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Nettles and broken gramophone records, just a couple of the things we don’t search for very often in the collection however this month both cropped up in our Twitter and Facebook accounts. Both were collected by WVS during the war, nettles for medicinal purposes as much needed herbs and gramophone records for recycling; at the time they would have called this salvage. Inspired by our social media posts and some comments from our followers I decided to embark on some research in the collection. I wanted to find out about Royal Voluntary Service’s relationship with nettles and gramophone records. This is what I found
If you type in the word nettle or nettles into the catalogue you will find 3 mentions in the Bulletin between 1943 and 1969.
In 1942 WVS started to collect much needed herbs for medicinal purposes to assist with the war effort. In that year, nationally, they collected 60 tons of the herbaceous perennial flowering plant. Along with dandelion leaves, burdock leaves/roots and elder flowers to name a few it was considered to be of secondary purpose but I’m sure they were collected with just as much enthusiasm as rose hips or valerian root. Nettles along with some other herbs don’t really get a mention after the war however they are referred to in the Bulletin in August 1960.
The article A London Herb Garden written by a Bon Viveur describes in detail the plans for a garden at a decrepit Georgian house in Blackheath. Part of the article discusses what the herbs they grow will be used for. This includes Cumberland and Westmoreland herb puddings a recipe which includes bistort and “nettles of course!” Today, I don’t think we always associate nettles as being useful or something we would consume and of course they can always feature in a well told story like MUM’S STAND-IN from March 1969.
[I] hoped that the recipients would tolerate my inexperience and help me out, which of course they did and if they felt any surprise that their regular helper wasn't there they never expressed it and perhaps enjoyed initiating a young stranger in the rituals of delivering Meals on Wheels. First problem-to find the right door-at No. 5 . . . Place. The slippery brick path lies between nettles on one side and rows of dustbins on the other side and the latch of the gate round the bend to the left is held by string, but the peeling kitchen door is ajar and the matches actually are behind the Ajax, and Mrs. D. seems really pleased to see the steaming steak and kidney pie going into the oven and the fruit and custard on a plate on the table. … But it is very hard to get away quickly from the flats for Mrs. F. is giving the baker's roundsman a cup of tea and she hurries to find another cup for me, but eventually reconciles herself merely to pressing two peppermints into my hand to help me on the way. Bang goes my diet!
This segment from an Oxford Narrative Report mentions broken gramophone records being collected for salvage. According to other sources this was for recycling into new records. However a quick search for gramophone records in the collection shows the WVS didn’t just collect broken ones for salvage. Those in Good condition were obtained for troop canteens, book depots and a Gramophone lending library at Scottish Headquarters.
You can read the rest of the Article from the Bulletin September 1944 online.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this odd assortment of stories about two completely unrelated topics and perhaps you’ll be inspired to conduct your own search of the online catalogue. Happy hunting!