A History of Nursing at the
Worcester Royal Infirmary

Worcester, being a Cathedral City, was an active centre of learning, and the 1700's were a time of great progress. There were already Charitable Foundations, e.g, Almshouses such as St. Oswald's in the Tything, 1268. The prime mover of the scheme was probably Bishop MADDOX (1697-1759) who came from London in 1743. He was born in London in 1679 and moved around - Oxford, Salisbury, but mainly lived in London. He was not always popular - Sir Hugh Walpole said "Maddox of St. Asaph has wriggled himself into the City of Worcester". He was associated with hospitals in London, e.g. London Smallpox Hospital. Sir John RUSHOUT (1685-1775) was also credited with the Foundation. He inherited his title unexpectedly, being a second son, and was M.P. for Malmesbury and later for Evesham. He certainly gave financial aid. The hospital was founded in 1732 in Silver Street, Worcester and opened in 1746.

The physicians concerned were Doctors Allwood, Wall, McKenzie and Cameron; the surgeons were Stephen Edwards and William Russell. The Committee acquired a house in Silver Street, opened on 11th June 1746, the staff consisting of :

  • Thomas Bourne - Apothecary - £15 p.a.
  • John Kings - Secretary - £10 p.a.
  • Mrs. White - Matron - £6 p.a.
  • Nurse Goslin - Nurse - £3.10.0 p.a.
  • Nurse Whetstone - Nurse - £3.10.0 p.a. (later Whetstone was discharged as incompetent (at 20 years of age)
  • Patience Perry - Maid - £3 p.a.

Money was raised by subscription. Those with disordered minds, dying, expectant mothers, infectious patients, venereal diseases, were not admitted. Smoking, swearing^ card or dice playing were forbidden. Patients who were well enough helped with the work.

By the end of the year Nurse Davies (aged 20) replaced Nurse Whetstone. All had 5 shillings for Christmas box, Matron having 10 shillings. Nurse Goslin's salary increased to £4.10.0

1748 There were 25 beds, 2 for Matron, 3 for nurses, 1 for maid

1748 Cook engaged at £3.0.0 per annum.

1752 Mrs. White replaced after being ill for 2 years and then dying, replaced by Mrs. Tristam.

1759 Bishop Maddox died

1764 Chaplain appointed to conduct prayers three times weekly, and to conduct funerals, paid £10 p.a.

About this time there were urgent needs for repairs and expansion. The Breadhouse was falling down, snow was coming through the roof of Matron's office and there were patients in her sitting room.

Edward GARLICK gave £200 to the purchase of land. He was a Bristol philanthropist and was probably contacted through Dr. Wall who was interested in porcelain and glass industries. Dr. Wall's son also became a doctor.

Land was purchased overlooking Pitchcroft - an artichoke field. Dr. Wall's walk became Infirmary Walk.

1771 Michaelmas Day, New Hospital with 4 floors was opened

  • Basement - kitchen, washing up room, dissection room and Matron's parlour.
  • Ground - 2 wards of 20 beds, men's south, women's north
  • First - 2 small wards and bedrooms
  • Second - attics and servants

In the next few years there were many financial hardships.

1790 Matron given charge of wine and brandy

1794 Trouble with bugs

1804 Beds reduced to 24 due to financial hardship, followed by some improvements

1807 Nurses' salary increased to £7 per annum 1812 CHARLES HASTINGS (1794-1886) involved. Founded B.M.A. in 1832 1818 New gallows erected opposite the hospital - bodies for dissection 1832 Cholera epidemic - 79 deaths

1849 Chaplain William Hill, anxious to obtain money for Chapel - Jenny Lind (Swedish Nightingale) sang at a Charity concert. She had done this for several hospitals including Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester and had been asked to sing at the Three Choirs Festival. Raised £840. Total cost of Chapel £1338.

During the next 20 years there was considerable trouble with Committee and Physicians.

1862 £500 from John Wheeley Lea and William Perrins, £1,000 from Charles Wheeley Lea, + legacy - altogether £10,000

Charles Hardiman was House Surgeon and presented a report:"There were not enough nurses to attend to fires and the door at night - there should be two night nurses and six day nurses, who should wear uniform".

The Medical Committee were not impressed but eventually agreed to 6 day nurses, 2 night nurses, 2 housemaids, 4 ward maids, 1 cook, 1 kitchen maid and 3 laundry maids - Total salary £365.

1874 Scheme to upgrade nursing - bright intelligent recruits able to read and write.

1884 Miss McClelland, matron of Bradford Royal appointed - she organised lectures for nurses.

1894 Miss Herbert, from St. Thomas's - stayed until 1917.

1881 Rev. Baldwin BONAKER of Evesham left £8762 - this was used to endow Bonaker ward for Children.

1886 Charles Ganderton of Pershore, a wool stapler, gave £5000, and later a legacy of £7000 and the residue of his estate in 1893 - around £26,000.

1891 120 beds, average cost £54.10.7 p.a. Difficult times at the turn of the century - need for new equipment, modernisation of buildings.

1910 Grant from King Edward Memorial Fund to build Outpatients department.

1920 Legacy of £10,000 from James Hugh Alien.

1932 Visit of Prince of Wales - opened theatre, pathological laboratories, orthopaedic department - gift of £26,000 from Lord Nuffield

  • Royal Assent - became Worcester Royal Infirmary

1944 2 houses bought in Bath Road to be used to accommodate the Preliminary Training School nurses.

1948 National Health Service Act.

Ronksward Hospital

Ronksward hospital was commenced in 1938 and completed in 1942. It was built as an E.M.S. hospital and was handed over to the Ministry of Pensions for them to administer, there being a complement of 600 beds in some 14 wards, some wards having 40 beds in them. Although a Ministry of Pensions Hospital, civilians (male and female) were admitted in addition to Service Personnel- The civilian population being largely casualties from Birmingham air raids. The hospital had a large Occupational Therapy department with Physiotherapy and X-ray facilities very much as at present, the Pathological Laboratory services being largely supplied from the Worcester Royal Infirmary.

As the war came to a close, the civilian element disappeared and was superseded to some extent by Service patients, but chiefly disabled war pensioners and became an all male hospital. As the demand for this type of case diminished, the future of the hospital came under discussion and in 1951 it was decided to close this down as a Ministry of Pensions Hospital and to hand it over to the National Health Service.

Following the end of the war, the beds were drastically reduced and in 1951 had come down to 450. With the change over to the National Health Service, the first development was the taking-over of four of the existing wards and adapting them for a Maternity department of 49 beds, with ante-natal clinic and classroom, this was opened in 1952.

For the first 12 months, the hospital was under the Selly Oak Hospital Management Committee and the object of this was to try to relieve the long waiting lists of patients in Birmingham. Unfortunately, the distances involved in travelling made this scheme impracticable and in April 1952 the hospital was handed over to the South Worcestershire Hospital Management Committee.

Many changes were necessary to adapt the hospital to the modern needs of general hospitals. This included the reduction of beds to a more realistic figure for nursing acute cases, and a bed state of 319 was fixed. This has only altered slightly since, when 12 beds were added to the Maternity Department with an extension of a wooden building.

The integration of the Worcester Royal Infirmary has taken place over a number of years. The wards have been renumbered and two of them have been named after prominent members of the South Worcestershire Hospital Management Committee, Professor Seymour Barling, Norman Duggan and Mrs. Enid Porter Various additions have been made to meet the growing demands of a modern hospital and further improvements are envisaged as money becomes available.

The hospital was recognised as a training school for student nurses, pupil nurses and pupil midwives. The Nurse Training School, originally based at Worcester Royal Infirmary, was transferred to its present quarters in 1963 when it was enlarged by the addition of another classroom.

About the Article and Author

This article has been reproduced here with the kind permission of the author, Mrs. M. Clayson, who is a member of the Worcester Royal Infirmary Nurses League.

Additional Articles

The following articles provide more detail of the hospital and life as a nurse: