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While this is a very modern collection there is still an
amazing variety of material held within the store rooms. On several occasions
in the recent past I have come across an assortment of maps from those detailing
the different regional boundaries of the WVS Regions to a hand drawn map of
Cardiff showing the locations of Lunch Clubs. This week I’d like to take you on
a journey using this iconography to explain what they tell us about Royal
Voluntary Service and how maps can be used to complement other historical
Inside the Roll of Honour is a beautifully illustrated map of the British Isles divided
into the 12 WVS Regions created for the purpose of Civil Defence. Neatly written on each region is the location
of the Regional Office including among others Edinburgh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne,
Nottingham, Reading, Bristol and Cardiff. However it doesn’t tell us the individual
centres, we must rely on the Narrative Reports and the Statistic Books
1943-1945 to give us this information. The map allows us to visualise their
location within the organisational structure of WVS during the War. It also
tells us that at some point after the War there was a change to the organisational
structure, Region 5 (London) became Region 12 (Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex
and Surrey) because although on the Map London is Region 5 in the Narrative Report Series it comes under Region 12. Unfortunately we don’t know when this
happened and there are no more maps for this time period however we can show you
other changes in the 1970s and 1980s.
In 1974 the WRVS reorganised itself along Local Authority County
boundaries and setup district offices replacing some of the centres or making
them into local offices. However, a few years earlier Cardiff WRVS decided to
have its own reorganisation as demonstrated in the hand drawn map accompanying this
article. In 1969 the city was divided into six areas where WRVS volunteers
would work with other local organisations to run services for older people. The
map shows that there is an all-day centre in each division providing a base for
the area organisers. It also shows where Social Clubs, Lunch Clubs and Old People’s Homes were based within the different divisions. It also gives us an
idea of the area run by Cardiff WRVS and where the volunteers were working. Although
we might have to compare it with an official map or the rest of the Regional
office papers it lives with to find the names of the places and services but
what it does show is how much effort volunteers put into their services and the
different ways they visualised their organisation.
In 2012 another map made its way into are collection all be
it on an unusual canvas; a hand painted china plate by Muriel Humphrey. It was
presented to Lady Elizabeth Toulson on her visit to Cambridge in 1994. It
depicts the different services including: toy libraries; hospital trolley shops; clothing and Meals on Wheels. In the centre is a map of Cambridgeshire in the Home
Counties Division which was created in 1980 to align with changes to Local Authorities.
Other maps in the collection show these new divisions and areas for the whole
of Britain. These new divisions replaced the regions mentioned above moving
from twelve to nine: North West, North East, Midlands, Home Counties, South East,
South West, London, Scotland and Wales. Using both maps and the Narrative
Reports helped me to work out the plate which in its small map outlines five
districts within Cambridgeshire part of Area 1 in the Home Counties. The
districts are Peterborough, Fenland, East Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire
and Huntingdonshire. The city of Cambridge is also included and slightly
Sadly our journey, traversing the maps of the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection is over. I trust that I have
shed light on how important these alternative drawings of our nation are in telling
the story of an organisation in a very visual sense. Hopefully you will
continue your journey to learn more about the history of Royal Voluntary
Service by regularly visiting this blog until next week adjure.
There are two ways the blog could have gone this week instead I thought I would try and cover both elements in the title as we haven’t really looked either of them before. Let’s start with Pies ...
23 January is National Pie Day, why not celebrate by making a ham and egg pie from this wartime recipe.
Ham and Egg Pie
1 good slice chopped raw ham 1/2lb
short crust pastry
2 dried eggs, reconstituted 1
Salt and pepper
Line a plate with pastry, trim
and decorate the edges. Put on the chapped ham. Beat the egg well, season, and
pour over the ham. Decorate with tomato slices. Bake in hot oven 20-20 minutes
(Regulo Mark 7). Reduce the heat when the pastry begins to brown and allow the custard
to cook slowly.
Food Advisory Bureau 1943 , WRVS/HQ/PUB/PUB/F-43-003
WVS did not just suggest recipes for pies while many ingredients were rationed, they also ran the Rural Pie Scheme. Millions of pies and snacks were distributed to agricultural workers during the war to around 2750 villages each month from 1941-1945. The scheme was first introduced in Cambridge by WVS volunteers who wanted to help agricultural workers because they were on rations and in need of a good midday meal, so they started with meat pies. The Scheme was soon picked up by the Ministry of Food and spread all over the country, in some areas the WI was also involved. Often pies were distributed by a WVS driver from a depot or they were homemade by volunteers. Pies were delivered in many different ways, in Frodsham Cheshire for example the WVS trekked across the Marshes to provide pies to farmers; in Kent they were delivered in a mobile canteen to Hop pickers. Though some, as in the image above with two Land Girls, recieved their pies by tricycle. So while you enjoy your pie remember the hard work of the WVS to feed a nation.
If poetry is more your thing you may be partaking in a Burns Super this week; Burns Night on 25th January a celebration of the Life and Poetry of Robert Burns, WVS/WRVS volunteers were very fond of poetry as well as writing their own on the back of Narrative Reports, some were sent in to the Bulletin or even received from those who had benefited from services provided by the organisation. This is one of my favourites about the One-in-Five Scheme, perhaps you will be inspired to write a poem about Royal Voluntary Service.
“Gather your hearers while you may,
Old time is still a-flying
If you don’t get them day by day,
You’ll be forever trying
For you, unless you look alive
And have your talks in plenty,
Will never get your One-in-Five,
Or even one in twenty!
So be not coy, but do your best
Your backlog to diminish,
For if you once should lose your zest
You’ll never, never finish.”
WVS Bulletin, One-In-Five, June 1962, p.14
We fast approach the end of another year, a year which has been one of success for the Archive. As many of our readers would have witnessed we heavily promoted our Kickstarter Campaign Hidden histories of a million wartime women
in May. With the help of 705 backers £27,724 was raised to digitise the many stories written by volunteers over 70 years ago in the form of Narrative Reports. The process has now begun to bring these stories to you and you can keep up to date with the project by following our Facebook
pages, joining our heritage bulletin mailing
list or regularly visiting our Kickstarter page for the Friday update
Our final blog for the year comes from part of Lady Reading’s Christmas Message written in 1955; I believe it highlights how important it is for us not to forget the past, how we need to be practical in going forward and relates to sharing hidden histories. I hope you enjoy.
Lady Reading's Christmas Message to WVS 1955
“As one Christmas follows another, it is ever more difficult to find the right present to send to you, and so, I send this year, the means, hidden and unsuspected, of gauging, watching and guarding the precious thing which is in your keeping.
It’s the Job that Counts Vol II
I believe that we, workers in Voluntary Service, are today enjoying the endowment bestowed on us by the previous generations, enriched by their outlook and strengthened by their experience. And I want to ask you whether you will, this Christmastide, pause and examine this thing we call Voluntary Service, for it is ours to enhance during the time it is in our keeping, and it is for us to hand on in perfect and ever better shape.
We live in an age where allegory and parable appear to be out of date, but, to my mind, they are not only the best way of teaching but, for oneself, they offer an infinite joy in the companionship of one's own mind. And so I hand into your possession the power with which to examine this thing that is in your trust, charging you to use your imagination and your vision to appraise it, to weigh it, and, above all, to treasure it.”
In the early 1970s WRVS were trying new ways to attract
younger volunteers within the 20-35 age bracket. A new initiative was setup,
Evening Centres, usually run in existing WRVS centres where they led monthly
meetings to help attract younger members to take on WRVS services in their
spare time after work or study. As it is St Andrew’s Day on Wednesday I thought
we would look at the work of these centres in Scotland between 1971 and 1974.
In 1971 London Headquarters established the Evening Members Department
and corresponded with the Scottish Headquarters in Edinburgh to establish
centres in the Large Burghs such as Dundee, Aberdeen and Adinburgh. Perth and
Glasgow were not included in the original correspondence; the Chairman of
Scotland presumed the exclusion of Glasgow was an ‘oversight’ but was later
informed that Glasgow had already agreed with London to start a centre. Perth
even before the centres already carried out evening work had recruited three
volunteers aged 25-35 but had to put them in the Saturday Meals on Wheels
round. They were very keen to find them evening work although there were very
few activities for them.
Once founded Evening Centres in Scotland were a success,
take Glasgow for example, in June 1972 a member of the Evening Centres
Department in London visited to help set up a centre in the city it started
with an organiser (ECO), two assistants and four members. By the end of the
year the centre had 56 members with 20-30 turning up to regular monthly
meetings and taking on services such as flower arranging, hospital visiting,
nurses libraries, good companions and emergencies. Glasgow were also looking to
the future of the evening centre wanting to expand into visiting residential
homes and taking up public speaking to recruit more members for the endless
number of house holders who needed a good companion.
In order to expand all
these services more members are required and it seems evident that the ECO will
have to take up public speaking! This may or may not be a good thing for WRVS,
however, we are willing to try, and to this end have accepted an invitation to
speak on ‘the work of the WRVS Evening Centre and the role of the volunteer
within it’ to young people interested in the Community Service Section of the
Duke of Edinburgh’s (Gold) Award, Start praying!
Glasgow Evening Centre Report 1972
There isn’t much information about the centres after 1974,
perhaps a quest for another day is for me to research some of the other regions
in Britain to find the answer. Watch this space...
The Archive & Heritage
collection was formed in 1958, the year before WVS’s 21st
Anniversary as the Archives and Central Records Department. The members of this
department’s first purpose was to search through files for important original
reports, letters, etc. to find those of historical interest and importance. I
truly sympathise with having to assess twenty years’ worth of material and
having to take key decisions which would affect future generations
understanding of the WVS.
The department started out with a
number of part-time works all with different tasks to complete and a Head of Department
to oversee them. It is funny how very little changes in 60 years, although a
little different with a full time Deputy Archivist and Archives Assistant
(working on the Hidden History of a Million Women Project), there is still an
Archivist and a team of volunteers who help out with the collection anywhere
from two hours to a whole day every week.
We don’t know very much about the
thoughts of the women first involved in bringing this invaluable collection
together, even though they knew there was ‘a real need for such a department’
in 1958, apart from what is written in the Annual Reports. However occasionally
when sorting through the collection something catches your eye; though it wasn’t
shinny and it didn’t look particularly interesting while repackaging the
collection of General Publications on Friday afternoon I came across WVS/WRVS Archives Notes for Guidance
1973 (there are also copies for 1975 and 1981).
This small booklet with a Green
front cover shows how over 15 years the thinking in the Archive was developing
and they were getting to grips with the records they held. They were there to
collate a complete library of papers concerning policy, operational works and
records of WVS/WRVS from 1938 onwards. At the end of the booklet they list all
the documents being kept in the Archive including Annual Reports,
Bulletin/Magazine, Miscellaneous Memoranda and Narrative Reports which with
many more documents, photographs, publications and objects still reside in the
collection today. What interested me most about this booklet was what it said
about Narrative Reports:
“A complete set of Narrative
Reports form all Regions is held in WRVS Headquarters Archives.
No Narrative Reports should be
destroyed without consultation, as arrangements for keeping them vary from
Region to Region”
This might explain why the number
of reports in today’s collection varies so much from region to region.
It's that time of year when a you see a lot of pumpkins in the supermarkets mostly bought and used for decoration, recently in the news I have seen appeals for people not to just throw away the pumpkin flesh they have carved out. So here are some suggestions from the WVS Bulletin using pumpkins.
2 lb. pumpkin
1 1/2 pints " household " milk
2 oz. margarine
sugar to taste.
Peel the pumpkin, cut into dices and put into a saucepan with about 1 pint of water, add a little salt, cook until very tender.
When done, press it through a sieve, add the boiling milk, the fat, some more salt or sugar to taste (sugar preferable if possible). Boil for a few minutes, stirring all the while, and serve. (November 1943)
SAVOURY PUMPKIN PIE
2 lb. pumpkin cut in thin slices
2 lb. tomatoes
1/2 lb. bread (soaked, drained and beaten with a fork)
1/2 lb. minced meat
1 teaspoonful sweet herbs
2 tablespoonfuls melted margarin
salt, pepper and thick brown gravy.
Mix the bread, meat, herbs, salt and pepper to a smooth paste with the melted fat.
Put a layer of pumpkin slices at the bottom of a casserole, or pie-dish, add some tomato and top with pumpkin.
Pour in enough gravy to cover the last layer of pumpkin. Cover with greased paper or a lid and bake in a moderate oven for 1 hour. (November 1943)
Alternatively you could make a sweet pumpkin pie...
1 1/2 cups cooked and strained pumpkin
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon margarine
2 tablespoons molasses (treacle)
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs (reconstituted dried)
1 1/4 cups scalded milk.
Simmer pumpkin in as little water as possible for 20 minutes.
Add sugar, margarine, treacle, ginger, cinnamon and salt to pumpkin.
Add egg and milk and mix thoroughly.
Line a tin plate or sandwich tin with pastry and pour in pumpkin mixture and bake in a brisk oven. It is usual not to cover this mixture with another layer of pastry. (November 1942)
Last Wednesday was Ask an Archivist day so I thought I would share with you some of the questions sent to us through our enquiry service.
Q: I was wondering if you could tell me when the Clothing Store in Swindon first opened and when it closed?
The clothing exchange is first mentioned in 1945 but there is no exact date for when it opened. There are no records for Swindon between 1946 and 1950 (inclusive). When the records reappear in 1951 it appears that the WVS centre in Swindon had been closed at the end of the war and then re-opened in 1951, the Clothing Exchange/Store re-opened in 1953. It is difficult to say when it closed as WRVS had a restructure in 1974 along the lines of the Local Authority and Swindon came under the Thameside District, the district office was in Swindon so I imagine the clothing store was to which is still mentioned in 1992. I imagine it was closed sometime in the late 1990s when WRVS moved its focus to older people’s welfare.
Q: Is there a WVS prayer or hymn?
Yes it was included in the 75th Anniversary Service at St Paul’s Cathedral in 2013
O Lord and Father of all mankind, who has put the spirit of generosity and self-giving into our hearts despite our self-centredness: let thy blessings rest in all its richness upon Royal Voluntary Service and all its volunteers, that strengthened and heartened by the memory and example of their founder they may give themselves for the good of the people of this realm. Grant them the joy which comes from meeting human need and thereby from serving thee; and may the will to give voluntary service, and to give it wisely and well, ever flourish and increase in them, to the benefit of their fellow men and women, and to the glory of thy name, God blessed for evermore. Amen.
Q: I wondered whether there were any historic RVS recipes that matched the classes above, and whether there was a Royal Voluntary Service recipe book or material that I could promote at an agricultural show next weekend?
There are a number of recipes in our publications collection which are currently being catalogued, there are also many Civil Defence Recipe cards if you’re thinking of cooking for more than 30 and books like the WRVS Cook Book and Rescue a Recipe which were compiled by our volunteers. You can also search the Bulletins on our Archive Online
. For those who enjoy reading are recipes here is one from Rescue a Recipe, 1971.
Yorkshire Fat Rascals
• 1/2lb plain flour
• 2oz lard
• 2tsp sugar
• Little milk to mix
• (few currents or sultanas if preferred)
Rub lard into flour and sugar and mix with milk as if making pastry. Add fruit if used and roll out nearly half an inch thick. Cut into rounds and bake until risen and light brown. Split and butter.
Oven temperature: 400 Regulo 6 Time: about 10 minutes
If you have a burning desire for information about Royal Voluntary Services Archives & Heritage why not get in touch and email email@example.com
We often focus on the early years of Royal Voluntary Service then WVS
as a time of innovation, the million women giving their time and energy as well
as bring new ideas of social welfare to the people of Britain. However nearly
40 years later the WRVS was still making changes and finding new ways to
improve people’s welfare in the 1970s.
From 1942 to the early 1960s WVS ran various
transport schemes mostly to take people to Hospital. In the late 1960s WVS ran campaigns for transport services such as
Spare-a-Mile which provided vehicles to take older people shopping. The official Social Transport Scheme (Ceir Cefn Gwlad in Wales) was launched by WRVS in 1970. Volunteer drivers in the 1970s would provide transport for any journeys
other than trips to hospital which was still covered by the Hospital Car Service.
You can find out more about this in our Health and Hospitals Fact Sheet.
One of the earliest pilot schemes
was started in Dyfed, Wales in 1974/75 developed by volunteer Jill Walden-Jones
who only went to a meeting to see how she could help as a member of the WI and
left as the WRVS Social Transport Scheme Organiser Dyfed.
"I was called to a meeting by The WRVS in which they said they thought the whole thing was going to fail because they couldn’t find anyone to run the scheme, at which I was a little bit cross and I said rather foolishly ‘I’ll run the scheme for you, if there’s nobody else willing to do it.’ So my arm was practically seized off and I was told I had to join The WRVS. It was rather a strange start."
Of course all their fears never came true and Jill ran the scheme till
1977 when she became County Organiser but by then the Scheme was spreading
across Wales particularly in Dyfed it reached Llandeilo, Llandovery and Dinefwr,
each district was expected to have 6 or 7 schemes by 1980.
What makes Ceir Cefn Gwlad so
worthwhile and memorable is its passengers and drivers so I will leave you this
week with two stories from Wales where volunteers still take people home
through Transport Services.
"Well of course, there were all sorts of funny things happened. This nice young fellow who was in charge Dyfed County Council rang up and said ‘What’s going on’, he said ‘I see a dog has used our, the Country Car Service’. I said ‘Well, yes, he’s an essential user’. The fact was that this was a fat old dog that could no longer walk properly and his dear old mistress couldn’t get him to the bus stop or, or indeed on to the bus but it was essential that he was taken to the vet. It was her need really, I mean she had an essential need of a car and they, they agreed it, but we always used to laugh about the dog because it established part of what it was about, it was the person’s need for transport."
"By March right on schedule, our eight Country Cars schemes were completed. The district social transport organiser has put in a tremendous amount of work going to meetings, finding scheme organisers, knocking on doors etc., there are 338 members and helpers involved in this work in the district. We were asked by Social Services to take three people from Llandyssul to the Day Centre on Newcastle Emlyn every Monday. We arranged for two drivers to do this and after some administrative hiccups with Social Services this is now running smoothly."
Ceredigion District Narrative Report October 1982-March 1983
1st October is International Older People’s Day so to celebrate let’s take a look at one of the ways Royal Voluntary Service has forged friendships since the 1970s.
Since the 1970s Royal Voluntary Service has been running Good Companion services across the country. They may have changed their name over the years including Good Neighbours and Befriending but the premise has remained the same, to alleviate loneliness and encourage people to help others in their local community.
In Cheshire the scheme tried to get off the ground in Stockport in 1971, the County Borough Organiser has appeared to spend the first few months trying to find volunteers to take on the scheme. However she succeeded in recruiting volunteers for Meals on Wheels instead. Later on the organiser asked to be excused form the piolet as many women in the area were already being “Good Neighbours” under visiting or local council services. This was the case for many areas across the country.
Other areas of Cheshire however appeared to have more success with the scheme, Alsager reported that “At Present a list of old people in need of visits is being drawn up and many members have undertaken to visit.” By 1972 Sale WRVS were also making progress with the Good Companion Scheme and requested 30 record cards in March for members visiting older people under the scheme. By 1973 both schemes were official with another starting in Congleton, Alderly Edge appeared to have an unofficial visiting scheme for residents in a local nursing home and Ramsbottom were interested in starting a scheme for the disabled. So despite the initial hiccups Cheshire really started to embrace the scheme in the mid-1970s.
In the 1980s and 1990s these services were often referred to as Visiting throughout Cheshire including Congleton, Chester, Crew and Nantwich. In June 1980 it was reported that Nantwich had a member who visited an “old lady every evening winter and summer to fill her hot water bottle for a bit of comfort”. Once again proving no job was too big or too small for WRVS.
Over the years this service has allowed people to stay independent and continue to live in their own homes. Volunteers often escort people on outings, go shopping, collect pensions, send post, mend clothes, change lightbulbs, cook, and do other odd jobs around the home as well as taking time to talk to the person they were visiting. Today volunteers are still making friends in the North, running Good Neighbour Schemes including the Brightlife Buddy Scheme in Cheshire West.
In archives there is always a crew of Archivists and volunteers working below decks to bring you buried treasure. Here at the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage collection it is no different and recently we dug up some more of our archives and hoisted them on to our online catalogue for you landlubbers, why not take a look through the telescope at:
The stories of volunteers from 1938-2015 in their own words, find out what it was like to be a WVS/WRVS volunteer by listening to:
Judith Kenna chat about clothing stores in Cheshire and Leicestershire
Maureen Hall discuss taking the members of a Darby and Joan Club on holiday
Ann Greeves harks back to tea bars at Royal Sussex Hospital
Kathleen Ashburner tell the story of the autumn club she ran for 45 years
Jenny Hincks reminisce about Meals-on-Wheels rounds
Alison Findlay talk about the Perth Floods of 1993
There are now another 388 photos from our collection dating from c1990 to 2013 these include:
Delivering a meal by helicopter to St. Michael's Mount, Cornwall. Taken on 06/10/1999
An event for National Meals on Wheels Day volunteers delivered Meals by helecopter. The phot was published in Action Magazine in 1999.
Aye the ship’s crew has more to add so keep a look out.
WRVS Association News
Take a gander copies of the WRVS Association News from 1975-2013, they reveal all the activities of the WRVS Association an organisation for retired members of WRVS formed in 1973. In November 1975 they reported that:
Members may like to know that at WRVS Headquarters in the Archives Department there are now many items of historical interest, as well as reports and letters of importance. The members of the Department would be delighted to show them to any members of the Association who would care to see them. It is possible that some Association members may hold letters or reports of their own which are of lasting interest, and WVS/WRVS Association would be very glad to have then if they can be spared.
Local Office Material
Over the last few years our crew have been busy cataloguing records from local offices in different areas of Great Britain. Now you can search the material we hold on Ipswich WVS/WRVS on our online catalogue including theEmergency Services Suitcase from the 1980s pictured here which would have contained paperwork, tabards and many other things ready for any emergency in the area.
Next time we reveal more of our gold we hope to make our local office material for the North East of England available to search.
You can search our treasure trove at catalogue.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/calmview