The story of CHAIN 1977 -2012

by Ron Rowlands


At the time of writing (2010) the UK government is promoting what it calls ‘The Big Society’. Part of this initiative is encouragement of volunteers to help and care more for their neighbours. The name ‘Big Society’ is new but community involvement has been a theme of governments since the 1940s and probably well before then.  Also the concept of Care in the Community has been promoted by, and carried out by, churches, charities and others over the centuries.

A National Volunteer Centre was set up in 1973 as a charitable body to promote the study and development of work by volunteers in the statutory and voluntary sectors of the health, social, education and probation and prison services.  In 1974 the Newbury Volunteer Centre was started.

 W.A. (Bill) Acworth, as a Town Councillor at the time, was aware of these community care initiatives. He knew of efforts, mainly by local authority social service departments, to set up  neighbourhood organisations to encourage voluntary action in support of their care activities. Therefore it was not surprising that after Church service one morning in 1977, Bill discussed with The Revd Richard Kingsbury, Vicar of St Lawrence Church, Hungerford, the idea of a volunteer group for Hungerford.

There followed an invitation by Bill to a few people to join him and his wife Sue at their home, Great Hidden Farm, Hungerford Newtown, to take the idea forward.  Those present on the occasion were:-
Bill Acworth, farmer; member of Hungerford  Town Council.
Sue Acworth
Revd Richard Kingsbury, Vicar of St Lawrence Church, Hungerford.
Angela Pomroy, an Education Officer
Robin Kellow, a Probation Officer
Sheila Wilson, Community Development Officer,
Berkshire County Council   Social work Department

Angela Pomroy recalls the occasion – ‘enjoying a roaring farmhouse fire and a bowl of Sue’s asparagus soup’!  There was not only general agreement on the value of a ‘Good Neighbour Group’; there was also considerable enthusiasm.  However, given that all present were busy professionals, it was realised that to get the Group set up it would be necessary to recruit a fairly large number of volunteers not only to manage the Group but also to be representatives throughout the town.  By the end of the evening the six had agreed to try and identify people likely to be interested

With volunteers in place and a number of exploratory / planning meetings held, it was time for a public meeting.