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In the aftermath of the Flying bomb attacks of 1944, the needs of the elderly to be appropriately housed took on new impetus, particularly within WVS. The solution to the problem in many cases was the creation of WVS Residential Clubs, the first of course being Thornbank, in Ipswich which opened in 1946. These were the first ‘modern’ old people’s homes with small numbers of residents looked after in an environment we would recognise today. But these were not for everyone and also not for some councils.
An experiment in Salford spearheaded by Mrs Rothwell (WVS County Borough Organiser, Councillor and JP) lead to WVS acquiring three old Victorian houses and converting them into flatlets for those old people in need of housing. The people lived independent lives and one resident received a free flat in return for undertaking the cleaning and management of the communal areas.
WVS had created a simple system in which ‘neglected old people and neglected old houses came together for mutual benefit’ and helped reduce the council’s waiting lists. Sadly despite gathering quiet momentum for almost a decade in 1954 the relatively newly formed Ministry of Housing and Local Government found out about the scheme and said ‘you can’t do this’.
To cut a long story short, this administrative hiccup led to the formation of the WVS Housing Association in 1955.
The Housing Association assisted with the temporary housing of Hungarian and Anglo-Egyptian refugees, in the late 1950s in similar types of houses adapted for the emergency. In 1959 the WVS Housing Association really got going and pioneered new ideas. WVS moved from merely providing homes for the elderly to young professional women opening houses in Tunbridge Wells and Sheffield.
By 1960 WVS had converted 42 houses for the elderly and three for professional women and in January that year opened a new home in London specifically for former WVS members, at Chagford House, Marylebone, London. Opening it in January 1960 Lady Reading (founder Chairman of WVS) said. “I hope that thus may be known as the happy house of St. Marylebone”.
This week's Diary of a Centre Organiser comes from the WVS Bulletin, November 1951
Matron is always glad when a young son or daughter, nephew or niece, accompanies one or more of our Trolley Shop team on their weekly rounds at the Old People’s Hospital. The patients enjoy seeing the children and one of them, 86 year old Mr Croke, gives great joy as a rule by moving sideways on his water-bed so that a glup-glup noise is made as he rocks the contents. Today, however, no smile broke the solemnity of a young visitor’s face when Mr Croke did his trick. Instead, overwhelmed with curiosity, the small boy took a step forward and asked anxiously : “If I put my finger in your mouth, would I feel the water?”
Have not yet found a niche in W.V.S. for Miss Pheckless. Had wondered whether she could deliver some of our Meals on Wheels, but my eye happened to light on an entry for August (when I was away) in our office Day Book which read : “Police called to ask us to remove some containers which had been standing outside No 5 London Street (an empty, boarded-up house) for some days and which were causing annoyance to the neighbours. Sent Miss Brown to collect them.” A later entry stated : “Miss Brown reported the containers were without lids, were buzzing with flies and smelling violently. Have traced that the meals were left by Miss Pheckless instead of at No 5 London Road.” Felt ashamed of myself for not reading the August entries before: what is the use of keeping a Day Book if nobody reads it? Was glad to discover due apologies had been sent to No 5 London Road.
Tunny Fish en Casserole
1 medium size tin tunny fish
1 medium size onion (chopped)
3 packets potato crisps
Pepper and salt
1 tin mushroom soup
Line a casserole dish with one packet of potato crisps. Break the tunny fish into small pieces. Place part of it in the casserole, then a small quantity of the chopped onion; repeat until supply of tunny fish and onion are exhausted. Pour into the casserole the tin of soup (which has previously been heated) and put into a moderate oven for about half an hour. Cover the top with a layer of potato crisps, return to the oven for another ten minutes, garnish with parsley and serve.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00
Tuesday, 11 August 2015.
heritage Bulletin Blog,
Meals on Wheels ,
Tunny Fish casserole,
BATH. One of our old ladies who had been visited for a long time by W.V.S. dropped a hint that she had a birthday the following week. This was duly noted by the member and the landlady. Small gifts of candies, biscuits etc. were produced for the great day and they all had tea together. During the little celebration the old lady coyly announced that it was not her birthday at all but she would like to make sure of it now! Tailpiece—she died before her birthday ; she was over 80.
BURTON-ON-TRENT. The Hat Stall. The Matron at the Andressey Hospital approached the leader of the trolley shop to see if it was possible to supply those mental patients who were able to go out with new hats, as the ones they had were getting very shabby. As nothing appears impossible to W.V.S. our leader went to the manager of one of our large stores to see what he could do. He most kindly agreed to help and sent up a large quantity of hats to the hospital and the trolley helpers held an extra session one evening in the women’s sitting room. It was a most exciting and interesting evening. The patients were frightfully thrilled and tried on the hats with great enthusiasm, matching them with their coats, laughing heartily when the hat didn’t suit. They had been saving up for this occasion and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The helpers and nurses were completely exhausted at the end as there were between fifty and sixty patients. We are wondering what we shall be asked for next.
ESTON (SOUTHBANK). On arriving at the post office one morning the Centre Organiser found a note asking her to telephone a crippled women who wanted W.V.S. help. It was found a self-propelling chair was needed. The Centre Organiser made several enquiries, and then told the woman what to do (all in the same morning). In less than three weeks the woman had been interviewed and examined and found eligible and now, having received the chair, she is so grateful she wants to do shopping for old people not able to do their own.
MORPETH. We have called on 38 old people to see if they need help, and came across many sad cases and some with humorous endings. For example, two poor old sisters over 80 living in most squalid conditions, no bedding, having sold belongings to keep going ; very proud and refusing any help. The National Assistance Board officer was asked to call and the Medical Officer of Health notified. The N.A.B. officer, after a lot of questioning awoke vague memories of money in their minds, and after a lengthy search he and they discovered £400 in notes in an old handbag!
. A little girl, very badly burned was transferred from the Isle of Wight to the plastic ward of Odstock Hospital. W.V.S. Isle of Wight told Southern Region and they passed the message on to South Western Region who asked Salisbury to send a visitor. Within two hours of receiving the request a member was on her way. The child was very ill and of course homesick. Our member quickly established herself as a trusted and beloved “ aunt,” and has been visiting the little girl three or four times a week for more than two months.
Posted by Matthew McMurray at 00:00
Monday, 22 June 2015.
Burton on Trent,
Reports from everywhere
Manchester County Borough made over 1,000 meals parcels for Meals on Wheels recipients and 350 boxes of toys (some of these boxes were for families with eight, nine and ten children), A Christmas party was given in Manchester in the New Year for 400 children which WVS was asked to plan and operate. There was a parcel for each child in addition to the above boxes.
When Peterculter won a prize in the Blanket Competition they were thrilled and on its return to them it was put on show. Yet they felt that they wanted to use it for a special purpose so at Christmas it was included in a parcel sent to a refugee priest in South Germany where it could bring warmth, be admired and appreciated.
We are feeding a maximum of 22 at our lunch club in Cheshire, and more would like to come. As we don’t like to refuse people in winter we hope to manage the extra few. Our Club members are most appreciative, which is nice. One old lady, however, is quite convinced that mince gives her asthma; and an old man bags his wife’s dinner if he thinks her helping is larger than his, and says he would not mind helping us if he were paid as much as we are! Many shops are very kind in knocking the Shillings off our bills.
One of the members at the St. Pancras WVS centre has a young schoolgirl daughter who is very interested in the WVS Club for the Elderly at Chalk Farm, where her mother is a leader. Margot persuaded her little friends to sing carols to neighbours at Christmas time and give any proceeds resulting from their efforts to the club to provide a Christmas Treat. It was a proud moment for them to come to the club to sing Christmas carols in costume to the old people and to hand over a donation of £5 14s.