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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Metropolitan and National Nursing Association

Also known as Metropolitan and National Nursing Association for Providing Trained Nurses for the Sick Poor/Bloomsbury Nurses/Bloomsbury Nurses’ Association/Metropolitan District Nursing Association


It was founded by Florence Lees in 1875 to provide trained nursing for London (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

A famous letter written by Florence Nightingale to The Times in 1876 gave a graphic account of nursing the sick poor and pleaded for funds to support the new ‘District Nurses’; see extracts from this letter (opens in new window)

Louisa Twining was on its Council (Louisa Twining, Recollections of Life and Work: Being the Autobiography of Louisa Twining, 1893)

“The auld lichts of the ‘profession’ sniffed the air in disdain at ‘them Bloomsbury nurses,’ to whom they probably added the epithet ‘bloomin’ ’ not in a complimentary sense. ‘If I was you, I wouldn't send for the parish doctor,’ counselled one of the fraternity to a poor woman with a wound in her leg, ‘because the first thing he’ll do will be to send for one of them district nurses from Bloomsbury Square, and if they come here you’ll have to keep your room clean and open your winder, clear out the things from under your bed, and they’ll turn the whole place topsy-turvey so as you won’t know your own home; and you’ll feel just as if you was in a horspital’ ” (Sarah A. Tooley, The History of Nursing in the British Empire, 1906)

It became associated with the newly-established Queen’s Nursing Institute in 1889

By 2008 the premises at 23 Bloomsbury Square had been taken over by Albion College, an independent academic institution making much of its Bloomsbury location and offering a course in nursing, though not apparently aware of its building’s history as a nursing headquarters

What was reforming about it?

It encouraged proper training for nurses, who were also to be supervised by a highly trained nurse

Florence Lees became the first such superintendent; the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography regards her as “the founder of modern district nursing”

Where in Bloomsbury

Its training headquarters for nurses was established at 23 Bloomsbury Square in 1875, the year of its foundation, although according to Louisa Twining, there was briefly a home in Queen Square first (Louisa Twining, Recollections of Life and Work: Being the Autobiography of Louisa Twining, 1893)

Florence Lees married Rev. Dacre Henry Craven in 1879 and he became Hon. Secretary of the Home at 23 Bloomsbury Square (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

They did not live on the premises; at the time of the 1881 census, they were living at 43 Great Ormond Street with their baby son, Waldemar Sigismund Craven, and three servants; Florence Nightingale was godmother to this son (her gift to him of an inscribed Bible is now in the Auchincross Florence Nightingale Collection at Columbia University)

The Home at 23 Bloomsbury Square was later adopted as the Central Home and Training-School for Nurses by the Queen’s Nursing Institute following the foundation of the latter (as the “Queen’s Jubilee Institute for Nurses”) in 1889

The organisation was still listed at 23 Bloomsbury Square in the 1902 Post Office Directory

Website of current institution

The successor institution is the Queen’s Nursing Institute, www.qni.org.uk (opens in new window)

Florence Lees, later Mrs Craven (Wellcome Library, London)

Books about it

The Metropolitan District Nursing Association (Queen’s Nurses for Central London): Diamond Jubilee, 1875–1935 (1935) (rare, but a copy is held in London Guildhall Library, ref. Pam 12397, closed access)

The Association’s reports were printed; copies are in the British Library


Its (scant surviving) records are part of the Queen’s Nursing Institute archive at the Wellcome Library, ref. GB 0120 SA/QNI; more details are available online via www.aim25.ac.uk (opens in new window)

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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