Summer Sites: The Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre


The Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre

Royal College of Nursing facade
Image of The Royal College of Nursing buidling by David Hawgood. CC BY-SA 2.0

The Royal College of Nursing’s major London site is located in a smart Georgian building in Mayfair. Members of the public can use the space, consult books and print journals, and access the internet using the free WiFi access. They can also use the computers and printing facilities. The College’s archives and special collections are also available by prior arrangement. Members of the College have full access to on-line journals and a dedicated mezzanine member’s area as well as book borrowing rights.

Image of RCN Library seating and journals area
RCN Library seating in the journals area

In addition to these services, the College houses exhibitions reflecting its important collections concerning the history of nursing. They also hold interesting events ranging from lectures to musical performances. There is also a shop and a cafe. For more details visit the website.

Near to the Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre:

Drawing room in the Wallace Collection
Drawing room in the Wallace Collection

A short walk away in Manchester Square you can find the Wallace Collection. Located in  historic Hertford House it contains paintings, decorative art and an armoury in a series of beautifully decorated rooms. The collection includes many world famous paintings such as Franz Hals’ ‘Laughing Cavalier’. Admittance is free and it is open seven days a week. The Photographers Gallery in Ramillies Street has fine exhibitions of contemporary photography. On a less cultural note you are very close to the shops of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street.

A sandwich and a cup of coffee?

The Workshop Coffee Company in Barnett Street serves a good flat white. On Wigmore Street is a branch of Comptoir Libanais which is a good place for light Middle Eastern snacks and mint teas. The Wallace Collection has a stylish restaurant in a glass atrium which serves afternoon tea and is worth a visit. Alternatively, the restaurants and cafes of Soho are a short walk away.

Royal College of Nursing Library and Heritage Centre
20 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0RN
(Henrietta Place entrance)
Tel: 0345 337 3368
Website link

Don’t forget– if you cannot make it in to St George’s Library over the summer, there are still many resources that you can access from a computer with internet access (logins may be required). See more information about our online resources.


Summer Sites: The Wellcome Collection


The Wellcome Collection

Situated  close to Euston Rail Station and just behind University College Hospital the Wellcome Collection is a hub for research, education and study into Medical and Health Sciences.

Facade of the Wellcome Building

The library is loacted within the same building and it is open to all: you simply need to bring personal ID, proof of address and a completed application form (this can be downloaded from the Library homepage at: to the library to join.

Facilities include WiFi, printing, copying and access to online collections of journals and databases. There are also study rooms which can be booked in advance. For further information and opening times see their website.

‘Napoleon’s toothbrush’: on display in the ‘Medicine Man’ exhibition.

The Wellcome collection is particularly famous for its exhibitions, which are always imaginatively curated and cover a wide range of interesting topics. These are free of charge and can be very popular with the general public so you may have to obtain a timed ticket at peak times such as weekends. There are two permanent exhibitions: ‘Medicine Man’ displays a series of fascinating objects collected by Henry Wellcome including Napoleon’s toothbrush and George III’s hair. The ‘Medicine Now’ exhibition covers more modern medical topics such as genomes.

There is a good shop on the ground floor selling a wide range of books on popular science and historical subjects. It also has an entertaining range of gifts including cuddly bacteria and syringe ballpoint pens.

Near to the Wellcome Collection

petrie museum
Archeological objects in the Petrie Museum.

The area around the Wellcome Collection is London’s university district and is particularly rich in museums. The Grant Museum of Zoology with its historical collection of specimens gives you the chance to look at the skeletons of lost species such as the Dodo and the Quagga (a now extinct form of zebra). Also nearby is the Petrie Museum which contains an amazing 80,000 ancient Egyptian artifacts, the most interesting of which are on display.  Also close by is one of the most famous museums in the world: The British Museum.

Entrance hall of the British Museum.

A sandwich and a cup of coffee?

Speedy’s cafe in Gower Street.

There is a large airy cafe on the ground floor of the Wellcome Collection although it can get crowded. Fans of the television programme ‘Sherlock’ can follow in his footsteps and grab a cup of tea and a sandwich in Speedy’s cafe just down the road in Gower Street. The best coffee nearby however, is to be found in Tinderbox which is on the first floor of the Tottenham Court Road branch of Paperchase.  If all that museum visiting has made you thirsty and you are a real ale/craft beer fan the Euston Tap and Cider Tap now quirkily occupy the small stone buildings on either side of the entrance to Euston station. For the ravenous there is a branch of Brixton stalwart, Franco Manca Pizza, on Tottenham Court Road.

euston tap
The Euston Tap real ale house outside Euston Station.

Wellcome Collection
183 Euston Road
London NW1 2BE
Tel: 020 7611 2222

Don’t forget– if you cannot make it in to St George’s Library over the summer, there are still many resources that you can access from a computer with internet access (logins may be required). See more information about our online resources.

Summer Sites: The British Library


The British Library

British Library complex

Probably the most famous library in the UK, the British Library is located in King’s Cross and has the largest collection in the world. Naturally, this includes a significant number of resources concerning medical and healthcare subjects. The Library can get crowded so is not really suitable as study space, however if you are undertaking research or need to consult books on specific topics it is a very useful resource. There is a reading room dedicated to medical and life sciences on the 2nd floor and there are also subject specialists you can contact to help you with your search. To obtain a reader pass you will need to present photographic ID and proof of address, details can be found on the Library homepage:

Interior of the British Library

The British Library complex includes a conference centre and exhibition space with a gift shop. The exhibitions at the Library are temporary but have become well known for being imaginatively presented and cover a wide range of topics relating to objects in the collection. The exhibitions are not free but the student concession is generous, usually making tickets available for half the face value. The current exhibition celebrating the signing of the Magna Carta is excellent.

The Foundling Museum


Near the British Library

There are two interesting small museums just a short walk from the Library. One is the Foundling Museum in Brunswick Square. The Museum is well worth a visit, especially for anyone who is interested in the history of the care and social welfare of children. Apart from the often poignant displays it is a beautiful building in itself crammed with paintings and art. Not far from the Foundling Museum is the The Charles Dickens Museum, located in the writer’s London home on Doughty Street and a must see for anyone who likes the novelist’s work. Both museums charge modest admission prices but there are concessionary rates for students.

Interior of Dicken’s dining room at The Charles Dickens Museum


A sandwich and a cup of coffee?

The concourse of St Pancras Station is lined with cafes and shops


The remarkable St Pancras Station is virtually next door to the Library and contains a range of places to eat and drink. Of particular interest to bookworms is the cafe in the Hatchard’s book shop which sells drinks and cakes. Next door is a mini version of Fortnums and Masons including a small restaurant serving meals and afternoon tea. If you want something to eat before visiting the Library, Plum and Spilt Milk serve up-market breakfasts and coffee. If you fancy a post-study drink the Parcel Yard pub above King’s Cross Station is large and has a decent selection of beer and a full menu. Unusually for a station pub, its size means you can usually find a seat. Don’t forget to have your photograph taken pushing a trolley, Harry Potter style, onto platform 9 3/4 whilst you are there!

Platform 9 3/4, located close to the Parcel Yard pub in King’s Cross Station


The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB
Tel: 0330 333 1144

Don’t forget– if you cannot make it in to St George’s Library over the summer, there are still many resources that you can access from a computer with internet access (logins may be required). Click here for further information.

Summer Sites: The Royal College of Physicians


The Royal College of Physicians

Usually Royal Colleges are housed behind grand Georgian or Victorian facades. As a result of bomb damage the original home of the Royal College of Physicians was destroyed and it’s replacement, designed by Denys Lasdun is a famous example of the Brutalist style of modernist architecture.

The Royal College of Physicians.

The College has a study space, The Wellcome Reading Room, that is available to those interested in medical subjects. The College’s particular strengths are in the history of medicine, medical education and health and social policy. Services include access to print and e-journal collections and also e-books. Rare books, manuscripts and archives can be consulted by making an appointment.

Recreation of the ‘Censors’ Room’.

The College is a fascinating place to visit, apart from it’s light and airy modern interior it is full of interesting objects such as paintings, silverware and a collection of historical medical objects. These include the very rare 17th century anatomical tables and the interior of the ‘Censors’ Room’ which was moved from the old building. They also hold temporary exhibitions throughout the year. The college is open to the general public and even provides a free headset guide for visitors who are interested in its architecture or displays. Unusually, the College also has a beautiful Medicinal Garden which contains a range of plants used in medicine, this is also open to the public and tours are available on several dates over the summer.

Near the Royal College of Physicians

Regent’s Park.

The main attraction in the area is literally right next to the College: Regent’s Park. The park contains gardens, memorials and an open-air theatre. On the northern edge of the park is London Zoo who offer ‘Sunset Safaris’ throughout the summer, late night opening when many of the animals are at their liveliest. Also in the northern part of the park is Primrose Hill which offers one of the finest views of London’s skyline and is a favourite place for kite flyers.

People enjoying the view from Primrose Hill.

A cup of coffee and a sandwich?

The Primrose Bakery.

If it is sunny the best thing to do is take a picnic and sit in the park. The most varied selection of places for food and drink are near Primrose Hill. The Queen’s Pub has good food and is always full of dogs and their walkers. The Primrose Bakery in nearby Gloucester Avenue is famous for its cupcakes. A Regent’s Park Road institution, the Lemonia Greek Taverna has good value set lunches during the week and is a pleasant light airy space full of plants and ferns.

Royal College of Physicians
11 St Andrews Place
Regent’s Park
London NW1 4LE

Tel: 0203075 1649


Don’t forget– if you cannot make it in to St George’s Library over the summer, there are still many resources that you can access from a computer with internet access (logins may be required). Click here for further information.

Summer Sites: The Royal College of Surgeons


Over the coming months, our ‘Summer Sites’ series will be featuring interesting Libraries and Institutions that are linked with medicine or healthcare studies and research which you can visit. They may have useful study resources, fascinating museum displays or be housed in historic buildings. Included in the posts will be details of nearby sights and attractions and we will suggest places where you can get a good snack, meal or cup of coffee to fuel your day. We hope these will encourage you to go out and enjoy London this summer.

The Royal College of Surgeons

The Library

Summer is (hopefully) coming, providing us all with chances  to get out and explore London. One of the best things about studying in this city is the number of Libraries  some of which are attached to famous medical institutions and colleges. One of these is the Library at the Royal College of Surgeons.

The facade of the Royal College of Surgeons

It is based in an elegant Georgian building overlooking Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Situated close to both Chancery Lane and Holborn Tube stations. There are also plenty of bus routes, many of these running to and from South London.

You can use the Library Reading Room during the College’s opening hours by contacting the Library. The Library has a famous historical medical collection but also keeps a number of journals in print and online. There are also printing and copying facilities and access to WiFi. The College’s strength is naturally in the field of surgery but it also covers anatomy, medical history and natural history. The Reading Room itself is a graceful space with high ceilings, lined with books and journals. It is a quiet and peaceful place in which to study or consult reference materials.

Image of interior of the Hunterian Museum
Interior of the Hunterian Museum

There are other reasons to visit. You could contact the Library and ask to have a look at the Reading Room and combine it with a trip to the Hunterian Museum. John Hunter was, of course, a St George’s man but when the government bought his collection, it was given over to the care of the Royal College of Surgeons. It forms the nucleus of the current collection and the Museum is full of fascinating objects displayed in an interesting interactive manner. This is reflected by the fact that it is popular with the general public. Temporary exhibitions take place across the year and there are also a range of lectures and events, details of which can be found on their website: You can also visit the shop, which sells, amongst other things, glow in the dark eyeballs. Entry is free and it is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 10.00am – 17.00pm (note that the Library is not open on Saturdays).

Near the Royal College of Surgeons:

Just on the other side of the field  is the Sir John Soane’s Museum. Based in the famous architect’s former London residence it is full of wonderful things that he collected. Objects range from works by Hogarth to an Egyptian sarcophagus and entry is free. The Courtauld Gallery in Aldwych is part of the Courtauld Institute which is, like St George’s, part of the University of London. It’s permanent collection of paintings is popular with tourists and visitors, but St George’s students should be able to get free admission by showing their Student ID.

Eduard Manet’s ‘A Bar at the Folies- Bergere’, on display in the Courtauld Gallery

A cup of coffee and a sandwich?

In Lincoln’s Inn Field itself, there is a nice café with outside tables. There are also several supermarkets nearby so if it is sunny it is a good place for a picnic. If the weather is not so good there are several historic pubs in the area notably the Seven Stars in Carey Street and the Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. The best coffee in the area can be found in the Fleet Street Press cafe (3 Fleet Street).

People enjoying the sun in Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Note:  The RCS Library is going to be closed due to unforeseeable circumstances from 1 August to 4 September inclusive, further information is on the library webpages.

Library and Surgical Information Services
The Royal College of Surgeons
35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Tel: 020 7869 6555/6

Don’t forget– if you cannot make it in to St George’s Library over the summer, there are still many resources that you can access from a computer with internet access (logins may be required). See our online resources post for further information.

A year at St George’s Library.

Another year has passed here at St George’s Library, so we thought it was a good chance to review just a few of the things we have been up to over the last year.

cupcakes with library written on them


In late February the Library received the royal seal of approval when we were visited by HRH Princess Anne. A display of archive material relating to Edward Jenner and the discovery of the Smallpox vaccine was displayed. The Princess was also shown ‘Blossom’ in all her renovated glory.



To celebrate International Women’s Day the Library displayed archive material concerning the admittance of the Medical School’s first female students. A timeline Prezi was also produced using archive documents. Click below to have a look.


We were also able to raise £186 for Sports Relief with the help of students who donated their outstanding fines to this good cause.



Another VIP visited the Library in the person of the Mayor of London: Boris Johnson. He came to St George’s to look at the newly opened helipad but found time to pop into the Library. Blossom, as ever, was of great interest.



In July two members of the Library staff joined the St George’s Dragon Boat challenge team the ‘Part-Time Paddlers’. They joined the race at Kingston on Thames to raise money for the FamilyLine charity.



The central portions of the Library were refreshed. New carpets and lighting were installed and the seating and shelving was reconfigured to make the space more user friendly for quiet group study. We have had positive feedback and hope to be able to continue improving the space.

New Library space - back


The Library held a competitive draw for students joining our Twitter or Facebook accounts. The prizes included Amazon vouchers, handy printing credits and delicious food from Honest Burgers. Congratulations again to our winners.

Congrats to our Freshers’


To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War we published four brief articles concerning it’s impact on St George’s and the Healthcare Professions.

nursing vad poster

On a lighter note, with the help of Library users donating their fines to the Children in Need appeal we were able to raise a whopping £268. 35.

Children in Need 2014 we raised XXX



… is not quite over yet but we anticipate a glut of mince pies in the staff room.


Women medics and the First World War.

Women medics and the first world war

By 1914, the long fight by women to gain entry to medical education had largely been won. However Oxbridge and the London teaching hospitals, including St George’s, still held out and refused to admit women for training. In 1915, in response to wartime staff shortages St George’s relented and admitted it’s first four female medical students. It was the first London teaching hospital to do so. The St Georges Hospital Gazette reported that:

‘Among the many sorrowful effects which the War has had upon us it is pleasant to record one joyful result which we would never have attained without a war. Variety and charm has been added to the Medical School and its works by the admission of ladies as students’ (St George’s Hospital Gazette, April, 1915).

Despite this initial enthusiasm, fears of controversy led to these places being rescinded.  The  female students were impelled to write and plead their cases. In 1916 the medical school acquiesced and allowed them to continue their studies. This indicates that medical training for women remained a contentious issue. By 1917 however, St George’s was prepared to even employ women, albeit temporarily, as house officers.


Two of St George’s first female medical students (St George’s archive).

Irregardless of the medical school women graduated from, they were still confronted by a scarcity of available positions. Most found themselves limited to work in women’s hospitals, moving to obscure geographical locations or adopting specialities that did not generally appeal to men.  When the First World War broke out there was no official interest in involving qualified female doctors in the war effort. When Dr Elsie Inglis attempted to volunteer, the infamous War Office response was ‘My good lady, go home and sit still’. This was unlikely to ever happen; Dr Inglis like others had been involved in the suffrage movement. Women doctors simply approached their campaign to help the war effort in the same way they had fought for voting rights. They mobilised support, formed voluntary groups and raised money. In effect they simply circumvented  officialdom and offered their services elsewhere, even to foreign governments.

In 1914 the Women’s Hospital Corps was formed by Dr Louisa Garrett Anderson and Dr Flora Murray. The French government, unlike their British counterparts, promptly accepted their offer of help. Under the aegis of the French Red Cross the Women’s Medical Corp successfully ran military hospitals in Paris and Boulogne. In Paris they occupied the newly built Claridge’s Hotel on the Champs Elysee. The organisational skills required to raise funds, recruit staff, design uniforms and equip and manage the hospital were considerable. But both women were experienced doctors and had been active suffragettes, Dr Garrett Anderson herself had even been imprisoned in Holloway. They must have been formidable; the concierge told Dr Garratt Anderson that ‘he would have had an easier time fighting the Germans than facing so many active English Ladies!’ (Papers of Louisa Garrett Anderson,1914).

floramurrayFlora Murray supervising an operation at the Paris Red Cross Women’s Hospital (image courtesy of the Imperial War Museum).

In 1915, ostensibly to free men for service, the Corps was given control of the Endell Street Hospital in London which treated over 25,000 patients during the duration of the war (Murray, 1920). The Scottish Women’s Hospital, which had been formed by Dr Elsie Inglis after her War Office rebuff, distinguished itself in Serbia and France in 1916. In Serbia, the all female staff of the hospital found themselves in the midst of the conflict treating serious injuries in extremely difficult conditions. Moreover they had to fight major epidemics of disease and deal with a starving civilian population. The Hospital’s volunteers were forced to join the retreat during which thousands died. Some chose to take the even more risky option of  staying behind with patients who could not be moved.  Dr Inglis herself was taken prisoner of war.

In that same year, in the light of escalating need, the War Office reconsidered their positions and grudgingly allowed female doctors and surgeons to join the services. Despite the efficiency of the Women’s Medical Corps and the sheer toughness of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals the authorities continued to refuse to countenance the idea of women near the battlefield. Instead volunteer medics were sent  to locations like Malta. This was located far from the fighting and  most of the patients there were being treated for malaria and other infectious diseases.


The Newnham and Girton units of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals about to leave for Serbia in 1915 (image courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow).

Nonetheless the war gave female medics, especially at the voluntary women’s hospitals, the chance to treat a wider range of cases. Like their male counterparts they dealt with gruesome wounds, amputations and fierce infections in great numbers. Dr Garrett Anderson described her routine in Paris:

‘I am in the theatre from 2 – 9 or 10 at night and eight or more [operations] The cases come to us very septic and the wounds are terrible. Today we are having an amput’ of thigh, two head cases perhaps trephine and five smaller ones’ (Papers of Louisa Garrett Anderson, 1914) .

Despite their efforts, women serving  their country were, unlike their male compatriots denied official military commission. In addition they were paid less, had one year contracts, were given no uniform and did not necessarily  receive any ration or billeting allowance. Furthermore they would not receive any pension if they were injured (Leneman, p.1593). Dr Jane Walker wrote to the Times in 1918 complaining that:

‘Although many of the medical women in the army not only have a high professional standing in civil practice, but now have a large experience in military hospitals, they rank below the latest joined R.A.M.C. subaltern, and are obliged to take their orders from him. When they travel, they travel not as officers but as soldiers wives’ (Times, 1918).

Whilst women’s’ suffrage had been put on hold for the duration of the war the Medical Women’s Federation decided to challenge this inequality robustly. A number of reasons for treating women in an inferior manner were put forward. Some feared it would be the thin edge of the wedge and that women serving elsewhere in the forces might also want commissions. The military were by nature conservative and some in it’s ranks had no sympathy for claims of sexual equality.

LouisaDr Louisa Garratt Anderson photographed in 1918 (image: Open I)

Perhaps the oddest objection was that the ordinary soldier would not bear examination by female medics or tolerate treatment of venereal disease. This, despite the fact that female nurses dealt with cases of venereal disease and had continual intimate contact with patients.  A doctor was traditionally a masculine authoritarian role and it was felt men might resent being told what to do by a woman. A famous Punch cartoon of 1915 shows a stern looking female doctor recognising a patient. The patient cheerfully points out that as a police constable before the war he had once arrested her in her guise as suffragette. There appear however to have been few examples of any complaints from patients at being treated by a female surgeon or medic. The women run hospitals were, in fact, considered to be far more pleasant places to be than many official alternatives.

endell wardWard round at Endell Street hospital (image courtesy of bbc. co).

Women doctors had some support, from both the British Medical Association and more enlightened officials within the War Office. The then Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill ultimately refused to allow women to hold commissioned rank commensurate to their skills and responsibilities. He concurred with the official line that a commissioned officer had to be able to undertake all kinds of military duties, including where necessary, fighting. The Medical Women’s Federation retort to this was that:

‘Commissions have been given to numbers of medical men who by reason of physical disability or age were not fit for service’ (Contemporary Medical Archives Centre).

The War Office however maintained that a man unfit for full service was still more able to serve than an able bodied woman. In 1919 the Medical Women’s Federation declared that in future it would advise it’s members never to volunteer for any emergency, unless they were treated in the same way as the men.

Despite finally being granted limited suffrage in 1918, many female army medics found themselves  rapidly demoted back the backwoods of hospital medicine, but not all. Some helped found famous hospitals and others became leading figures in their fields. Notably however, few were allowed to continue to practice as surgeons, where their greatest expertise and experience lay.

In the case of St George’s Blomfield wrote of its women students:

… they proved an enthusiastic and efficient body. Most of them became house officers in their turn. Some occupied the higher posts of assistant curator and pathologist with such signal success that their services were retained long after the war had ceased. No more women students were admitted, however, as soon as it became plain that we were getting enough men to fill all the necessary posts in due course. The school is not big enough to harbour women as long as it continues its present prosperity with men’ (Blomfield, p. 92).

The War Office in fact continued its stance until the Second World War became imminent when again a generation of female doctors and surgeons would be called upon. That generation however were even less inclined to tolerate the inequalities their predecessors had been but even then they were only granted ‘relative’ rank and often denied commissions.


Blomfield, J. (1933) St George’s: 1733-1933. London: The Medici Society.

SA/MWF/C.163. Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, Wellcome Trust.

Leneman, L. (1933) ‘ Medical Women in the first world war-ranking nowhere’, British Medical Journal, 307 (December) pp.1592 – 1594.
Murray, F. (1920) Women as army surgeons. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Papers of Louisa Garrett Anderson, The Women’s Library, London.

St George’s Hospital Gazette, 1915.
The Times Letters page, The Times, 4 July.