with their cellophane-wrapped test meals."
Hence the Headline in this weeks image "Packed Meals for Thatchers".
This month’s reports from everywhere are all on the topic of Darby and Joan clubs.
Copy of a letter from a Darby and Joan Club member: “Dear W.V.S., Thank you very much for my birthday card received September 3rd from the No. 1 Darby and Joan Club. It is very nice to think you are not forgotten. I have not been able to come to the Club for over twelve months. I have been very ill, but I am very pleased to say I am much better, but am not allowed by the Doctor to go into any crowded places, so I don’t go anywhere on my own these days. I miss my Friday meetings very much. All you folks made me feel so much at home with you all. You made me feel you really wanted us all there, not just putting up with us. Good luck to the Club and God bless all the W.V.S. that work there, also all the others that make it a success.”
The Gostrey Club was recently opened. This is a scheme upon which we have been working for over a year. The Club provides a hot lunch, chiropody and library services and tea to people over 60 years of age. The Council have been most helpful in agreeing to let the old Civic Restaurant to us at a low price, and gifts have been received from a number of sources. W.V.S. members worked hard cleaning, putting up curtains and making all the preparations. The opening was attended by 18 old people and many visitors, since which the membership has increased to 45. It was pleasant to hear an old lady saying to a friend, “Yes, I’ve just been to my Club. Oh, it’s like heaven. The chairs are so comfortable and we sit with our feet on a carpet!”
The following letter of thanks has been received from one of the old people to whom we deliver meals-on-wheels : “I am writing a few words of thanks to you and all the kind and willing helpers for their grateful service for we old people and the pleasant faces and the bit of pudding and dinner. Hoping you will not be offended at my writing but you deserve a word of praise for your kindness.”
The one hundredth Darby and Joan Club in Kent was opened on October 5th at Boughton Monchelsea. To commemorate the occasion a silver cup is being given to the Club by the Regional Old People’s Welfare Specialist.
An amusing story comes from Goring Darby and Joan Club. One of our members plays chess regularly with one of the old men. They continued their game during tea, and the Darby became so excited that his opponent suddenly saw he was trying to eat a chessman instead of his cake!
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00
Monday, 09 November 2015.
Darby and Joan,
In case you had been missing our regular columns over the past month, no fear, the Diary of a Centre Organiser is back! This time from December 1949.
We were asked to visit a woman who is the mother of nine children and who is expecting the tenth within a few days. "I'm dreadfully tired of having babies," she complained.
"Then why don't you stop ?" demanded Mrs Blunt, who accompanied me.
The woman sighed. "It's the only way I know of to keep the youngest from being spoiled," she said.
When our Regional Administrator paid a visit today to one of our longest-established "Darby and Joan" Clubs she recognised a grey-bearded old man who had told her his age was 77 when she last saw him. "That was four years ago, wasn't it," she suggested, "so now you must be . . . ?"
"77," he maintained solidly.
"But how is that," she asked him." Do explain."
"Explain ?" he spluttered indignantly. "There's nothing to explain. Do I look the sort of chap who would be telling you one thing one day and something else the next ?"
Our County Organiser passed on an excellent tip she had picked up at the recent conference at Ashridge. "One of our members who distributes Welfare Foods keeps an eye on the laundry lines," a speaker had told the audience, "and directly she sees a row of nappies she calls at the house with orange juice and cod liver oil. It's wonderful how the number of bottles distributed by her has increased since she adopted this plan."
The Centre has collected a lot of pot plants for distribution at Christmas to the more bedridden of our Meals on Wheels clients - and there will even be some over. A worried-looking man, peering through our window, ventured in to ask if we could let him have a geranium for his wife who was coming out of hospital. "I'm afraid we haven't any geraniums," Miss MacFee told him, "but we have some nice potted chrysanthemums - and here's a very pretty cyclamen."
"No, they won't do," was the gloomy reply. "It's a geranium I promised my wife I'd water for her while she was away."
1 lb flour
1/2 lb butter or margarine
1/2 lb castor sugar
1/2 lb sultanas
1/4 lb glace cherries
1 teasp Baking Powder
1 breakfastcup milk
Pinch of salt
Cream butter and sugar. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder. Add eggs one at a time, then the milk. Beat all well together for 10 minutes. Grease and paper a cake tin. Pour in mixture and bake in a moderate oven for 1 1/2 hours. When cool cover with plain white icing and decorate.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 14 September 2015.
Darby and Joan,
meals on Wheels,
This week on the HB blog a slight departure from the usual fare. I thought you might like a story about what we're doing at the archive, or rather, how Royal Voluntary Service and the Archive are helping the wider charity and archive sector.
On Friday (5 June) I was honoured to co-present a workshop session at the British Academy for their research project, ‘Digitising the Mixed Economy of Welfare in Britain’. The project aims to identify and encourage those voluntary organisations with records relating to the formation of the modern welfare state after 1945, to digitise them and make them available to the widest possible audience.
This was the first of many events in this project aimed at getting those involved together and enabling us all to start a dialogue about how charities, academics and others might work together.
My session, which I presented with Rob Baker of Blind Veterans UK, was all about the ways in which large charities like ours use our Heritage especially how it is used in helping to promote and give context to the work our charities do now. With our Grandest Festival only a week away, this offered the perfect opportunity to show how the archive has relevance to modern campaigns.
Our Grandmakers will be running sessions on ‘Heritage Skills’ something which the Royal Voluntary Service has excelled in ever since its creation. This is not just limited to the jam making, toy making or sewing (the subject of three heritage display panels at the event), but women (and later men) using their skills and knowledge for the creation of service which have come to underpin our whole society.
WVS was one of the key players in the development of the welfare state we now take for granted, especially for the older people. As part of our work at the end of and directly after the war, we helped to create a workable system of home care which became the model for the entire country and also created the model for the modern old people’s home, which was enshrined in the 1948 Assistance Act. Also don’t forget the widespread adoption of Darby & Joan clubs!
Sharing our knowledge is something Royal Voluntary Service has always done throughout our history, and allowing us to help lead the sector and assist others in similar circumstances is the very essence of voluntary service.
If you live in London and can make it to Hoxton Square on Saturday 13 June, do go along; and if you do why not buy one of our new archive tea towels, or coasters, or apron, or postcards…
Thanks for the photo to CHARM
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 10:00
Monday, 08 June 2015.
Home Helps ,
darby and Joan ,
Old peoples homes,
Assistance act ,
This week we are travelling to Wales, to celebrate St. David’s Day. Enjoy ‘More News from Wales’ from April 1958.
The record of the past two months in day-to-day work has continued and developed in spite of every possible vagary of weather. Snow, rain, flood, fog, icy roads have been taken in the W.V.S. stride. Meals-on-wheels in the very hilly areas have continued without a break and drivers are becoming highly skilled in handling vehicles on the icy slopes. We feel that many would give an excellent account of themselves in winter car rallies.
We are very sad to record in the decision to close Tonfanau Camp, Merioneth, that the W.V.S. Centre has also closed. This job has been continued with one or two short breaks since 1949 until now and from the highly flattering remarks made by Western Command we are glad to realise that the Army has found the work valuable. The site is on the edge of the sea and even in summer high winds and driving rain are a constant feature of this part of the coast. There are no towns of any size for miles and the W.V.S. Social Centre has proved a real blessing for the boys who have passed through the Camp. W.V.S. in Wales has been delighted to have been associated with the work and we have found that for some members working there it has been splendid training- ground before going overseas.
Cardiff W.V.S. are very pleased that their Darby and Joan Club which has been formed in the Docks district recently appeared in an I.T.V. programme featuring the life among the black population of seaport towns. Some of the old men were shown playing games, and a recording was made of the women singing. This is a very happy club, and we believe unique.
Cardiff W.V.S. were recently entertained en bloc at the Mansion House by this year’s Lady Mayoress, who is a very valued member of W.V.S. As the Deputy Lady Mayoress is also a member it was a very Civic occasion indeed and a most happy party.
Neath members, whose versatility has always been of a high order, have now excelled themselves in the formation of a “ Saucy Skiffle Group.” Dressed in highly coloured costumes and wearing wide- brimmed hats, they made their first appearance in public when they gave the Darby and Joan Club a concert for St. Valentine’s Day. Their report states: “The piano and the guitar probably supplied the music, but the saucepan lids and the wash-boards, the tin of peas, the whistle, the clappers, the wooden box with the taut rope (the double bass), all supplied the rhythm and the volume.” As it was for St. Valentine’s Day, the concert repertoire consisted mainly of love songs and Darbies and Joans joined heartily in all the choruses. One of the Joans in this club has recently made well over one thousand leeks for fervid Welshmen to wear at international matches and on St. David’s Day.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 02 March 2015.
St. David's Day,
Heritage Bulletin Blog,
Darby and Joan,
Meals on Wheels ,
MABLETHORPE. When a party of children came here on a school treat, about 20 were swept out to sea by a sudden enormous wave. Fortunately all were saved. They were brought to us. We gave them tea and lent them clothes while we dried and pressed their wet ones. By 6 o’clock they were ready to catch the bus for home as arranged.
DARLINGTON C.B. Writing postcards in a crowded London Post Office, I was asked by a man with both hands bandaged to address a parcel for him. He thanked me saying “ I knew you would help me,” proving that even the back view of a W.V.S. uniform attracts those in need. Long may it remain so !
PADDINGTON B. A member visiting the doctor’s surgery was in uniform. While in the waiting room a harassed G.P. looked in, saw the W.V.S. member, and asked, “ Can you cope with looking out files?” An hour later she entered the surgery. “ Gosh,” said the doctor, “ I apologise, but I was hours behind and am only a locum. In the hospital I’ve just left we had two W.V.S. who did cope, and so have you! Do you want a regular job ?”
RUISLIP U.D. The Guide Commissioner asked us to find some work of public service for a 15-year-old Guide, so we arranged for her to help in the Darby and Joan Club one afternoon. She continued helping all through the holidays, serving tea and washing up, and prepared vegetables for meals on wheels when we were short of a cook. She was always smiling and willing and the old people were delighted to see her.
BROMSGROVE U.D. A demonstration of emergency feeding was said to be the best of its kind so far. Eight women who can build ovens and feed fifty people at a time assembled an oven from a few bricks, a hotplate and a dustbin within an hour. The following day the oven was tested and quickly turned out cakes and tea.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 09:00
Monday, 01 December 2014.
Darby and Joan ,
Meals on Wheels ,