Green dresses and white caps: nursery nurse training in Windsor

Page from a prospectus for HRH Princess Christian's Nursery Training College, Windsor, including a photograph of the exterior of the college, c1950s

In the mid-20th Century The Children’s Society had a number of colleges and hostels where students could train to become nursery nurses. The records of these places give an insight into the skills that nursery nurses were required to have.

One of the training colleges was HRH Princess Christian’s Nursery Training College based in Windsor. A prospectus for the college from around the 1950s tells us what student nurses were expected to learn:

  • Care and handling of children from birth to 5 years
  • Management of premature infants
  • Artificial feeding
  • Needlework and laundry
  • Knitting
  • Hygiene
  • Children’s ailments and infectious diseases
  • Cookery
  • The physical and mental development of the child

Page from a prospectus for HRH Princess Christian's Nursery Training College, Windsor, including a list of the subjects on the curriculum, c1950s

Once students had completed the training they were allowed to sit exams for a range of qualifications:

  • The National Nursery Examination Board Certificate
  • The Certificate of the Royal Sanitary Institute Examination for Nursery Nurses
  • The college’s own certificate

Further pages of the prospectus give us a glimpse of what it would have been like to study at the college. The image below shows photographs of a student bedroom and the corridor leading to it.

Page from a prospectus for HRH Princess Christian's Nursery Training College, Windsor, including photographs of a student bedroom and the corridor leading to it, c1950s

The final page contains details of the uniform that students were expected to wear. (As with all photographs on this blog, please click the image for a larger version.)

Page from a prospectus for HRH Princess Christian's Nursery Training College, Windsor, including details of the students' uniform, c1950s

Delving further into the records of this college, and the others like it, may unearth more information about just how nursery nurses were trained and what they were taught, particularly with regards to children’s medical care at the time.

Four nurses, wearing face masks, feeding babies, c1940s

If you want to find out more, take a look at this page from the 1952 Handbook for Workers, which explains what the aims of The Children’s Society’s nurseries were.

Explore the history of our work in Greater Manchester

Archive Explored

The scale of problems facing children in Greater Manchester are among the worst they’ve been in The Children’s Society’s 120 year-old history there. That’s why this week we’re launching a new way of working in the area. We are combining a local charity’s responsiveness and knowledge of the community with the influence of our national organisation.

The Children’s Society has been working in Greater Manchester since 1889 and our archives are full of stories and information about the history of the area. As the Explore Your Archive campaign launches this week as well, it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase a timeline of our work in Greater Manchester.

Photograph of the football team at Heywood Home for Boys, Greater Manchester, 1916

The Explore Your Archive campaign is encouraging people to discover the stories, the facts, the places and the people that are at the heart of our communities. Archives across the UK and Ireland are taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users.

Here at The Children’s Society we have a whole range of archives about our work in Greater Manchester. Click through to visit our interactive timeline to see some of these archival documents and to explore our history in the area.

The timeline is just the tip of the iceberg though. Our archive is full of over 130 years’ worth of records about our work to improve the lives of children nationwide. That’s over 130 years of fighting childhood poverty and neglect, and thousands and thousands of individual stories just waiting to be discovered.

Visit our archive website Hidden Lives Revealed to find out more.

Ian Wakeling, Head of the archive at The Children’s Society said, “This archive is amazing because it gives a voice to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our nation’s history. These are stories that are rarely told. Were Victorian families in poverty facing the same difficulties that families in poverty are today? What was it like to grow up as a child in care during the First World War? And what help was there for children who ran away from home in the 1980s? Exploring our archive will reveal the answers.”

Visit our interactive timeline to discover the history of our work in Greater Manchester from 1889 onwards and find out how we are working in Greater Manchester now.

See more archives from The Children’s Society and find out more about our history by visiting Hidden Lives Revealed.

To find out more about the Explore Your Archive campaign and how you can start your own adventure visit

Fresh air for epilepsy

William was five years old when his father died in in 1889. By the time William was eleven, at least three of his older siblings were working, two of his siblings were living in children’s homes, and William and his younger brother Sydney were living with their mother in Stepney in East London.

Life was not easy for the family. William’s mother worked by washing clothes. She had poor health, which made it difficult for her to earn much, and so William’s three elder sisters, who all worked in domestic service, sent her money to help with the rent. When their mother went out to work, there was no-one to look after William and Sydney and so they were often left on their own.

In 1895 an application was made for help from The Children’s Society (then known as the Waifs and Strays Society). The application was successful and William was taken into The Society’s Dover Home For Boys in Kent, and was shortly afterwards transferred to Leicester Home for Boys where he would be able to learn a trade.

William had been living in the Leicester Home for about a year when he first started suffering from seizures. As a result, he was returned to London and admitted into the National Hospital for Paralysis and Epilepsy in Queen Square, where his mother was able to visit him.

After over a month in the hospital, and not having had another seizure, William went to stay with his mother. He was there for one month until he was transferred to the Diocesan Home for Boys in Cambridge, which had recently been taken over by The Society.

The following letter was written when William had been in the Cambridge Home for just two days.

Letter from case file 4748, giving an account of the child's epileptic seizure, 1896

Dear Sir,

I am sorry to
tell you that W. [surname]
had another fit last
night. He was rather
sadly on Mony. [Monday] night
when he got in bed, but

yesterday he seemed much
better until he was
going to bed when he
fell down without any
warning. This morning I
sent for the Dr. & he gave
me the enclosed certificate.
Will you let me know
what to do. I should
like to try the boy a
little longer. He has
not been to school yet,
as I thought the air
would do him good.

Yours Obedily. [Obediently]
J Shead

Interestingly, from this letter we see that fresh air was thought to be helpful for people with epilepsy, and another letter states that ‘In cases of Epilepsy, open air work is always recommended.’

The enclosed doctor’s certificate confirmed that William was suffering from epilepsy and stated that the Cambridge Home wasn’t suitable for children with the condition. It was decided, however, that William was well enough to stay in the home for longer and attend school.

William didn’t suffer from another seizure until the next year, and after almost a year at the Cambridge Home, at age 13, it was decided that it would be best for William to leave. He returned to his mother in July 1897 while other arrangements were made for him. We don’t know where William went to afterwards, but there was talk of sending him out of London to a farm, where it was thought that the fresh air would be beneficial for him.

It may seem strange to us now that fresh air was the recommended cure for epilepsy in William’s time. But without the medication and other therapies available to us now, there must have been few options available.