Nurses' buckles & badges
This article was originally written in 1994 but may well be of interest
as it touches on hospital buckles as well as badges. My collection of
both has considerably expanded since then.
Several years ago when I first started collecting nurses’ and hospital
badges, my enquiries at antique
fairs invariably met with a response about nurses'
buckles. I would explain to the dealer that on completion of a
nurse's training, the hospital usually gave, or sold, a badge to show
that they had qualified there. Now
at least they know what I am talking about.
As regards buckles, it is the tradition for trained
nurses to wear a buckle on
their belt; this is usually silver
and is often Victorian. This is the only
bit of individuality that was
allowed in a nurse's uniform. The buckles are normally worn with a
black petersham belt (petersham being a kind of material).
When I was nursing, I was aware that two hospitals produced their own
buckles as well as their own badge. These were the University College Hospital, London (UCH)
and The Westminster
Hospital, London. Since then I have come across several
other examples. Buckles which
are not issued by hospitals
tend to look more like jewelry with abstract designs, scrolls and flowers and are generally
made of silver; they do not have coats of arms, writing or
initials or specific objects
The UCH buckle illustrated is the
only silver one in my collection (it has a London hallmark
of 1938) - later examples may not have been silver. It shows the
arms of the hospital - which is blazoned as 'an ancient galley, charged
with a serpent nowed and in chief two maple
leafs slipped' - and the motto `Ratione dirige cursum' (roughly translated
as ‘pursue proper studies’).
A variety of badges has
been issued over the years
both by the nurses league and the
hospital - not all of which
are in my collection. All of the badges show a pale blue bend
sinister between dark blue and brown enamel. This is the
only example I have where there is absolutely no similarity
between the hospital badge
and its buckle.
Hospital buckle shows the
portcullis which appears on
the Westminster City
Council coat of arms with an imperial crown and a wreath of oak leaves
I have two versions of this buckle - one has the portcullis in gilt.
The older Westminster Hospital badge is quite different from this buckle
and is a brass oval with red enamel showing the back view of a nurse -
it is in fact a badge issued to raise funds for the hospital. The later
badges have the same design as the buckle with writing replacing the oak
leaves. There are also silver and base metal badges issued by the
League of Nurses with blue rather than green enamel.
in Westminster is the children's hospital which was originally called
the Infant's Hospital Westminster. This had 100 cots for infants aged 0
to 5 years. My example of a bronze 1924 medal shows on reverse an
infant in swaddling clothes surrounded by a laurel wreath. This design
is virtually identical to the buckle which was presumably issued by the
hospital. Also shown is a later badge with the same motif issued after
the hospital changed its name.
buckle for The Royal London Orthopaedic Hospital (now known as
Moorfields) is bronze and is attached to a purple petersham belt. This
central part is identical to the badge which was first produced in 1927
or 1928 - it was known as the Moorfields Cross. In 1933, the hospital
was affiliated to the Charing Cross Hospital and the badge changed
accordingly. The buckle was almost certainly in use only in that five
This illustration is from a St Helier Hospital. St Helier was a sixth
century Belgian saint who was martyred in Jersey. Both the buckle and
badge show the saint's head surrounded by green enamel. This is the
only enamelled buckle that I have. Until I started to research for this
article, I had assumed that they had come from St Helier, Jersey;
however, I have discovered that there was a St Helier Hospital in
Carshalton, Surrey, which had 763 beds in 1953 (the badge is hallmarked
1946). What was certain is now confused!
recent example of hospital buckles is one produced in 1993 by the Royal
Victoria Hospital, Belfast for nurses who had trained there or worked
there for at least 6 months. The central motif is similar to the badges
shown with the lamp of learning. The buckle has been produced in silver
and base metal (I have neither). The badge is to be discontinued this
year as the training school is being moved from the hospital.
aware that Southend General Hospital started in 1961 to present the Lady
Foster Taylor Buckle showing the Prittlewell Lily which was on the seal
of Prittlewell Priory whose ruins are in Southend. The lily was
also used on the prize medal and probably also on the badge.
I have nothing from this hospital.
|Institutions also issue buckles and badges. In 1926, the Queen Victoria
Institute for District Nurses changed its name to the Queen's Institute
for District Nursing. This later institute produced a variety of
badges, mainly in bronze, with a VRI monogram and an imperial crown;
they also produced a buckle showing the badge surrounded by laurel
leaves. In 1972, the name was changed to the Queen's Nursing
Institute. Other buckles may have been produced under different names.
most recent addition to my collection is a very modern example from
Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. This shows an imperial
crown above a Danish cross with the initial 'A'. The illustration
accompanying that is a cap badge (I do not have the nurse’s badge).
would be most interested to hear from readers of any other hospital
buckles and badges. With the continuing re-organizations of the
National Health Service and closure of hospitals, such articles tend to
be the only things which link with the old hospitals.
©Edelweiss James 2009
Schools of Nursing.
Hospital Photograph Collections.
Nursing and Hospital badges.
Irish Nursing Badges.
Nursing & Midwifery Council.
Royal College of Nursing.
Marple & Bradley
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