On 23 August the Tea & Co. Café at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridgeshire was officially opened. It is one of a
range of developments in the charity’s Healthier Choices retail transformation programme which also includes Shop & Co. The Café is run by a staff and volunteer team in Cambridgeshire. This week
we thought it might be interesting to look at the history of Addenbrooke’s and
Royal Voluntary Service.
The first canteen was established in 1950 in “a passage
between the out-patients' department and the hospital itself. There was room
for only two people behind the counter and a row of customers in front, with a
constant stream of stretchers, chairs and nurses passing behind”. (WVS Bulletin January 1954, page 5). It quickly expanded as a new canteen with work
space was opened; in the 1950s 80,000 people were served annually.
Canteen helpers were needed weekly to prepare food, defrost
refrigerators, keep statistics and accounts, serve customers and wash up. In
1960 Cambridge City held a meeting of WVS Hospital Helpers to celebrate their
ten years' service in the Out-Patients' Canteen at Addenbrooke's Hospital.
“This very modern and up-to-date canteen was equipped from the profits” gifts
from further profits given to the hospital in the 1960s included a television set
for the Children's Ward, 160 trays, one carrying chair, and two geriatric chairs (WVS Bulletin May 1960).
In the 1960s Addenbrooke’s opened a new hospital which meant the opening of a
new canteen for WRVS in the late 1960s.
By the 1970s WRVS ran two canteens one in the old and one in
the new hospital; they funded a house for the relatives of patients who lived a
long way from the Hospital. When the old hospital closed a second canteen was
opened to cope with increased demand. The new canteen opened in 1972, at the
time WRVS also provided trolley shops, a patient helpers’ service, reception
duties and flower arranging. The Narrative Reports which we talk about so often
recorded the story of voluntary Service until the early 1990s in Cambridge.
Reports mentioned Addenbrooke’s had canteens in Radio Therapy and Out Patients.
They also started to serve new lines including toasted sandwiches. In the early
90s the Hospital Organiser continued to provide the service to the hospital as
well as a trolley shop.
Unfortunately the archive does not hold many records of the
charity’s activities in the 1990s however we do know that volunteers from
Addenbrooke's went to London to assist Cilla Black with the launch of the “Give
us a hand campaign” in 1998. It was designed to encourage people to volunteer
with WRVS. The campaign embraced the power of celebrity, asking famous people
to pledge their support by sending in an autographed outline of their hands.
Over a hundred celebrities took part, including Imogen Stubbs, Stephen Fry, Sir
Ian McKellen, Robbie Coltrane, Sean Bean and David Suchet. The campaign also
saw ordinary people make colour paper cut-outs of their own hands at the WRVS
stand at the Ideal Health Show, then hang them on a cardboard tree. The WRVS
continued to run services at Addenbrooke’s into the 2000s when changes began to
The early 2000s saw a few changes to WRVS’ role at
Addenbroke’s. A new Coffee Shop was opened in 2003 which was rebranded after
the rebranding of Women’s Royal Voluntary Service to WRVS (Green and red to
purple and orange) in 2004. In 2013 the charity was renamed Royal Voluntary
Service and more recently plans for hospital shops, canteens and tea bars were
updated to provide healthy options in hospitals and to bring back the red and
green branding. Addenbrooke’s is now one of Royal Voluntary Service Tea & Co. cafés and the volunteers and staff will continue this
partnership steeped in history.
If you would like to learn more about Royal Voluntary
Services history with hospitals then read our fact sheet Welfare work in hospitals 1938 – 2013.