Papers of: Queen's Nursing Institute

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 120 SA/QNI
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      132 boxes, 15 large boxes, 2 outsize boxes, 88 outsize volumes, 3 folders, 57 reels of microfilm

Scope and Content

The administrative records of the Institute form the core of the collection: minutes, annual reports and legal and financial material. Supporting correspondence is more patchy. Five bundles of early letters and reports had been kept (these have been listed as F.2/1, F.2/3, F.4/1-2 and S.2/2): apart from these and the runs of post-war correspondence (F.6-7), correspondence was scattered amongst the 'historical' filing cabinets and the 'Archive' files, and the archivist has had to reconstruct the series from which letters and files might have been extracted. Correspondence around the founding and early years of the Institute has been placed together with what appears to be collected or deposited correspondence of the founders (F.1), and a series of 'Subject files' has been created, pulling together scattered files and publications on particular topics (some 'files' consisting only of two or three letters). The destruction of correspondence files leaves sadly little to illustrate conditions under which district nurses worked in the early years. Some impression can be gained from correspondence with the Scottish and Irish branches (S.1-2) as well as less vividly in the reports in section Q. One letter dated 1904 survived alone, mentioning somewhat obliquely conditions in the East End of London: it has been placed with the bundles of letters and reports, ref F.4.

There is a good accumulation of publications and information put out by the Institute, and other publications relating to district nursing (Section P). It was feared that the only record relating to Florence Lees's 1875 survey of district nursing provision in London was the single letter from Florence Nightingale to JJ Frederick (F.1/3), but in 1998 the QNI offered a manuscript volume which appears to be a transcript of at least part of the report, plus a report to William Rathbone on district nursing in Liverpool (also dated 1875). This volume has been added to the archive as Y.1.

Records of other bodies which had been collected or accumulated over the years include Federations of member associations of the Institute (R.2-3), nurses' representative bodies (Section V) and individual district nursing associations (Section X). Minutes and memorabilia of Elizabeth Fry's Institution of Nursing Sisters (Protestant Sisters of Charity) dating from 1840 to 1939, have been listed as section W; unfortunately, only the first of each of that body's registers of nurses survive, the rest having been sent for salvage during the Second World War. The National Gardens Scheme, although established to raise funds for the Institute, is now separately administered, and no records of the administration are found here apart from the sub-committee minutes in C.3, but five bundles of correspondence in Section F.6 touch on the subject, including one with Alfred Wagg.

Papers of individuals also occur. Those of Dame Rosalind Paget have been sorted into an order reflecting the different stages and interests of her life (Z.1): they include Dame Rosalind's annotated copy of the 1925 report on maternal mortality by Mary Beard of the Rockefeller Foundation. Memorabilia of district nurses sent to the Institute at other times, and obituaries of Institute officers, also occur in Section Z.

Administrative / Biographical History

The origins of the Queen's Institute lie in the fund raising organised among `the women of England' for an offering to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. After the commission of a set of jewellery, there remained ?70,000, and the Queen chose to use the money to support district nursing; a plan for a district nursing service was sketched out by William Rathbone and Florence Nightingale. The Queen's private secretary, Sir Henry Ponsonby, suggested an order of nursing sisters rewarded by honours and decorations, based at St Katherine's Hospital. (This establishment was a descendant of the medieval hospital chartered by Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III, which was originally near the Tower of London but had moved to Regent's Park following the construction of St. Katherine's Docks; the foundation had declined and it had been proposed that its funds should be redirected to the good of the sick poor.) The Rathbone/ Nightingale scheme was approved in July 1888 and a Provisional Committee set up with the Duke of Westminster as Chairman and Mr Rathbone as Honorary Secretary. The Master of St Katherine's Community, the Reverend Arthur Lewis Babbington Peile, was made President of the Jubilee Institute, and the headquarters was over the Chapter House at St Katherine's in Regent's Park. (The link whereby the Master of St. Katherine's was also the head of the Institute was formally broken in 1904.) It was hoped that funds from St Katherine's would augment those of the Institute. In 1889 Queen Victoria's Jubilee Institute for Nurses (QVJIN) was incorporated by Royal Charter.

The aims of the Institute were to apply the Queen's gift to training nurses in district work in order to supply affiliated nursing associations with thoroughly equipped workers and to put in place a body to supervise the work. The Metropolitan and National Nursing Association, established in 1876, was adopted as the central training home. District Nursing Associations were invited to apply for affiliation to the Institute.

In addition to the Queen's Nurses produced by this training, the Insitute provided less highly trained nurses for basic rural work. The Institute took on this role when in 1891 the Rural Nursing Association (started in the west of England in 1888 by Mrs Elizabeth Malleson) was affiliated to the Institute (in 1897 it merged with the Institute as the Rural District Branch). `Village Nurses' needed only one year's training in hospital work, three months in midwifery and three to six months in district work; a `Village Nurse' could be employed in a district with population not exceeding 3,000 which could not afford a Queen's Nurse, or in a district already employing a Queen's Nurse where it was felt necessary to also have a `Village Nurse' under her direction. A County Superintendent in each Association was responsible to the Institute for superintendence of the `Village Nurses'. District nursing associations employing other than Queen's Nurses could affiliate to a County Nursing Association.

Under the 1911 National Health Insurance Act, negotiations with the Insurance Commissioners established that approved societies might give grants to voluntary bodies for carrying out the purposes mentioned in the Act - societies paid fees to the Institute and made agreements with affiliated nursing associations for the home nursing of insured persons. In 1919 the Ministry of Health was established, its duties including supervision of the administration of the National Health Insurance Scheme by approved societies and local insurance committees. Also in 1919, the Nurses Registration Act set up the General Nursing Council, with responsibility for setting up a register of nurses and for approving training schools.

Other significant developments of the inter-war years were that in 1925 the Institute's Irish Branch became independent; in 1928 the Institute's name was changed to `The Queen's Institute of District Nursing'; and in 1936 a new Midwives Act required provision of midwives for the whole country, with many new Nursing Associations formed to provide both midwifery and nursing services.

Following the Second World War, in 1947 the Institute was approved by the Ministry of Health to give Health Visitor training for the Royal Sanitary Institute certificate. In 1948 the National Health Service was established and provident schemes became redundant. Local health authorities were responsible for the organisation of the district nursing service, either employing nurses directly or using the voluntary organisations. Subsequent negotiations enabled Local Health Authorities providing a direct service to enter into membership of the Queen's Institute. District nursing associations no longer had to pay the nurses' salaries, but continued to play a role in the running of the training homes. The NHS Act made no provision for district nurse training; in 1953 the Report of the Ministry of Health working party on the training of District Nurses (the Armer Report) accepted the need for district nurses to be trained to a national standard, but recommended only 3-4 months training (the Institute representatives dissented from this last point). In 1959, following the Report of the Training Advisory Council set up in 1957 to advise the Minister of Health, a Panel of Assessors set up; the Institute syllabus and examination arrangements were approved and from 1960, all successful candidates were awarded the National Certificate of District Nursing. By 1966 the National Certificate was felt to be sufficiently established for the award of Queen's Certificate and badge to be discontinued after midsummer 1968.

In 1973 the Institute's name was changed again, to `The Queen's Nursing Institute'.


The archive is arranged in sections as follows: A, Establishment of Queen Victoria's Jubilee Institute; B, Published annual reports; C, Minutes of Council and committees; D, Minutes of sub-committees; E, Legal, constitution and property; F, Correspondence; G , Financial; H, Subject files; J, Records of Nurses; K, Annual meetings, badge awards and other ceremonies; L, Training and education; M, William Rathbone Staff College; N, Queen's Nurses' Magazine and successor titles; P, Publications, publicity, histories; Q, Relations with District Nursing organisations, England and Wales; R, Federations of members of the QIDN; S, Relations with Scottish and Irish Branches; T, Later administration and monitoring of district nursing in the UK; U, District nursing overseas; V, Representation of nurses; W, Records of the Institution of Nursing Sisters; X, Deposited records and histories of district nursing associations; Y, Deposited `historical' records; Z, Memorabilia.

Access Information

The papers are available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, by prior appointment with Archives and Manuscripts staff and after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking. Please note that access to several files (marked in the detailed list) is restricted. Readers wishing for access to such material may submit a formal application form to Archives and Manuscript staff.

Acquisition Information

These records were deposited in the Wellcome Library by the Queen's Nursing Institute on long term loan in seven separate accessions: in November 1991, July 1994, March 1996, February and December 1997, and February and October 1998 (Acc. Nos. 400, 526, 627, 691, 739, 747 and 773).

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued by Shirley Dixon, CMAC, Wellcome Library, September 1998. Hard-copy catalogue available in Wellcome Library.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Christopher Hilton.

Separated Material

In 1964 certain core records of inspections of affiliated associations were taken into the Public Record Office. The QNI film collection was deposited with the National Film and Television Archive in 1992. The Scottish Branch of the QNI retains its records at its office in Castle Terrace, Edinburgh. The Rathbone family's papers are in the University of Liverpool Library, and correspondence between William Rathbone and Florence Nightingale about district nursing in Liverpool is in the Picton Library, Liverpool. The records of the Metropolitan and National Nursing Association are in the Guildhall Library, London.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Custodial History

It is evident from early correspondence in file S.1/8 that central record keeping was haphazard from the start, the Secretary failing to find the records on the status of the Scottish branch in 1906. Officers' correspondence tended to be treated as their private property: the former President offered his letter books to the Institute in 1909 (F.3/1-2), and William Rathbone's granddaughter, Lady Richmond, contributed many papers including Rathbone correspondence, `for history of district nursing' (probably for Mary Stocks's book, A hundred years of district nursing , published by Allen & Unwin, 1960). The records which were kept at the headquarters were subject to periodic sorting and weeding. A large gap in the correspondence sequence suggests that the recommendation in the 1946 report on organisation and administration of Central Office (H.1/7) that `old correspondence, reports, etc (other than nursing records)' be `consigned to salvage' was acted upon. In the margin of the report beside the recommendation that records of nurses who are dead should be destroyed is written `defer': the `Rolls' of Queen's Nurses survive well (Section J), but other records of individual nurses have not been kept - on each page of the early rolls is recorded `Papers destroyed'.

Related Material

For related material held by the Archives and Manuscripts department of the Wellcome Library, see sources leaflet no 5 `Nursing, midwifery and health visiting'. The National Birthday Trust Fund shared accommodation with the Institute, and correspondence between the two bodies can be found in their records (SA/NBT). The papers of Sir Allen Daley (PP/AWD) include background material to his 1961 report on the work of the QIDN. The Nations Fund for Nurses had been administered by the QNI from 1980 to 1995, but is now once again independent, so with the permission of the Fund's administrators, its records have been listed as a separate collection (SA/NFN).