Memories of Nursing

In 2009, Professor Francis Biley in HSS launched a project to capture the voices and stories of a little heard group, those of elderly, retired nurses. A group of interested academics started to carry out interviews in 2009-10, mainly taking place at the Retired Nurses National Home (RNNH) in Bournemouth.

When Fran sadly passed away, the project faltered for a while until Professor Gail Thomas supported Eileen Richardson, then a trustee at the RNNH and previously a staff member in HSS, to bid for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. In 2015 the project received £10,000 of HLF support; interviews were started once again (some conducted by volunteers, some by Sarah Keeley and Professor Elizabeth Rosser from HSS), transcriptions took place, an exhibition was hosted at the Bournemouth Library in January 2016 and now a website has been developed to share the project widely.

The website has considerable contextual information about the project, the RNNH (a very special home) including historic documents and a video made in the 1990s, oral history research, the history of nursing and midwifery, details of nurse education in the past in Dorset and Salisbury area and, importantly, audio clips from the participants themselves presented under key themes (more will be added as the final interviews are analysed).  There are also links to many other useful sites.

We hope that you will take advantage of this interesting resource to learn more about the lives of nurses, many who practised in World War Two and who were nursing when the NHS was introduced. The accounts are fascinating and this approach to sharing the outcomes of research is innovative and will helpfully ensure these stories are shared widely.

For more details, please visit

Professor Gail Thomas