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NGH staff pay tribute to NHS founder, groundbreaking black footballer and town's first matron with new ward names

Walter Tull

Walter Tull

The founder of the National Health Service, the second black professional football player in British history and first nursing matron to serve Northampton will give their names to Northampton General Hospital’s new emergency assessment building and wards.

The new building will be called The Nye Bevan Building in honour of the architect of the NHS who 70 years ago established the British system of a health service funded from general taxation and free at the point of use.

The two wards in the building will be named:

  • The Esther White Ward, in honour of Northampton General Hospital’s first matron, who began working at the hospital in 1743. This will be the first ward at NGH to be named after a woman.
  • The Walter Tull Ward in honour of the footballer who signed for Northampton Town Football Club from Spurs in 1911. He made 111 first team appearances before serving Britain’s war effort in the first world war, becoming the first British Army officer of black heritage.


"Anuerin Bevan’s name was overwhelmingly the most popular suggestion"

Chief operating officer and deputy chief executive Deborah Needham said: “This is very special year for the NHS as we celebrate 70 years since its inception. It’s also 225 years since we began providing health services on this site.

“Today, we have 5,000 employees who come to work to deliver Nye Bevan’s vision of a health system based on clinical need and not ability to pay. So it was no surprise when we asked our staff what they would like to see the building called that Anuerin Bevan’s name was overwhelmingly the most popular suggestion.

“In a further nod to our heritage and history, we’re delighted to commemorate 275 years of nursing care in Northampton by naming a ward after our first matron, Esther White.


"The history of the NHS is inseparable from the history of immigration and when we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS, we celebrate the diversity of our workforce."

“It’s an honour and a privilege to pay tribute to footballer and war hero Walter Tull and play our part in having his contribution to British society and culture more widely recognised. The history of the NHS is inseparable from the history of immigration and when we celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS, we celebrate the diversity of our workforce. As the son of a black carpenter from Barbados and a white English woman, Walter faced and overcame many challenges. It’s fitting that we remember him as part of our plans for a new facility that will be staffed by health professionals from all over the world who have chosen to live and work in Northampton.” 


Northampton Town Football Club

Northampton Town Football Club Chairman Kelvin Thomas said: “As a club, we are very proud of our role in the community of Northampton, we are very proud of our history and we are very proud that Walter Tull was a Cobbler."

"I think this is a wonderful tribute. Walter was an inspiration to many and it is a great honour for his memory to have one of the new wards at Northampton General Hospital named after him.

 "It is 100 years ago this year that Walter was sadly killed in action and it is fitting in the year of the centenary of his death that the staff at Northampton General Hospital have chosen to remember him in this way."

The £12 million emergency assessment unit is on schedule to be completed by the end of summer.

The emergency assessment unit will be used to assess acutely unwell patients arriving from the emergency department or referred by their GP. It will be staffed by a dedicated team of consultants, nurses, assistant practitioners and healthcare support workers with specialist support from other services across the hospital.

Find out more

  • More info about Nye Bevan.
  • More information about Walter Tull 
  • Esther White was employed as Northampton’s first matron from 1743 until her death in 1751. At that time, services were provided at the infirmary in George Row, Northampton. Not much information exists in archives about Esther; over the coming months, the hospital will work with local hitorians to try to find out more. 
Posted on Friday 2nd February 2018
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