Collecting Nursing History 17
Nursing Badges - The London Hospital.

The history - Evolution and Identity.

Sarah Rogers.
  Please Note: Whilst every care is taken in checking promoted links, we cannot accept responsibility for your use of third party web links.
  The London Hospital Badge: History, Evolution and Identity.  


The London Hospital Nurse Training School Badge

Fig 1

Last year, having seen several for sale on eBay and being the proud owner of my own London hospital badge, I became more interested in the history behind the badge - in the sizing, when they were first issued, and if possible how many were made and issued.

Like many hospitals, the London did not have a badge until the 1920's. In 1928 Miss Irene Paulin (daughter of Sir William Paulin - honorary treasurer to the London Hospital) and a member of the hospital nursing committee, approached John Pinches (1) (head of Pinches and co, (bought out by Franklin Mint in 1969 )) and asked him to design a badge for the trained nurses of the London - insisting "that the badge be comparable with those of other London Hospitals." The London hospital had no coat of arms at that point in time, and it was decided that the nursing committee would postpone their decision until a coat of arms was granted.

Eventually the London hospital coat of arms was designed by the garter principal king of arms, the Richmond herald Sir Gerald Woods Wollaston.

The red and white colours in the design are those of the city of London (whom hold a lease on the land on which a part of the London, now the Royal London, still stands until 2066). The Richmond herald is reported to have preferred an Ankh, the Egyptian sign of life and a type of cross. It was felt that the red and white cross was suggestive of the Red Cross, and also the city of London corporation. The silver wreath of laurel leaves is considered to be a symbol of victory. (1)

The motto was chosen by Sir William Blizzard ( a famous London Hospital surgeon), "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto" - "I am a human being, I consider nothing that is human alien to me."  After much research by a Mr Oliver (1) there are still doubts about its origin. Eventually the College of Heralds granted the coat of arms using Sir Williams Blizzards motto, minus the first two words. (1)

The London Hospital Badge - Coat of Arms design


The first large style badge was made and presented to Queen Mary, at that time president of the hospital, and it is documented that she wore it on every visit. It was originally intended for League members only, (1) the league having been established in 1931. (We celebrated the 80th anniversary with a lunch in the old medical college in September 2011).

By the league review publication number 2, (November 1932), there was already controversy about the size and weight of the badge (1) and reports that it ripped the starched aprons, because of its size. (These records are as yet elusive - Franklin mint reduced their records in 2004, and Fattorinis (who made the later badges including mine) only have records from the 1980's - 1990's. They told me that the badges made then were 35mm. What is incontestable is the fact that the earlier, larger badge weighed 32 grams - over an ounce - and had an extremely well engineered pin and extremely sharp pin of over 47mm. Whilst the pin had secure fastenings it did protrude around 3mm. Long enough, perhaps, to be seen as potentially dangerous.

The Matron at the time - Miss Littleboy, (Matron 1931 - 1941) is reported to have hoped that the size reduction (to 35mm sq) and cost: 27/6 to 16/- would encourage more nurses to buy it. (1)  The original (earlier, larger) badge is seen on the left below, whilst the newer, smaller and lighter version is seen on the right.  It is interesting to note that the larger, original design badge had a perforated centre which the later design did not have. Perhaps an attempt to save weight - or silver and expense. Or perhaps it really was just a more practical design....

The London Hospital Badge - early and later versions

Fig3. London Hospital Badge set.


The later design weighed 18 grams and was only 34mm wide, and whilst the pin was still well engineered and still sharp it did not protrude. It could be considered a much safer design. The badge was otherwise unchanged. A superb example of craftsmanship.

"At the 3rd annual general meeting in July 1934 Miss Littleboy announced that the change had been very popular and since altering the badge 115 had been ordered" (1)

The issue of the larger badge ceased about 1933 and issue of the smaller badge commenced no later than 1934. It is assumed that the badge-boxes illustrated below in Figs 5 - 7 was also changed around that time, although when the final change to the Fattorini-type small plastic box occurred is not yet clear. It seems fair to assume that the latter occurred when Fattorini's took over the manufacture of the London Hospital badge, as both the badges and boxes had previously been made by John Pinches.

Badge collectors may in interested in how many of each size have been made, and Miss Job (known to many of us as Mrs Peggy Crispin) speculates herself in her article in how many have been made since then. (1)

Eva C E Lückes  (Matron 1880 - 1919), may give us some clues to numbers in her letters to her nurses (3) in which she states that certificates were gained by 103 probationers during 1899, with 95 in 1896 (for the 2 year course which was first started at the London in 1880 as part reforms instigated by Miss Lückes, with paying probationers introduced in 1884). Miss Lückes was fiercely opposed to the 3 year course that Mrs. Fenwick among others later suggested, although she was in agreement with Miss Florence Nightingale. (4)

In December 1942 the badge was finally presented to every nurse successfully completing her training at the London Hospital along with the hospital certificate of training. On becoming Matron in 1941, Miss Clare Alexander (Matron 1941 - 1951) (later Lady Mann) requested that the House Committee of the London Hospital should present every nurse trained at the London who became a State Registered Nurse with the London Hospital badge. (1)

The London, in common with many other training hospitals which did not have a badge until the 1920's, allowed nurses to apply to have their badges awarded retrospectively. It is interesting to note that the design of a badge often seems to follow particular patterns - which may or may not be correlated to where the badge instigators trained! Such as Florence's (Nightingales) image on the badges of several "provincial hospitals"- a phrase used in the Burdett's listing of hospitals. (5)

Elements of the London hospital badge can be seen in that of the Haslemere and district hospital - where a tutor was a Londoner, and similarly the badge of the Derbyshire sick children's hospital has familiar elements - to us "Londoners". (1) ( I am awaiting permission and an image from Derbyshire Records Office - They may not allow me to include it in this article and will charge).


Haslemere and District Nursing Badge

Fig 4. Haslemere & District Hospital Badge-RCN Archives

There are also similarities between both the Haslemere badge and that of the West Park Hospital Badge, which has a blue cross with wreath around the edge. I have not yet researched to see if there is any connection.

It would make an interesting study to trace the matrons of the hospitals of the nation in the period of Florence Nightingale/ Eva Lückes and others who trained at the "big" London Hospitals and were recruited in the "provinces" to establish training schools and good nursing care. On my brief perusal of several copies of Burdetts (5) it was clear that many matrons nationally originated as nurses from London Hospitals. One such nurse who I have started to research was Mary E Pinsent, who became a matron of the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Hanover Square - as it happens also a "Londoner". There is such a list for "Nightingales" on their league web site.

When visiting the Royal London Hospital Museum we had hoped to see both a large badge and also an example of one of the boxes, however apart from a small badge, there was only a small photographic image of a large one being worn to compare. My small plastic 1980's Fattorinis box is not quite the same as some of the earlier boxes! Two versions of which, the earlier (for the larger badge) are shown left and center, and the later version for the smaller badge (right) below:-


Lodon Hospital badge case - circa 1930 - 34
Circa 1930 - 34
London Hospital presentation case  and badge - circa 1930 - 34 The London Hospital - badge and box - perhaps 1980's
Circa 1933/4 - 1980's

Fig. 5 - 7

In conclusion. It would appear that the large London Hospital badge was only manufactured for a period of 2-3 years ( I am awaiting a reply from the business research archives, to see if any records are being held by them) and only possibly in very small numbers, given that 115 were requested after the size change and that this was considered an improvement in numbers. (1)

Likewise, the change in the design of the boxes followed the downsizing of the badges. The original (older version) box being 182mm square and weighing 48 grams whilst the later box was only 163mm square and weighted 42 grams.

The very high quality of both badges and boxes was retained during the years of production by John Pinches, although the presentation boxes were changed dramatically during the Fattorini years (in common with the majority of hospitals). The quality of the London Hospital badge has in most respects been maintained, if not improved upon. The hallmarking of the solid sterling silver 'badge of the three feathers', (the design relating to the original tavern where the meeting was held to found the hospital in 1740), which was absent from all earlier (pre Thos Fattorini badges) has been corrected.

It was, and remains, an absolutely superb item.

1. 'History of the training school badge' Margaret Job, 1967 (Royal London Hospital Archives ref: RLHLH/NE/10/2).
2. Toye Kenning and Spencer .
3. "Letters to Her Nurses" Eva C A Lückes, vol 1 1896-1900(Royal London Hospital Archives ref: RLHLH/N/7
4. wikedia: Lückes
5. " Burdett's hospitals and charities: being the year book of philanthropy and The Hospital annual".. Sir Henry Burdett 1901 RLHLH/

Figure 1. London Hospital Badge, the authors own, copyright Sarah Rogers.
Figure 2. Original sketch of the London Hospital coat of arms as shown in artists sketches ( circa 1935)still held by Toye Kenning and Spencer. (2),
Figure 3. Large and small London Hospital badge set - copyright Peter 'backman'.
Figure 4. Haslemere & District Hospital Badge - number 633 Royal College of Nursing Archives.
Figure 5 - 7. Two earlier London Hospital badge boxes. Copyright

Sarah Rogers 4/04/2012

* Beatrice Monk was Matron 1919 -1931.


Schools of Nursing.

Hospital Photograph Collections.

Nursing and Hospital badges.

Irish Nursing Badges.
Eric Wilkinson.


Nursing Organizations

Statutory Bodies.
Nursing & Midwifery Council.

Professional/Trade Unions.
Royal College of Nursing.

Badge Makers.
Thomas Fattorini.
Marple & Bradley
Brooke (Edinburg)
K&S (Edinburgh)
J.Gaunt (London)
(Stirling Scotland)
Bladon (London)
Toye&Co (London)

Collector links.

Nursing Badges.

Auction sites.
Eg.Tip: Select 'search', 'View Forthcoming Auctions' select 'Search or Browse Lots to be Sold' and enter 'hospitals' in the description field.

Home  Schools   Region   Forum   Collecting   Galleries   History   Bibliography   News Archive   Contact