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Northampton Nursing History

When the first infirmary was opened in 1743 Mrs Esther White became the first matron of this establishment. Nursing staff at that time had the titles, but not the training, they were merely servants and matron would fulfil the role of housekeeper. Esther received board and lodging and a salary of £10 per annum.

The nursing staff continued to be untrained, often elderly and sometimes of a dubious character well into the 19th century.

In 1877 it was resolved that nurses would be admitted for training at the infirmary at their own cost and the medical staff were requested to put forward a training scheme.

In 1924 the General Nursing Council introduced training regulations and examinations for State Registration of nurses. This replaced the hospital’s own training programme.

The development of district nursing benefitted by £70,000 being raised for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. In Northampton the Queen’s District Nurses evolved in 1889 and were based in Barry Road.

The archive at NGH holds details of its nursing history in the form of photographs, letters, reports, press cuttings and nursing ephemera, from 1743 to the present day.


Until 1954 Miss Nelson was matron in charge of Northampton General Hospital and the Barratt Maternity Home. On her retirement Miss Hague was appointed as matron of the ‘Barratt.’ Miss Coombe was the last matron of NGH before the introduction of Nursing Officer and then finally Director of Nursing Services became the title of office.


Miss Charlotte Nelson 1938 – 1954


Miss Eleanor Hague                                matron of the Barratt Maternity Homefrom 1954- 1965


Miss Eileen M. Coombe 1954-1983


Sister welcomes a new student nurse to the Preliminary Training School (PTS) accommodation at Sunnyside, Cliftonville in the  1950s. 

Nurses spent three months in the PTS classroom before being let loose on to the wards.


  • 'Fat digestion arrives at the liver in two sauces'.
  • 'A chance of recovery is highly appreciated by the patient.'
  • 'The nurse should not leave the patient until he has been settled into his locker with his fellow patients.'

Nurses from 8 countries on the staff of the hospital in 1959.


Baths for both patients and staff had caused many debates since the hospital had opened in 1793. The following report appeared in 1824 by Dr Robertson who stated, “From the situation of the bath on the basement storey the patient was subjected to much inconvenience as well as considerable danger of taking cold in going and returning from it, and recommended a portable one upon an improved principle to be used in the wards, the expense of which would be £8.15s.6d.”

Nurses at a Prize-giving presentation in the 1950s


This image shows the first patients being admitted to Manfield Orthopaedic Hospital in 1925.

The hospital had its own School of Nursing from 1946 – 1986, where the nurses achieved an orthopaedic nursing qualification.



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