Collecting Nursing History 1
UK Nursing Badges...
Hospital Badges.
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Collecting badges of any kind is a very popular activity in the UK.  A brief look at the internet 'eBay' auction website should be enough to convince anyone that a badge marking almost any event imaginable has been manufactured and collected by someone, somewhere.

In the UK, nursing badges, at least those traditionally awarded to nurses at the successful completion of their training courses at particular hospitals, are undoubtedly among the most collectible. And, at the present time at least, perhaps among the most coveted. Perhaps also among the most expensive to obtain.

The reasons behind the popularity among collectors are not hard to ascribe.

The first UK nursing badges were issued in any numbers from around 1900. Most of the currently available badges now cover several generations of nurses. The badges awarded to many of these nurses are becoming increasingly available because the original holders have retired, become olde
r or sadly died. Simply because of the passage of time these badges are becoming more available.

These badges were made in limited numbers. For individual hospitals. For award to individuals who successfully completed their training. A strictly limited number.

Those actually issued to particular nurses exist in even more limited numbers, as each badge (or sometimes medal) was traditionally engraved with the name of the individual nurse and date of the award. Names sometimes were full first names - sometimes just initials - preceding the surname, plus the date of the award. The latter was often the completion date of training in the case of hospital badges. (Badges issued by the statutory bodies were dated with Registration date/s.)  This professional attention to detail has rendered individual nursing histories - a hospital; a training school; a nurse - and much information surrounding each - traceable. Identifiable.The very stuff of modern history! 
Allied to the superb designs, each design with a history, the quality of materials - older ones often being enameled solid silver - is first rate. The workmanship behind the manufacture of the majority of hospital badges until perhaps the 1970's or 1980's, make almost any named nurse badge - that is, a badge issued to a named nurse between the early 1900's and the end of the '70s or 80's - a serious collecting proposition. Medals in solid gold, silver and bronze were also minted and awarded - sometimes with bar and ribbon for outstand
ing performance during nurse training.

Badge Values. 
The exact value in monetary terms depends upon the worth of a badge to the individual collector. Different types of collection  present different challenges. A general collector is faced with an impossibly large task and will often not pay high prices, as it is counterproductive.  Collectors of hospital nursing badges often, because of this, specialize. Focusing their collections on particular aspects. Hospital nursing badges are particularly suited to such focus, as they can be linked often to the type of hospital. It's speciality - general; sick children; midwifery; mental illness; mental handicap; orthopaedic; tuberculosis; fever hospitals; and so on have all existed (or still do) at some time as major separate entities. Identifiable and collectible.

Some hospitals, for example St Thomas' London, home of the first recognized English school of nursing or Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, or The London Hospital, are simply history itself...Their badges, particular those of the Nightingale School at St Thomas' hospital, command relatively high prices.

Specialist Nursing Areas.
Whilst terms such as 'general', 'psychiatric' and 'midwifery' for example, cover perhaps very wide fields (increasing the problems and expense of collecting). Applying the same approach t
o perhaps a single geographical area, for example Scotland, or even a speciality within a geographical area - (Midwifery in Scotland perhaps), or even a single geographical location - (Midwifery in Stirlingshire), or speciality within a single specified location (Midwifery in Glasgow) can make things very much more attractive where the goal is completion. Completion becomes more attainable and more financially viable. Ultimately making the process of collecting infinitely more satisfying because completion becomes a real possibility. Though not necessarily cheaper. Take a look at this collection of Kent, UK, badges. Link.

Collecting particular years does not seem to be a very satisfactory option - where the goal is collecting nursing badges and not 'years'. Collecting physically dated badges for a particular year really means collecting issued badges - and being able to obtain them. Manufacturers did not date their products.

Collecting badges from particular hospitals, schools of nursing, the statutory bodies - for example the General Nursing Councils, or nursing organizations such as trade unions - for example the Royal College of Nursing - is perhaps the easiest way to start a collection. The latter, for example, has regularly changed it's badge design over the years - a complete collection is more than possible at a reasonable price over a reasonable time scale.

Nurse History - a different perspective. 
Some collectors, of which the author is one, collect individual nurse history.
As represented by her (or his) badges, though these are by no means the only criteria. The badges - and the certificates which originally went with them are rarely found together. To find the badges/certificates (hospital & registration)/and signed schedules of completed training available is extremely rare. To have the chance of obtaining all these items together for a nurse whose professional history can also be found is an almost impossible challenge. Optimistically, obtaining the badges of a single individual nurse is sometimes possible where only two badges - perhaps a hospital badge and a State Registration badge - represent the total nurse-history. More than two - for example where a nurse trained in more than one speciality - at least three badges would be involved - things become more a matter of pure chance. Often an impossible goal. Especially where auctions are involved in selling the items. 

Summary - complete collections.
An absolutely complete collection of UK hospital badges does not, in all probability, yet exist in one location. It is doubtful if one ever will - a sad reflection on the lack of foresight, or perhaps political will, to create one for posterity. More sadly, existing  collections are broken for all sorts of reasons, often when collectors die. More happily, other collections gain because of this. Unfortunately the balance between the two events is somewhat haphazard.

The future, however, appears brighter as increasing
availability makes these badges more readily available to private collectors. Conversely, the high motivation amongst the more aspirational of these collectors will always be tempered  by the availability of finances.

Whilst some large, high quality collections do exist, such as the RCN Meglaughlin collection, few are in the public arena. Those which are available are well worth a look....

home page.

Schools of Nursing.


Badge Collections.

Nursing and Hospital badges.

Irish Nursing Badges.
Eric Wilkinson.

Example Geographical Collection - Kent.
Bills Kent badges

General Collections
Nursing Badges.

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.





Early Nightingale School of Nursing Badge




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