Records of the Royal Maternity Charity

Scope and Content

This collection comprises a scrapbook, correspondence, deeds and printed annual reports, relating to the work of the Royal Maternity Charity (20 March 1857-11 November 1948), together with midwives and nurses badges and a stamp, showing the coat of arms.

Administrative / Biographical History

The 'Charity for Attending and Delivering poor Married Women in their Lying in at their Respective Habitations', later known as the 'Lying-in Charity for Delivering Poor Married Women at their Own Habitations' and finally as the 'Royal Maternity Charity for Delivering Poor Married Women in their Own Habitations', was established in March 1757. Its main instigator was James Le Cour, an 'eminent jeweller' of Huguenot descent.

The Charity offered a service to 'sober and industrious' married women 'destitute of help in time of labour'. It supplied them with medicines, provided midwives for 'common cases' and surgeon accouchers or physicians for more 'difficult cases', allowing them to give birth more safely and comfortably in their own homes.

Those paying a yearly subscription became 'Governors' of the Charity, able to recommend a certain number of cases for every guinea donated. Initially, general meetings or 'courts' of Governors were held every quarter 'to receive the report of the Committee and regulate the affairs of the Charity'. A smaller Committee and Officers were elected annually to oversee day-to-day management. By the mid nineteenth century a pattern of Annual General Meetings and General Committee meetings was supplemented by those of a Medical Sub-committee, chaired by one of the Physicians, and other sub-committees, such as a Finance Committee.

Early meetings were held in various coffee houses and taverns in the City of London, mainly Will’s Coffee House in Cornhill and the Bank Coffee House, Threadneedle Street. From the 1840s the Charity had its own premises in Finsbury Square, in 1918 moving to offices in John Street, and subsequently to 46 Bedford Row.

By the late nineteenth century the Charity employed the voluntary services of 'Visiting Ladies', 'for the purpose of lending material assistance in addition to medical, in cases of great necessity and destitution'. These ladies visited cases and handed out relief from the Charity’s Samaritan Fund. In 1905 a further venture was a 'Training School for Midwives', preparing them for the new CMB examination. This was based at the house of the then Head Midwife in Paddington, with lectures being delivered by one of the Charity's Physicians.

After the First World War there were several other agencies providing a similar service, and the Charity was advised by the Ministry of Health to affiliate with another organization. Its investments were transferred to the official trustee of charitable funds, and were used for grants to the Central Council for District Nursing in London. The Charity wound up its affairs in 1949.

Access Information

Access restrictions may apply if material includes personal information of living individuals. All other records are open to research by appointment, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm. For further information about accessing the collection and visiting the reading room, please contact:

Acquisition Information

There is no record of the date or source of acquisition before the collection was deposited at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in May 2011.


Catalogued by Clare Sexton, Project Archivist in accordance with ISAD(G).

Other Finding Aids

Further details of the contents of this material are available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

If you wish to reproduce this material, apply via the College Archivist:

Custodial History

This collection was originally deposited at the Royal College of Midwives. It is now held under the terms of a service level collection care agreement at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Related Material

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also holds the minute books of the Royal Maternity Charity dating from 1761 to 1949 (Archive reference: S60)