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In solidarity: a photographic history of nursing in Worcestershire

  • 15th May 2023

Many of us have benefited at some point in time from medical care at the hands of nurses. While some deliver direct patient care in clinics, health centres, hospital wards and operating theatres, others provide support at home or in schools. Whether part of the National Health Service (NHS) or working for alternative organisations, all are an essential part of our modern-day understanding and expectations of healthcare.

Over the years there have been numerous advancements made in medicine. The creation of the NHS, under Clement Attlee’s Labour Government in 1948, was a revolution in British medical care. The result of welfare state reforms and years spent campaigning for a revision to an exclusive system, the NHS Act afforded universal healthcare to all. Prior to this, free access to a doctor was only afforded to male workers earning less than a certain amount, and often excluded medical coverage for family members routinely left uncared for.

Barnsley Hall medical staff around patient bed

Training session at Barnsley Hall Hospital, 1960s: 899:1936 BA16062(8).

Every year, Friday 12th May marks International Nurses Day. Established in 1974, the chosen date coincides with the anniversary of the birth of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale – though the day itself has been celebrated by the International Council of Nurses since 1965. In 2023, International Nurses Day will launch a global campaign addressing the current challenges in healthcare and call for an investment in the nursing profession which would help support the incredible work of current nursing staff across the UK. Photographs held in our archives show nurses playing a vital and important role in medical care in Worcestershire during the twentieth century – depicting them at work alongside doctors, patients and porters across a county rich in medical history.

Images include three of a Claudia Elisabeth ‘Betty’ Davis from the Stretton family archive – a Kidderminster family, many of whom worked as surgeons and medical professionals. Another from the 1960s, shows a training session at Barnsley Hall Hospital – formally Barnsley Hall Asylum, a psychiatric facility located in Bromsgrove that opened in 1909. Several of the nurses involved in the training are named on the back.

A studio portrait of a Nurse Edith Lindsay sits with others of her caring for patients at Queen’s Hospital in Birmingham, Warwickshire (now the West Midlands). Our records show that she received a certificate for bravery awarded by the Chapter General of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in England – a British royal order of chivalry. A further photo shows nurses in the grounds of Battenhall Mount – an opulent Worcester mansion commandeered during the First World War as a Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospital. In 1983, a photo printed in the Malvern Gazette shows Princess Margret talking to nurses during a visit to Perrins House – a residential and nursing care home, and another building used during the war years to treat the British sick and wounded.

Group of nurses at Battenhall Mount 1917

Battenhall Mount grounds, nurses including Edith Weir, Dorothy Wier and Miss Ogilvie, 1917, W.W Harris: 899:156, Reference Number: 78327

Hartlebury Castle is a third local landmark that was used as a wartime hospital. Scrapbooks belonging to VAD nurse Laura Ellen Stocks, created whilst working there, contain photographs, sketches and messages from patients and colleagues thanking her for her kindness and care. Photos show Stocks with fellow nurses, many of whom are named in her captions. Her sketchbooks document daily life at Hartlebury; where medical care involved recreational activities and offering comfort and compassion to help heal the physical and psychological scars of war.

Nurses play a crucial role across almost every aspect of medical care. Often hailed as the true heroes of the profession, this blog and its attached exhibition, recognises their continued contribution to healthcare and society more broadly, both today and in the past.

In solidarity: a history of nursing in Worcestershire is on display on Level 2 of The Hive from Tuesday 16th May to Friday 30th June 2023. The photographs mentioned are available to research and our archives also holds historic National Health Service records for Worcestershire. Please submit an enquiry or speak to someone on the Archive desk in The Hive if you would like to enquire about viewing any of these.

Princess Margaret visit to Perrins House 1983

Perrins House, Princess Margaret talking to nurses, 1983, Malvern Gazette: 899:156, Reference Number: 57888

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