Apr 032019

Vantage Point on Castle Esplanade today

Castle Esplanade, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NQ

Facing north-west from our vantage point here, a monument on Castle Esplanade, you are looking towards the current offices of EVOC on Ferry Road. The modern day evolution of the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, EVOC is the first point of contact for the third sector (voluntary and non-profit groups) in Edinburgh. Their mission is to support the third sector to build and enable resilient, sustainable, and inclusive communities and they carry out this mission in a number of ways including providing training for third sector organisations and developing partnership approaches, principles, and practices. Over the years, branches of EVOC and its predecessors’ work have been so successful that they have gone on to form independent bodies in their own right. One example of this is Volunteer Edinburgh. A register of people interested in volunteering was first created in 1920. This resulted in enterprises such as the UK’s first Volunteer Job Shop in 1975 before what is now Volunteer Edinburgh registered as an independent organisation in 2000.

EVOC office at 525 Ferry Road today









EVOC Staff Team, Christmas 2018









Photo credits: Lucy Ridley, Yasmin Duncan

Apr 032019

City Chambers today

253 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1YJ

The City Chambers are the civic headquarters of Edinburgh City Council. Members of the public can attend most meetings of the Council, Committees, and Sub-committees. Completed in 1761 and designed by the architect John Adam, the building was originally a merchant exchange. However, merchants preferred to do their business in taverns in the High Street so, in 1811, the Council took over the building. A civic reception was held here to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor, along with a service in St. Giles Cathedral, a Fashion Show, a Ball and a Yule Fair. On the 19th April 2018, Edinburgh Voluntary Organisations Council (EVOC) celebrated their 150th anniversary with a reception in the Scottish Parliament.

City Chambers today









Protest at City Chambers, date unknown









City Chambers, date unknown









Protest at City Chambers, 1980s









Photo credits:Lucy Ridley, EVOC

Apr 032019

10 Hunter Square today

10 Hunter Square, Edinburgh, EH1 1QW

The Edinburgh Society for the Suppression of Begging was founded in 1813 with the desire to eliminate street begging in the capital. Due to its substantial wealthy population and the irregular and seasonal work provided by parts of its economy, Edinburgh tended to attract a large destitute population, many of whom often turned to begging. The Society received a total of £2000 in donations in its first year. Applicants were required to send begging letters to the offices here in 10 Hunter Square, which were manned by a rota of directors. They were then visited by volunteers to assess whether they were eligible for relief before being offered food from the society’s soup kitchen. School fees were also paid for beggars’ children and there was a work committee which endeavoured to assign work to applicants. The Edinburgh Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor would carry out similar work after its founding in 1868 but on a more systematic basis and with a much wider reach.

10 Hunter Square today









Photo credits: Lucy Ridley

Apr 032019

Chalmers Close today

Chalmers Close, 81 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SS

A particularly bad winter in 1869/1870 lead to the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Conditions of the Poor to commit to trying to feed the hungry in whatever way they could. One way they did this was to establish a hall on Chalmers Close where Penny Dinners could be purchased. The dinners consisted of either a basin of broth and a slice of bread for a penny or a plate of meat and slice of bread for twopence. In its first year, 22,809 dinners were sold. The Association also took over running a soup kitchen in the Canongate which opened every winter. Between the months of January and March 1869, the soup kitchen gave out enough rations to feed 50,000 people. This doubled the following year where a longer opening period meant that the kitchen gave out enough rations to feed upwards of 100,000 people.

Photo credit: Ema Smekalova

Apr 032019

5 York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EB

5 York Place today

On 30th March 1868, the Edinburgh Association for  Improving the Condition of the Poor (now EVOC) began at 5 York Place. In their first annual report, the Association estimated that there were around 20,000 families in Edinburgh who needed support. In order to reach all these families and assess their needs, the Association relied on volunteers – 1,247 in the first year who visited upwards of 18,000 households. As well as trying to alleviate material poverty, the Association also sought to make sure that all children attended school, helped making living conditions more hygienic, and worked to prevent temporary destitution from becoming permanent pauperism by encouraging independence and self-support. Their motto was, “Help for those who will help themselves.”

First annual report









Photo credits: Ema Smekalova and EVOC