Nursing and Public Health at Bedford College

Scope and Content

This series contains papers relating to nursing and public health courses offered at Bedford College. The papers concern the administration of the courses including correspondence and minutes of committee meetings as well as a number of press clippings, pamphlets related to the course and sample certificates.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Hygiene Course at Bedford College was established in 1896 under the encouragement of Dr Louis Parkes, Medical Officer of Health for Chelsea as he felt there was an opportunity for the training of women as hygiene inspectors. The course was recognised as being very academic and criticised as too academic for the role of hygiene inspector by some members of the medical establishment. In 1918, the Department of Hygiene was closed, but some of the staff transferred to the new Department of Social Studies where a course offering training to Health Visitors was offered. This course was again criticised as too academic and too rigorous as it was a one-year course rather than the six month minimum duration required by the Ministry of Health. However the course survived and had to adapt to meet the increasing requirements from the Ministry of Health. In 1921, Bedford College partnered with the League of Red Cross Societies and the College of Nursing to offer courses in Public Health to international nursing students. The League of Red Cross Societies offered scholarships to qualified nurses from all over the world to study Public Health for a year in London. The students undertook academic lectures at Bedford College and completed practical work in hospitals around London and later further afield in Britain and mainland Europe. The students also had guest lecturers from other colleges including King’s College, University College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. In 1925, a second course was introduced for nurse administrators and teachers in schools of nursing. The nurses lived at a residence owned by the League of Red Cross Societies at 15 Manchester Square. In 1934, due to financial difficulties the League of Red Cross Societies withdrew from the administration of the courses and the Florence Nightingale International Foundation was established to raise funds and provide scholarships to nurses. In 1938 the courses were merged and allowed students to choose which subjects they wanted to study. 1939 proved to be the last year of the courses as they were cancelled in September due to the beginning of World War II. Nursing studies was not reintroduced at Bedford College until 1981. However, since the late 1960s students had been able to take a joint degree in Sociology with a qualification as a registered nurse in conjunction with the Royal Middlesex Hospital. The Nursing Studies course was a four year BSc degree course including a qualification as a State Registered Nurse. The course only had two intakes of students due to the suspension of the course following the merger of Bedford College with Royal Holloway. The possibility of relocating the course to Royal Holloway's Egham site was considered but due to the inability to find a suitable hospital to offer practical placements, the course was permanently discontinued. The final students graduated in 1986.

Access Information

These papers have been digitised and are available to view at All records are open subject to the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. All records containing personal information about individuals are subject to the terms of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Other Finding Aids

The papers in this collection have been digitised and are available to view at

Conditions Governing Use

These images are supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the College Archivist,

Related Material

  • London Metropolitan Archives, City of London:
  • H01/ST/NTS/Y/44/001 (Olive Baggallay staff file)
  • H01/ST/NC/10/008 (Pamphlet on FNIF)
  • H01/ST/NCPH/B/III/E/030-032 (Appeal booklet on FNIF)
  • H01/ST/NCPH/D/11/D/014 (Photograph FNIF)
  • H01/ST/NCPH/C/V/A/050 (International students photograph)
  • A/NFC/005/076 (Nightingale Fund Council Annual Report.
  • Wellcome Library:
  • MS:5485, Florence Nightingale International Foundation.
  • King’s College, London:
  • QA/C/M2 Department of Household and Social Science Minute Book
  • RBNA File on Mrs Bedford Fenwick’s resignation from Florence Nightingale International Foundation.
  • Royal College of Nursing, Edinburgh:
  • RCN 7/2/1, RCN 7/4/1-2, RCN 7/5/45, RCN 7/11/1, Minutes of committees related to the courses.
  • C101/7 Florence Nightingale International Foundation, Advanced course in nursing administration, Bedford College (Theodora Turner Collection)
  • T032 Theodora Turner.
  • C91 Lucy Seymer.
  • John Hopkins Medical Archives, Katherine Olmstead Papers.
  • Files in Red Cross Archives, Geneva related to League of Red Cross Societies and the Florence Nightingale International Foundation


  • - Brimblecombe, P. (2003). Historical perspectives on health: The emergence of the Sanitary Inspector in Victorian Britain. The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 123(2), pp.124-131.
  • - Davies, C. (1988). The Health Visitor as Mother's Friend: A Woman's place in public health, 1900-14. Social History of Medicine, 1(1), pp.39-59.
  • - Fitzpatrick, J., While, A. and Roberts, J. (1993). The relationship between nursing and higher education. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 18(9), pp.1488-1497.
  • - Lapeyre, J. and Nelson, S. (2010). The "Old Internationals": Canadian Nurses in an International Nursing Community. Nursing Leadership, 23(4), pp.33-44.
  • - McGann, S. (2008). Collaboration and Conflict in International Nursing, 1920-39. Nursing History Review, 16(1), pp.29-57.

Geographical Names