The earliest recorded mention of a UK Bulldog Rescue crops up during the 1960s - but it wasn't until 1978 that things became official
SHEILA ALCOCK 1960s - 1978
The first mention of rescue crops up in February 1969. The then editor of the London Broad sheet; Sheila Alcock writes:
“LOVING HOMES WANTED: Three bully bitches require affectionate homes …. Will you let me know if there is a spot in front of your fire for these little characters?”
Ads crop up in many of the broadsheets, which at that time were bi-monthly; October 1971 “STOP PRESS: A 7½ year old bulldog needs love and care – owners going aboard”
April 1972: LOVING HOME WANTED: A lady has been taken into hospital very ill and will not return home. A sad story in itself but it has left an eighteen month old bulldog…” This dog was being cared for by the RSPCA" – sadly, many of the centers these days won’t release dogs to breed rescues, but it would appear that in the early 70s things were much different.
In June 1974 Sheila writes: SOS! SOS! SOS! Affectionate homes urgently needed. Sheila tells of 2 old bulldogs of seven and nine that need a home having been rescued in a state of near starvation" also of a dog who’s too boisterous to have around the new baby" (oh how things have changed …. Not!) Except in this instance the owners want their money back and are asking the same sum they paid for him (which is not stated).
Sheila makes a plea in this issue for people to contact her that are looking for a bulldog so she can draw up a waiting list!
LIZ HESLOP: 1978 through to the 1980s
In 1977 Sheila steps down as editor of the Bulldog Broadsheet and in her place comes Liz Heslop, around the same time she takes over the running of Bulldog Rescue. In August 1978, Liz appeals for like minded people to help her set up a network of foster homes and in the October 1978 issue of the Broadsheet she writes: “The Junior Bulldog club kindly allowed us to have a stand at their Bulldog gathering recently and we made £6.80 selling things in aid of funds. We also had a stand at our Championship show by kind permission of the committee and after we had paid for the Aprons we ended up with £16.20. I also had a cheque from a member for £10. I was able to put £33 in a deposit account at the bank today for Bulldog Rescue. This may not seem to be a lot of money but it is a start as previously there was NOTHING.” So was this the beginning of an official Bulldog Rescue fund and the start of “Bulldog Rescue” as we know it? She also mentions that several more people have been added to the waiting list. She finishes the article with “Eventually it is hoped that there will never be a bulldog sitting in a dogs home waiting for his fourteen days to go by …. If there is a dogs home in your area, tell them about Bulldog Rescue please.”
Liz was ably helped by a young Dave Martin, described as a tower of strength it appears that Mr Martin did pretty much all the fetching and driving during the early years of rescue, including pulling up outside Battersea Dogs Home in his Tanker full of Liquid Sugar in order to try and get the bulldog they had. In all he made 5 trips but each time they refused to let Bulldog Rescue help them.
In February 1979 she announces that the rescue fund now holds £183.00 and by June 1979 the rescue had a proper network of volunteers consisting of:
South: Mrs Elizabeth Heslop, Mrs Helen Kennedy, Mr David Martin and North: Mrs J Hughes and Mrs B Dowson. Liz Heslop is now listed as “Treasurer”.
By August 1979 Maureen Slater had joined the list of volunteers and Liz writes of an age old problem – calling people with the news of a dog only to be told they have bought a puppy or changed their minds – something that hasn’t changed!
By October 1979, bulldog rescue celebrates the end of it’s first year with it’s fund going from £6.20 in October 1978 to over £400 in October 1979, running costs had totaled £208.07 spent mostly on vet bills and mileage and due to Liz moving house, Helen Kennedy takes up the role of co-ordinator, mainly due to the fact she is on the phone and Liz isn’t, Liz however, continues to work as treasurer.
HELEN KENNEDY: 1979-1988
An article in December 1979 thanks Mrs Mary Rampton for her fourth donation – Mrs Rampton proved to be a steadfast supporter of Bulldog Rescue during her life time and upon her death in 2003 a kennel was named in her memory by way of acknowledgement of her support and generosity.
In June 1980, Sheila Alcock rights a 5 page article covering her 20 years of involvement in rescue. The article touches on bad temperaments and a sudden influx of vicious bulldogs that she had experienced some years earlier. “Rehoming in such cases is impossible. These people must either take responsibility for the dog for the rest of his life or have him put to sleep”. I find it sad that no one learned from this and helping these dogs find their way to rainbow bridge is still a job that bestows itself on the rescue and it’s unfortunate volunteers to this day.
By the mid 80s it appears that Helen Kennedy is pretty much in charge of things and in 1988 Sheila writes a forward in a booklet entitled “Love to the Rescue”. She says: “Recently, we have lost our two most devoted workers for Bulldog Rescue, being Helen Kennedy and Maureen Slater, both of whom opened home and heart to dozens of unwanted Bulldogs, over many years. After Helen’s death, almost the whole burden fell on Maureen, who now, after so many years of work and worry finds it necessary to give up. Happily, Olive Hunt has stepped in and does sterling work.”
OLIVE HUNT: 1988-2001
Helen died on 27th January 1988 having dedicated the last 10 years of her life to the Bulldog Rescue service. Olive Hunt took over in the Summer of that year.
Most people today will remember Olive and her husband Fred as for 13 years they took the helm and for the first time in the rescue’s history, proper accounts were kept, audited and published each year.
The first set of accounts was published in the London Broad sheet in February 1993 for the year 91/92 showing a bank balance of just over £7,400.00!! Some seven grand more than declared some 13 years previous, the vet bill topped £500.00 and over £400 was spent on mileage and telephone bills, these days you can easily add another couple of noughts to those figures. The accounts were audited by Mr Reg Pullen – son in law to the late Fred Haddrell, who’s last public outing was the first ever Bulldog Picnic held in September 1998. At that time the picnics were held in Tania and David Holmes’s back garden and the money raised handed over to Fred and Olive. Reg still audits the accounts today.
The Hunts sat on the committee of the London Bulldog Society and the one thing that has held true throughout the last 40 or so years is the unstinting support that club has shown the rescue service in its various guises over the years.
TANIA HOLMES: 2001 - Present day
Olive and Fred ran rescue up until 2001 when upon their emigration to Tenerife, handed the reins over to Tania Holmes. Tania continued the tradition for a further 5 years and rehomed over 550 bulldogs in that time. The London Bulldog Society continued their support by being the rescue’s endorsing club with the Kennel Club and providing some of the funds towards the new kennel block built at Tania and David’s home in 2004. On 1st April 2006 Bulldog Rescue finally became a registered charity.
In 2015 Tania became the longest serving head in the history of Bulldog Rescue
The problem within the breed continued to grow until eventually Tania had to admit defeat and give up her own business to concentrate solely on the rescue. They know operate with 4 members of staff alongside 80 volunteers across Mainland UK. Georgia Burton, Lana Alliston and Tania Holmes are currently the main members of Bulldog Rescue, with Trustees Vicky Collins-Natrass (Chair), Simon Barber (Treasurer), Jo Frew, Michelle Woodman (Admin Assistant), Kath Harrison (Fund Raising Manager), Roly Hough and Marie Chandler. By the end of 2023 they had helped over 4000 Bulldogs