Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre

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The Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre is home to Europe’s largest nursing specific collection of materials.

In 2013 we opened an exciting new space which includes publicly accessible exhibitions, a cafe and a shop within the Library space.

Also publicly accessible is a new space celebrating our Nursing History Collection – enabling visitors to browse nursing history texts, access some of our historic printed collection and to browse smaller exhibitions curated with the RCN History of Nursing Society.

A programme of public events is planned for 2014.

Venue Type:

Library, Museum

Opening hours

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm
Saturday: 9am-5pm (closed during August)

Admission charges

Entry is free, and no booking is required. There may be a charge for some services.

The Collection dates mainly from the 1850s onwards, though some earlier items are held. It comprehensively collects English language materials, focusing on nursing in the UK:
• 60,000+ Books and Pamphlets (dating from 1666 to present) including a significant collection of rare books and of grey literature
• 350 + Journals (1888 to present) print copies of journals, newsletters and magazines (in addition there are 1000+ contemporary e-journal subscriptions)
• 1,000+ Theses (1950s to present)
• RCN Archives (1890s to present)
• 725+ Personal Archives (1817 to present) including certificates
• 20 Organisational Archives (1887 to present) from organisations such as Commonwealth Nurses Federation; National Council of Nurses; Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses
• 625+ Interviews, Oral History Collection (1986 to present)
• Objects Collection: including 5,000+ photographs and lantern slides; 3,000+ medals and badges; 150+ audio recordings; 105+ videos and films; 150+ objects

Collection details


Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Stopes Clinic

Joyous and deliberate motherhood: birth control nursing in the Marie Stopes Mothers Clinic, 1921-1931

  • 26 May 2016 From 5:30pm

The RCN wasn’t the only women’s campaign in the early twentieth century. In 1925, Marie Stopes’ Mothers’ Clinic, the first family planning clinic in Britain, moved from its original site in Holloway Road to Whitfield Street,close to Cavendish Square. Pauline Brand speaks about the unique work undertaken by the nurses in the clinic.

Open to all. Refreshments provided.


The Northern Powerhouse: Cottontown Nurses who shaped the Profession

  • 8 June 2016 From 5:30pm

Ethel Bedford Fenwick (née Manson) was a probationer at Manchester Royal Infirmary in 1878. In 1907, Margaret Sparshott was appointed Matron. Although not overlapping, the two met on the stage that shaped the nursing profession.

Fenwick's outspoken views often set her in opposition to the College, while Sparshott was a committed supporter who became President in 1930. In this talk, former RCN President Dame Betty Kershaw will talk about their lives, along with those who came later, including Lucy Duff Grant, Jean McFarlane and Maude Storey.

Open to all. Refreshments provided.


WW1 stretcher bearers

A Burden to Bear: The Mental and Physical Demands on WW1 Stretcher Bearers

  • 6 July 2016 From 5:30pm

The Great War created a cultural construction of ‘tough men and tender women’. Yet one group transcended this: the stretcher bearers organised under the auspices of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

For the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, John Wells and Michael Bergin explain how these men transitioned between the masculinity of the warrior and the femininity of the carer.

Open to all. Refreshments provided.


70s Gameshow

RCN The Krypton Factor! A history of nursing gameshow

  • 28 July 2016 From 6pm

Test your knowledge and skills in this 70s-style game show, and find out more about the RCN from 1967 to 1991. In this light hearted activity, contestants will be challenged with a variety of rounds from historical general knowledge to practical 1970s nursing tasks.

No prior nursing experience needed!

Book for free in teams of 4-6.
Open to all. Bring your own refreshments.


Gordon Lees

40 years a rep: A personal history of the RCN

  • 17 August 2016 From 5:30pm

Gordon Lees was already an RCN steward when the College became a trade union in 1976. In this talk, Gordon reflects on over 40 years of helping to represent nurses individually and collectively, as a steward and RCN Council member.

Open to all. Refreshments provided.


Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre
20 Cavendish Square
Greater London




0345 337 3368

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.