Schoolgirls and Nurse: Merchant Taylor’ Girl School and Leicester Royal Infirmary

Fragments: Scrapbook used as an album for 159 photographs embracing pupils at Merchant Taylor’s Girls School, nurses at Leicester Royal Infirmary, and an assortment of family snaps.

Merchant Taylor’s Girls School, Sports Day, undated

One of the most fruitful sources of recruits to nursing in Britain’s major hospitals were the girls’ schools which had evolved since the 1870s to provide middle-class women with the educational background which might lead the way to a wider range of professional opportunities. Those girls who lacked the qualifications and social aptitude for the higher professions, or for a life in business, and whose parents wished, none the less, to steer into white-collar work of social value, were natural recruits to nursing.

Merchant Taylor’s Girls School, an independent, fee paying day school for girls between the ages of 11 and 18, was founded in 1888 in premises abandoned by the boys in 1874 after the Boys School had moved to a new site.

‘Me, Sue, Connie, Dilys, Anne, Betty.
Much older ‘me’ and Dilys.


As the school made a name for itself for the quality of its education, an original intake of 12 girls had risen to over 300 by the 1920s, some of them accommodated in an adjoining house acquired in 1911. The photographs in this collection begin in the mid-1930s, those of Leicester Royal Infirmary on V.E. Day in 1945.

Leicester Royal Infirmary nurses, V.E. Day.
‘Matron’, V.E. Day
‘Senior Sisters’, V.E. Day


‘Del & I, night duty’

It is clear that by 1945 a connection had been made between the schools and Leicester Royal Hospital, in 1945 one of England’s major hospitals with over 500 beds and in increasing need of well-qualified staff.

‘Megan, Mavis & Self’ with the Leicester Royal Infirmary in the background.
‘Christmas Eve’
‘Christmas concert, Brompton 1950’

Unfortunately the compiler of these photographs identifies herself in them only as ‘self’. Nor does she specify the location on snaps of her home and garden or provide surnames of her parents, relatives and friends of the years 1945-51 who make up the last section of the album. Photographs of her home and garden, and of her father’s, together with the clothes worn, suggest that her family was comfortably-off, but not wealthy. Judging form the album, their most likely address was 3 Carlton Road in Ainsdale, well within the social and geographical range of the Merchant Taylor’s Girls School.

‘Mother and Sam’
‘Mummy & Daddy, Garden, 3 Carlton Rd.’
‘Me, Mummy, Daddy, David, Yvonne Innis’
‘Weekend at home, 1952’
Brother David, on reverse: ‘I will send you that book “Foolish Virgin”. Last night the doctor gave me a food test. he made 6 cuts in my arm & put food essence in each cut.It is itching. I have just been listening to the 4 o’clock news.’

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