Campaigning nurse and first SRN recognised at special service in Thoroton church

A celebration of the life and work of the first ever State Registered Nurse was attended by the Dean of Southwell, a former nurse and midwife, and senior nursing professionals from around the UK.

Ethel Bedford Fenwick (1857-1947) spent her formative years at Thoroton Hall in Nottinghamshire and is buried at St Helena’s church, where the service was held on Sunday afternoon. Her great granddaughter, Harriette travelled to the church especially for the occasion.

Ethel campaigned for over 30 years for the establishment of a register for nurses. She was a committed suffragist and agent for change, including the system of three years training for registered nurses and good working conditions.

The Rev’d Bryony Wood said: “We saw a real miracle of transformation this week in Thoroton church when a small army of people worked so hard to restore the church to its original beauty. Last week it was still a full of building rubble after months of significant structural work and on Sunday 12th March it was restored to its full glory, filled with beautiful flowers, a superb afternoon tea and lots of people! The sun shone in through the stained glass windows including the one installed by Ethel and her family in memory of their parents. We laid a fresh bouquet of purple white and green on her grave in her memory and filled the church with those, her favourite colours. We were thrilled that Ethel’s great granddaughter travelled to join us and so many senior figures from the nursing world who took the time and trouble to come to the service. They travelled from across the country and together we celebrated the life and legacy of Ethel Gordon Fenwick and the care and compassion of nurses everywhere today.”

The Dean, the Very Revd Nicola Sullivan, commented: “As a Bart’s trained nurse, I felt so proud to be part of Sunday’s special service.  In Ethel Bedford Fenwick we have celebrated an inspirational nurse who was doggedly determined to effect change for the better. Although it is nearly 25 years since I left nursing and midwifery to begin ordination training, I have always been thankful for my professional background, and those amazing pioneer women who fought for proper training, regulation and the highest of care standards.”

Pictured at the service are:

  1. The Revd Bryony Wood, vicar of the Cranmer group of churches with Harriotte Dottridge, Ethel Bedford Fenwick’s Great Granddaughter.
  2. Mrs Esther Sheardown and Mrs Margret Palmer who are residents of Thoroton and who both remember Ethel’s funeral 70 years ago.
  3. Helen Wordsworth, a Baptist minister, from Parish Nursing UK – the organisation that received half of the offering.

Group Photo 4) shows :The Dean of Southwell; Ethel’ granddaughter, Harriette Dottridge ;  Helen Wordsworth from PARISH NURSING UK; The Revd Bryony Wood; Professor Anne Marie Rafferty,  Professor of Nursing Policy Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, King’s College, London; Dame Jessica Corner, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (PVC) for Research and Knowledge Exchange;  Liz Howard Thornton, Clinical Nurse Specialist Team Leader at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHSFT;  Professor Christine Hallett, Prof Nursing History at University of Manchester and Chair of UK Assoc of History of nursing; Professor Elizabeth Fradd DBE, Deputy Lieutenant for Nottinghamshire.

Ali Harvey, Maggie Nichol and Diana Sherlaw, Exec committee members from League of Nurses of St Bart’s; Sheila Marriott, Director of the Royal College of Nursing in the East Midlands.

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Photos: Brian Pickering