Collecting Nursing History 8
UK Nursing Badges...

GNC for England and Wales State Registration Badges - Part 1.

Will B
Early Nightingale School of Nursing Badge   Please Note: Whilst every care is taken in checking promoted links, we cannot accept responsibility for your use of third party web links.
State Registration Badge - General Nursing Council for England and Wales The General Nursing Council for England and Wales
State Registration Badges

1922 - 1983
State Registration Badge - Reverse - General Nursing Council for England and Wales



The state registration badge of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales (GNC) was available to every nurse who satisfied the criteria laid down by the council between 1921 to 1983.

The first GNC and subsequent Register of Nurses was established in the United Kingdom in December 1919 by an Act of Parliament. There were to be four or more separate parts of the register:

a) A general part (SRN) containing the name of all nurses who satisfy the condition for admission to that part of the register;

b) A supplementary part containing the names of male nurses;

c) A supplementary (RMN) part containing the names of nurses trained in the nursing care of persons suffering from mental

d) A supplementary part (RSCN) containing the names of nurses trained in the nursing care of sick children;

e) Any other prescribed part.

Other supplementary/prescribed parts were added for Registered Fever Nurses (RFN); and Registered Nurses for the Mentally Defective (RNMD). The latter later became RNMS (Registered Nurse for the Mentally Subnormal); and later still RNMH (Registered Nurse for the Mentally handicapped. This meant in effect that it is possible to collect badges from seven main parts of the Register for Nurses if different nomenclature (changing titles) is taken into account. However, unless a duplicate badge was issued it was a case of one badge per nurse in England and Wales. There was no specific separate badge for male nurses in England and Wales. Midwifery was and still is a separate field with its own training and registration system.

Fig1 Numbers of badges issued in the different fields of nursing. Rear views illustrate essential differences.
Early GNC SRN Badge reverse side -1922 Early GNC RSCN Badge reverse side -1926 Early GNC RFN/SRN  Badge reverse side -1927/1930 Early GNC RMN Badge reverse side -1922 GNC RMND Badge reverse side -1944
   1922 - 1983 / 600,000+ (*) 1922 - 1983 / xxx (*) 1922 - 1967 / 21,505 1922 - 1983 / xxx (*) 1922 - 1983 / xxx (*)
(*)Final numbers not yet available - shown in red.

The register opened on 30th September 1921. The first state registration badge was issued to Ethel Gordon Bedford-Fenwick (nee Manson) who was registered as SRN (State Registered Nurse) on 30th September 1921. The registration number was '1'. The final resting place of this badge is unknown.*

The publication of Register of Nurses commenced in 1922 and the Register closed in 1983. The issue of badges corresponded with the opening of the register in 1921, and ended with its closing on the
'disestablishment' of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales on 1 July 1983 under Section 21, Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1979. Something in the region of at least 600,000 SRN badges, probably very many more registration badges if all specialties are included, had been issued.

During the lifetime of the GNC collecting these badges was something of an underground activity. The council laid claim to every badge issued from the outset. On the death of the original recipient the badges were to be returned to the council. Presumably that also applied to badges issued to a living nurse 'struck off' the register for any reason. There were of course good reasons for this, as a GNC badge could possibly be used to fraudulently lay claim to be a registered nurse. That title 'Registered Nurse' has been a legal designation since 1919. What happened to returned badges is not clear, but it is difficult to imagine that all were destroyed - particularly in the cases of  the badges of the more prominent members of the profession. Following the 'disestablishment' of the council a large number of GNC badges have entered the public domain and are easily purchased, many for quite small sums of money. Auction sites, sale rooms, flea markets and car-boot sales up and down the county are some common sources. Some of these badges, however, will probably remain in the possession of the original recipients descendants for generations as family heirlooms. Many of these enter the open market eventually for various reasons. That may well change if the growing popularity of genealogy - tracing family roots - continues.

Badge identification:
Anyone collecting registration badges issued by the GNC should bear in mind that not all badges can be identified in the same way. All GNC registration badges have the same face side design carrying the emblem the emblem and title of the GNC, but there the general similarities end. Earlier badges, 1922 - 1940, were made of sterling silver and carried much detail of the recipients on the reverse side. Name; specialty; registration number and date of registration as well as maker marks; hallmarks on silver versions; pins; loops for safety chains and even lapel button-hole fittings where this had been requested. These details are sometimes invaluable, for example when attempting to trace an exact badge origin, or perhaps help validate the professional history of a nurse. But in any event they probably make the earlier registration badges generally far more desirable to collectors.

1940 was a watershed as far as materials are concerned - marking the issue of the last generally issued silver badges and the first chromium plated versions. The exact date is currently unclear making the detection of the last and first versions of each nebulous.

All badges after 1940 were manufactured from  a chromium plated base metal and until about the early 1970's carried the same detailed information on the reverse as the earlier badges. Though the information was not uniformly laid out on early badges.

Later badges, commencing in the early 70's, were inscribed with only the specialty and registration number of the nurse. A measure implemented in an attempt to thwart impersonation of registered nurses - of which there had been successful cases. The linking of these numbers to an individual nurse is not generally possible without access to the appropriate GNC register, precisely because only the registration number and the specialty of these later badges are inscribed. Likewise, a nurse's training school and hospital cannot be easily linked to a particular GNC badge, but then this applies to all badges irrespective of when they were issued. In some ways that is a regrettable, hiding some of the true origins of a badge - some of it's history, but in other ways it may be a blessing - deterring idle curiosity!  It is also one reason why 'badge sets' - comprising the GNC badge and at least one other badge - usually that of the nurses training school or hospital are popular with knowledgeable collectors.

So, as a general rule, we have two basic designs of GNC registration badge. The early silver variety, and the later chromium plated base metal variety. The latter had less information inscribed on the rear from the early 1970's. But there are exceptions to every rule...

And this may well be Possible Transitional GNC Badge face side. the only one recorded.

The Exception: In the case of the state registration badge there is but this one recorded exception, pictured above, known to exist. It is in a private collection. A gold-coloured metal GNC state registration badge - possibly a prototype for the chromium plated version introduced in 1940/41. Like a misprinted stamp or currency note little is known about the origins of this badge, although this may be recorded somewhere in the Thos Fattorini archives. The best theory is probably the prototype idea.


There are two basic groups of specific characteristics to consider. The first - characteristics which are by all genuine GNC registration badges share in common; and the second - differential characteristics - differences. The latter are characteristics  which are slightly different between individual items. These are the differences which render the badges so collectable, enabling for example, the detection of historical differences, such as accurate dating. Or the individual differences in inscriptions markings, which makes collecting these badges extremely interesting and attractive.


Characteristics in common... (Click Here to view diagram)

All state registration badges have three major characteristics in common. Firstly the face side; secondly the outline shape; thirdly the weight.

The face side:
This is the most striking feature - the one which attracts the most immediate attention. Probably the one which makes the badge so attractive to collectors, though that was never the intent. The shape, in relief, is based on a rose - the symbol of England. In the centre is Hygeia (the goddess of good health) with 2 sheaves of daffodils (the symbol of Wales), one either side of Hygeia. It is a thing of three dimensional beauty - with a blue enameled circle surrounding Hygeia and the Welsh daffodils - in which, cast in the metal of the badge is the GNC title. Perfectly proportioned. Perfectly executed. A perfect badge of recognition for a fully qualified nurse at the end of three years of training. A common characteristic.

Information about who designed the badge is not immediately available - or about whether the original paper design and perhaps prototype badge still exist at Thomas Fattorini?

The outline shape:
Looking at the circumference line with the badge vertical and the correct way up the shape is that of the rose of England. Five petals - three at the top half of the badge and two at the bottom, separated by five small buds in the same configuration. This outline is the same on both sides of the badge. A common characteristic.

The weight:
The weight of badge is precisely 10gms - without safety chain, although the latter will not make a detectable difference unless scientific scales are used. (There are other very accurate measures of  weight 'genuineness', it is not felt useful to the average collector to include these details here since specialised laboratory equipment is needed and such precision is not required). Accurate digital kitchen scales are quite adequate. This weight is common to all these badges regardless of the materials used in manufacture. A common characteristic.

Differential characteristics

These are characteristics by which the different attributes of particular groups of badges, or indeed individual badges, can be accurately identified. By which possible copies can be isolated, although with the ready availability and low price of the genuine article at the present time, it would hardly seem worthwhile for copies to be manufactured. Of the minority of these badges which would command high prices the cost of an almost foolproof reproduction would be astronomical. Perhaps cheaper to obtain the original!

The characteristics include:

Manufacturer; Materials; physical differences between badges; date of manufacture; number issued; date issued; recipient names; recipient training school/hospital; badge number; recipient specialty.

All versions of GNC registration badges were produced at the Birmingham works of Thomas Fattorini, but not all at the same workshops. There were two main Birmingham production workshops Hockley Street and Regent Street.

Between 1919 and 1939 all GNC badges were manufactured from 10gms of sterling silver. Yet to be ascertained is the exact number of silver badges produced and issued before WWII restrictions on the use of precious metals - following the declaration of war on Germany - resulted in silver being replaced with a chromium plated base metal. The weight remained at 10gms.The latter material continued until the production of the last GNC registration badge - issued in 1983.

NB. The year 2009 onwards saw an increasing tendency among some suppliers to collectors to sell silver-dipped badges. This is regrettable. Silver-dipping is a serious mistake which covers the original finish completely - perhaps irrevocably. The original finish is, like the patina of collectable anything, irreplaceable, created by the natural ageing process. Silver-dipping is a form of defacement which will render an original badge practically valueless as a historical item. A form of vandalism, no matter how well intentioned. Destructive.

The physical differences:
These were confined to the reverse side. The differences were several. Manufacturer marks; inscriptions and inscription methods; Hallmarks; shape of the reverse side; and fittings - which are basically of two types, pin and button hole. There were several important variations regarding the pins used - again helpful in identifying badge detail. These differences are sufficient in number and importance - affecting both pin and button hole badges -  to warrant a separate article.

Manufacturer marks:
These are of four basic types - Trademarks; inscriptions; Hallmarks; and registered badge design number.

Since all badges were made by Thomas Fattorini the trade mark could be expected to have been the same in every case, but this was not so. The trade mark - always placed at the top centre of the badge and consists in the majority of cases, of an oval stamp, approximately 10x5mm in length, with 'Thomas Fattorini' forming the top curve and 'Birmingham' the bottom curved line.  Between these curves were one of two possible marks - 'Hockley Street' - and later, to become the permanent and most common - 'Limited'. The latter mark was used on badges produced at Fattorini's Regent Street works for all badges produced there. Both marks were surface stamped, only the letters being impressed. I believe that the first GNC badges were manufactured at the Hockley Street works, and that badges bearing this mark are therefore the oldest badges.

There was at least one exception to the oval - where the top half of the oval is indeed curved - but the bottom 'Birmingham' is a straight line. Such a stamp was used by Fattorini, but the reason in this particular case is probably lost to history. Unless it is buried in the Fattorini archives. It is certainly not usual on state registration badges where the oval trademark is the de facto standard. An example is displayed on the RFN badge in Fig1 above. On later badges - perhaps from the 1960's onwards, and certainly during the 70's the die stamped oval trademark with the letters being impressions, the trademark became an outside oval depression with raised lettering - three dimensional.

There are several variations between inscriptions on badges made up to 1939. All contained the name of the recipient immediately below the trade mark, (the name was sometimes a concave curve sometimes almost straight); then what appears to be the artisans own mark (a short straight line with a number of 'dots'); then the registration specialty - e.g. SRN; then the recipients GNC registration number, below which was the date; then the Registered design number of the badge itself - where present; and lastly the Hallmark.

This layout changed, first in the beginning of the 1940s with the dropping of the silver hallmarks - when the badges became chromium plated base metal; and again about the early 70's, when all detail except specialty and registration numbers was dropped.

Hallmarks: These were stamped, mostly by the Birmingham assay office, with the four hallmarks legally necessary. GNC registration badge - example silver hallmarksThis particular badge was made and issued in 1929.The hallmarks show that it was made by Thomas Fattorini - (T.F.) The Thomas Fattorini registered assay mark...... assayed in Birmingham (vertical anchor) as .925 sterling silver (Lion). The letter 'G' - the date stamp, is more problematic. There were several other letters used and sometimes their use to attach a date a badge leads to misleading descriptions. Badges are best described with the nurses registration date, not the date of badge manufacture/assay.

Registered badge design number (700947). No details about with whom the badge design was registered seems to be generally available. Registered with whom? Perhaps the patent office? This number is the same stamped curved mark (where it was included) and was the same for button-holes). It was not present on the earliest badges.

Shape of the reverse side surface: Badges produced up to the early 1940's had an absolutely flat surface. Probably to facilitate marking. During the 1940's the rear surface became slightly concave, the flat surface returning around 1947-8, whilst at some later date the surface was returned to the original flat shape. Again the exact date is proving elusive.

The first and subsequent majority of badges were undoubtedly pin-fittings. Badges with these fittings are commonly referred to as pin-badges or just 'pins'. The first were undoubtedly works of the silversmiths craft, having a simple unclosed silver loop at the sharp end and a very finely engineered closure hinge seen on many fine early badges (Left hand photo - 1922). This seems to have been fitted only at the Fattorini Hockley Street workshops. It was quickly superseded by the common sprung and safety pin Pin fittings. General Nursing Council for England and Wales badgesenclosure (right photo -1922) common to the majority of the badges. Between the two designs there seems to have been an intermediate design with the early finely engineered hinge and later safety-pin closure around 1927. In this respect the GNC stayed well ahead of the crowd as the safety pin closure keep a very sharp pin out of harms way. There may have been two versions - one for 'royalty' and one for general use - but that is idle supposition. What is certain is that the nurse-founders received the first registrations and consequently the first type of badge - more a finely crafted piece of jewelry than a badge. But the actual body of the early badges was the same for all - a superbly beautiful symbol of professional status crafted from .925 sterling silver and royal blue enamel! Although all that was to change from 1940 when the last silver versions were issued.

Button fittings. General Nursing Council for England & Wales badgesThe second type of fitting was the button-hole, or lapel fitting - which facilitated easy and secure attachment to the button hole on a uniform jacket or gabardine rain coat. The central vertical pier and circular fastening which arose from it meant that inscriptions had to be placed around the edge. Consequently the appearance of the reverse of this badge was definitely not pretty. Any nurse could ask for this fitting, but could have only one badge. Not surprising then that the fitting was not a popular option and was probably mostly selected by men - for whom it may well have been intended. The manufacturer marks and inscriptions varied in position.

Safety loop and chain. General Nursing Council for England & Wales badges

Safety Loops:  Some badges had loops for the attachment of a thin silver chain and tiny safety pin. The latter was intended to prevent the badge falling off a nurse's uniform if it became unfastened. In practice it was probably only of value when worn on indoor (ward) dress. The chains were fragile structures and there were differences in quality and type of chain and fittings though the majority seen are as illustrated here.

The loop was usually fitted on the lower edge on the reverse side, as shown here (right), centrally between the hallmarks, but collectors will find badges where the loop has been placed centrally at the top of the badge - right in the centre of the Fattorini trade mark, defacing it. Such loops are almost certainly not an approved fitting and were probably Incorrect fittings position. General Nursing Council for England & Wales badgescarried out privately after the badge was issued. Damaging badges in this manner is clearly undesirable from a collectable point of view, though how they affect the value of a badge, both as a historic collectable and financially depends on a number of other factors. Including the age and overall condition.

Fig1 above, showing the rear surface of five badges, illustrates many of the essential differences. Not the only ones by any means. The next article on collecting these badges will deal with each in more detail.


The badges issued to nurses who were registered by the General Nursing Council for England and Wales are, without doubt, very collectable items simply as badges. There are no doubt many badge collectors who possess examples simply because they are badges and that is what they do for a hobby - collect badges. Just as others collect stamps, paintings, train sets, coins et al. But just as every collector has reasons for collecting particular objects - and many create important contributions to specialist fields - the fascination with collecting nursing badges has important ramifications to a very precious and still relatively neglected commodity - the history of the nursing profession.

That the history of nursing in England and Wales can be so readily examined is due in no small part to the existence of these badges - although that was never an objective of their design and manufacture. Certainly the GNC badges from the early 1970's onward mitigated directly against such links, if only as a side-effect of attempting to preventing fraudulent use.

Earlier in this article the GNC State Registration badge was described as 'a thing of three dimensional beauty - with a blue enamel
ed circle surrounding the central figure of Hygeia and the Welsh daffodils - in which, cast in the metal of the badge, is the GNC title. Perfectly proportioned. Perfectly executed. A perfect badge of recognition for a fully qualified nurse at the end of three years - sometime more - of training.'

It is the latter part of the statement which personifies that which the badge really represents. That which makes it so worthy - in case almost without exception - of collection; preservation; of further study. Between 1921 and1925 entry to the profession was permitted to nurses who could prove the possession of sufficient experience as, laid down by statute, to gain registration. Collecting badges with registration numbers prior to this means that the badge was awarded on the basis of prior experience. Not as a result of a set GNC programme of training and practical experience followed by theoretical and practical examination. From 1925 entry was by undergoing a prescribed period of training passing the theoretical and practical examinations of the GNC
for England and Wales. To achieve the latter it was essential to persuade the existing professional leaders of suitability for entry - never an easy task - and then to survive the obstacles - physical, intellectual, and moral, just to reach the examinations. No easy task in a profession dominated for most of it's existence by single ladies whose role in life centered around the provision of the highest standards of care. And who demanded the highest all round standards from those who sought to become registered nurses.

That perfect badge of recognition had to be earned... Not all entrants survived the course. Of those who did, it is very often the case today that the badge is the only obvious material evidence remaining of a career caring for the sick. Every single one represents the career of a nurse. Every single one is worthy of recognition.

Collecting GNC state registration badges can only help preserve nursing history.* Having said that there is one area of collecting these badges which, as in all other spheres of collecting, determines how collectible these badges are. The cost.

That nursing history may be regarded as priceless is one thing. Having to foot the bill is quite another. So just what might it cost to build up a collection of GNC State Registration badges? That will depend on what sort of collection is required - which in this case is a bit like asking the length of a piece of string and where the ends are - after the string ends have been invisibly joined into a loop!

Best answered in detail after considering individual differences between badges. But there are some basic guidelines. The first is that nursing badges tend to be much more expensive than badges in general. At the same time the cheapest state registration badges can be had at auctions, flea markets and car boot sales for around 5 - 10. The more expensive for around 18 - 35 on average for a rare silver version. Very rare items in top condition may be had for around 50. There are some extremely rare badges which, if they were ever to appear, would probably command extremely rare prices!

A simple collection of perhaps one badge from each specialty (5 badges), would be possible for perhaps 55 - 100 from  a source such as ebay. For this a collector could expect a single item representing each main nursing specialty - in reasonable condition - with original working pins and buying post 1940 items. To Include an example of every Registration badge (7 badges - Mental Handicap had three versions) might cost around perhaps 80 - 125.

Collecting one example every year of  badge issue - a collector could, ignoring specialty issues, collect perhaps 62 badges - 18 silver hallmarked and 44 chromium plated versions, for around 800 (44 at around 12 average and 18 at 20 average price). The reality would probably work out at around 1000 - an average of approximately 16 per badge. If one wanted a collection representing the main months based on examinations (January; June; October - and allowing that examinations did not commence until 1925) then, as a rough guide the collector would be seeking around 174 badges. 45 Silver hallmarked (Estimate 900) and 129 chromium plated versions (Estimate 1548). A grand total of 2448. Ignoring specialties and expecting badges in reasonable condition. One for collectors prepared to persevere - but achievable.
Collecting individual specialties (5 badges) by year - Silver hallmarked (where possible) 20 - 35 per badge. Chromium plated examples would cost perhaps 5 - 15 each. Allow for possibly 62 examples in all cases except Fever Nurses (RFN) where there are only 46 years to collect - 18 of which would be silver versions. Probably doomed to failure for all but the SRN specialty.

A collection of all GNC State Registration badges is not possible (unless the successors of the GNC inherited one) for the simple reason that there were no set issue dates. A Registration badge could have been issued for every weekday on the calendar (minus public and special holidays) between the first issue in 1922 and the last in 1983! The information just isn't available and any attempt to build such a collection more than likely doomed to failure. Millionaires only.

My own belief is that a whole collection, including all the nursing specialties, in excellent original condition from first issues to the last, including 3 issues per year from 1925 could be put together for between 3000 - 5000. Perhaps double if current market conditions (June 2010) changed adversely. But any such collection would be worth a considerable amount more, cost a considerable amount more in time and effort, and would really be worthwhile for only a national collection or a very wealthy private collector with infinite patience.

The next article in this series will deal with individual badge differences in more detail.



Sincere thanks to elaine3080 at ebay and schoolsofnursing member Fran Biley for the supply and permission to use the relevant photographs. All photographic layout design by schoolsofnursing. All copyright asserted.

There are still some figures relating to the number of badges issued to the various specialties by particular dates which are outstanding. These will be added to the article when they become available.
**Sterling Silver is an alloy of
92.5% Silver and 7.5% Copper. A guestimated value of the silver content at a scrap value is around 0.87 per gram (March 2010) would be around 87pence per badge - a lot less than selling the badge in toto. Simply not worth it. The average price of a silver GNC badge is around 12.00. Top prices average around 25 - 30 at sales.

The last silver (not the last badge) State Registration badge was issued (date) to Carol Green of the United Nottingham School of Nursing. The registration number was 500,000. It was specially made in silver to commemorate the 500,000th registration of a nurse in England and Wales.

*It is the personal opinion of the author that there should be a national collection of all UK nursing badges - possibly held by the British Museum for the nation. It is my further belief that such a collection should, if indeed it is still possible, contain a collection of the badges issued to the original members of all the General Nursing Councils. England; Wales; Scotland and Ireland. National collections of these badges would be the property of the Nation, and be in addition to any held by of representatives of the nursing profession or private individuals. The British Museum would have statutory purchase rights as in the case of treasure trove.


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.

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