Red Cross appeals for help to stock-drive its shops in 100th anniversary

The Duchess of Bedford inspecting Red Cross at Bedford Corn Exchange Bedford in the 1960s.
The Duchess of Bedford inspecting Red Cross at Bedford Corn Exchange Bedford in the 1960s.

It’s time to sort out your attic, your garage or wardrobes bursting full of unwanted items - somewhere in all that junk you may uncover a gem to help the Red Cross.

The British Red Cross is launching a nationwide stock-drive to celebrate 100 years of its charity shops and its proud legacy of support during the First World War.

From Friday, November 7 the organisation has been encouraging people to donate items to their local Red Cross shop, which can be sold in aid of its vital work helping people in crisis in the UK and overseas. There is a Red Cross shop in St Loyes Street, Bedford.

Many across the UK will be familiar with the huge commitment made by 90,000 Red Cross volunteers between 1914 -18 who gave their time and skills to help the sick and wounded; doing everything from nursing and air raid duty to searching for missing people and transporting the wounded.

But the First World War also saw the widespread growth of fundraising for the Red Cross with its first charity shops offering a variety of luxury and unusual pieces. Known as ‘Gift Houses’, these pop-ups were a treasure trove of items that ranged from the exclusive to the bizarre. Donations included Egyptian tapestries, paintings, silver and gold alongside Great Danes, a Persian kitten and a pair of Pointers!

Nowadays Red Cross charity shops are more likely to attract donations of clothing, shoes and bric-a-brac but they still receive the occasional item that raise lots of money, while others raise just a smile!

A shop in Devon was delighted to receive an original WW1 flying helmet, which was verified as being genuine and sold for £380. A shop in Wales celebrated its good fortune after receiving “Whispers”, a 26-foot yacht which was sold at auction for almost £10,000. And perhaps one of the most bizarre donations to date was a large unopened jar of udder cream, donated to a shop in the heart of Somerset’s farming community. The item was not suitable for sale but staff and volunteers agreed it smelled lovely!

Paul Thompson, head of retail at the British Red Cross says: “This is a very special campaign not only celebrating 100 years of Red Cross Shops but also commemorating the extraordinary commitment and sacrifice of our volunteers during the First World War.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous donations we have received from a variety of high-profile designers and home-ware brands, just as we were for the donations we received 100 years ago, and I really hope that people across the UK will get behind the stock drive campaign and donate to their local Red Cross shops”.