Medical team at Devonshire Hospital

I don’t know what the proper administrative term would be for this group, but they must have worked together as a team.  Someone wrote Devonshire Hospital on the back of the postcard, but nothing else.  If anyone sees any clues about when the photo might have been taken, please leave a comment.

Devonshire Hospital team 2

Devonshire Hospital closed in 2000.  In 2001 it was acquired and renovated by the University of Derby, which reopened the facility in 2003 as its Buxton Campus.  The main building, known as the Devonshire Dome, features the largest unsupported dome in the United Kingdom.  When the dome was added to the building in 1881, it was the largest unsupported dome in the world.

Vera Brittain worked as a nurse at Devonshire Hospital for about five months in 1915.  She would later write about her wartime experiences in her 1933 memoir Testament of Youth.

When I look at portraits of medical workers, I look for hints of the mental or emotional toll that the work must have taken.  Sometimes I think I can see it, but it’s usually well hidden.  They were professionals, and that was their burden.

Devonshire Hospital team 3Devonshire Hospital team 4

Devonshire Hospital team 5
The woman seated above may have been the head nurse.

 

Devonshire Hospital team 6

 

Devonshire Hospital team 7

 

30 thoughts on “Medical team at Devonshire Hospital

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  1. Wonderful photograph! The back of the postcard is divided. The first divided back postcards were issued in Great Britain in 1902. Before that date it was not allowed to write the message on the same side as the adress. Other countries like Germany released new postal regulations in 1907 following the example of Great Britain. So I think the photo might date from somewhen between 1902 and 1907. (More about the history of postcards can be found here: http://www.metropostcard.com/metropchistory.html)

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    1. Thank you, Joachim! I think the best way to confirm your date range would be to find a dated postcard with the exact same printing on the back, so I’m going to keep an eye out for one. It shouldn’t be too hard to find one. Thank you for the helpful comment!

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    1. Many photos do end up in archives or museum collections, but there are so many others floating around. I keep wondering if the quantity available will shrink over time and drive up prices. On the other hand, estates are constantly coming to market, so it could be a long time before that happens. Right now the challenge is to sift through the millions available and find the ones which seem the most interesting. Thank you!

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  2. The classic Cherry Ames, Student Nurse was published in 1943, the first book in a series written by Helen Wells. I was in about second grade when I received the book as a Christmas gift, and many of the details have stayed with me over the years.

    The nursing garb of the time continued traditions obvious in this photo. The head nurse, or supervisor of what I assume to be student nurses gathered around her, can be recognized by the lack of surplice and the lace around the edge of her cap. Progress through the ranks was marked by cap changes: from plain white, to white with lace or black velvet stripes, and so on. The lack of an apron or surplice makes clear that she’s not involved in direct patient care; she’s the one in charge of watching over the other nurses.

    There’s a wonderful story about my own mother’s involvement with nurses. Hospitalized for weeks with a twice-broken ankle, Mom moved from one unit to another. In her last, she simply wasn’t following the directions which would make discharge to home possible. Finally, the administration sent in their best weapon: a tall, black-haired, older nurse who still wore a starched white uniform and a traditional white cap with black velvet stripes. When she came into my mother’s room, Mom sat up in bed and said, “Thank God. Finally, a real nurse.”

    What the young ones in their pink and blue uniforms with elephants and Disney characters hadn’t been able to accomplish, that woman did in about four or five days, and Mom headed home.

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    1. That’s a wonderful story about your mother! Sometimes an air of authority or expertise is very comforting. There are times in life when we need someone to guide us or tell us what to do, when we have no choice but to rely on the experience and knowledge of others.

      Nurses’ uniforms changed very little from one decade to another, which makes it very hard to date photos based solely on them! Thank you for your comments, Linda. I hope the move went well!

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  3. My guess is the older woman is a matron – she would have been in charge of all the nurses and the general running of the hospital wards. Or she could have been a Sister, but this woman looks older than that. While it’s modern and is just about the staff at one particular hospital, this might give some clues: https://www.royalmarsden.nhs.uk/your-care/your-visit/nurses-roles-and-uniforms

    The man might be a doctor but actually might not. He’s got no stethoscope or other equipment and you’d think a doctor might want to be visually recognised as such. Also doctors had/have longer white coats, not short ones. On the other hand, it looks like he has a silver or gold watch peeking out from this sleeve cuff… so maybe a doctor after all (otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to afford it.) Oh and by the way, unikely ‘matron’ is flinching from his cigarette as it’s not lit! It actually looks to me like it’s been put out by something damp or has just gone out by itself. (I used to be a smoker and recognise the burn pattern.) The nurse at the front far left is also leaning to the side: it’s probably just how they were sitting and doesn’t mean anything.

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    1. Matron and Sister are new terms for me, and I’m glad to know them. The link you shared was quite interesting. I found myself wondering what the point might be of so many different uniforms, when patients are unlikely to know the differences. That said, a patient might need one specific type of nurse, in which case the uniform would help. The greatest usefulness might actually be for other medical staff to recognize a person’s qualifications instantly. There’s a large regional hospital near where I live, a teaching hospital affiliated with Dartmouth University. I’ve been told that on a normal day, it contains 10,000 people (patients and staff). It’s like a small city!

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