A brief History.
(Information kindly provided by Mrs Maria Sienkiewicz, Archives Officer, Oldham Local Studies and Archives).
The origins of nursing in Oldham can be traced back to two famous buildings; both now demolished: the Oldham Union Workhouse and the Oldham Royal Infirmary. The workhouse (also known as Westwood Park Institute, Boundary Park General Hospital and Oldham & District General Hospital) was opened in 1851 on the site now occupied by the Royal Oldham Hospital. The infirmary was opened in 1872 and provided healthcare for the people of Oldham until its closure in 1989, when it made way for the Oldham Sixth Form College.
At the beginning, any healthcare provided by those institutions was basic. In 1873, the infirmary employed only four nurses. (In addition to the Matron, of course) and in 1881 patients were reported to be lying two to a bed! Further provision had been made with the opening of Westhulme Fever Hospital in 1877, but the nursing staff there comprised of just two nurses and a probationer.
By the end of the nineteenth century, matters were improving with the opening of the hospital at Strinesdale, and both the workhouse and the infirmary underwent major extension projects. With this increased capacity came the need for more staff.
It is likely that nurses had been receiving training at Oldham Hospitals for many years, but the earliest record of such activity dates from 1906 – the date at which the Nurses Training Register for the Infirmary begins. However, a note at the front of the volume states: No previous nursing staff volumes – said to have been destroyed by fire.
The register contains information on hundreds of young women who trained as nurses at the Infirmary between 1906 and 1930. Later volumes also survive, as do volumes of Boundary Park. Eventually, both these training schemes were superseded by the Oldham School of Nursing and their registers continue up to 1996.
These registers are now held at the Oldham Local Studies and Archives under reference D-Aad and accession number 1999-005. Because of the confidential material they contain, they are closed to general public access for 75 years. Any request for access to these records should be made through the archive officer.
Oldham Local Studies and Archives, 84 Union Street, Oldham. OL1 1DN. Tel/fax 0161 911 4654.