A journey into our archives

We first began our work to improve animal welfare back in 1824, when we were formed by a meeting of animal lovers in a Victorian coffee shop.

Throughout our nearly 200 years of history, we’ve been carefully storing records of our work to improve animal welfare. As you can imagine – we’ve built up an impressive collection!

We recently revisited our archives as part of the development of our range of heritage giftware with WIDDOP and Co. Here are just some of the great images we found from years past.

1 – An RSPCA Inspector in 1930 using his van to campaign for better dog welfare. Our inspectors still use vans to this day. They’re a little more modern now – but not quite as decorated!

RSPCA Inspector Stamp  Standing by his vehicle decorated for a dog welfare campaign at a local Branch carnival Undated circa 1930

2 – The front cover of a Band of Mercy annual from 1921. The Bands of Mercy were local organisations set up to educate and encourage children to show kindness to animals. They were started in 1875 by Catherine Smithies, and we took care of them from 1882.

RSPCA Archive material cover for the RSPCA's Band of Mercy annual 1921 with horse illustration

3 – A lucky terrier who’d just been rescued from a bomb site, and is being held by one of our inspectors. We don’t have an exact date for this photo, but we believe that it was taken around 1940 during a bombing raid in World War Two.

RSPCA inspector holding terrier after rescuing from a bomb site circa 1940

4 – A young girl raising money for our fund for sick and wounded horses. During World War One we created a fund to help the horses involved in the fighting, raising the equivalent of £12 million worth of donations. The girl’s sign reads, “please help my poor friends, the sick and wounded horses at the front.”

Young girl fundraising for horses in a carriage circa 1920

5 – One of our campaign posters – from 1949! It’s publicising a new act which made it illegal to dock or nick the tail of a horse, unless it was for a health reason verified by a vet. The £25 fine would be roughly equivalent to £650 today.

RSPCA Campaign Poster. Docking and Nicking Horse Act - 1949

6 – Our inspectors in action during the North Sea Flood of 1953. They’re rescuing sheep who’ve becoming marooned in their fields, and moving them to safety. The large boat that they’re being hauled into is actually a DUKW, a vehicle which can be used on land and in water!

Sheep marooned and being loaded on to a DUKW by RSPCA Inspectors and farm workers UK

7 – Some of our favourite illustrations from the archives. We’ve worked with giftware specialists WIDDOP and Co. to create a range of wall prints, drinkware, stationery and pick-up gifts using images that represent our history and heritage. They make excellent gifts for animal lovers of any age, and you can browse them in our online shop.

A selection of gifts from Our Heritage Collection range, including a diary and keyrings


Read more about our history, including a hand-drawn video that sets out the highlights of our last 200 years in under three minutes!

Comments are closed.

Back to blog...