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Berkshire Family Historian
June 2002

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, June 2002 Contents

Royal Berkshire Hospital archives

by Dr. Marshall Barr

For many years the archives were scattered both inside and outside the hospital. Thanks to a few staff associated with the hospital’s Library, they were gradually brought together and in 1983 they were catalogued by Brenda Parry-Jones of Oxford. This catalogue is on hand-written cards, with a hand-written index system. Since then many items have been added to the collection without the catalogue being updated. Because of developments at the hospital, the archives room has changed location five times in the last thirty years. The present archives room is in the basement of the 1839 hospital building. Conditions are not ideal, but the room is secure, with good shelving protected by plastic sheeting, and tables and chairs for researchers. The Archives Room is accepted as adequate by the County Archivist.

In the year 2000, the Royal Berkshire and Battle Hospitals NHS Trust granted custody of the archives to the Berkshire Medical Heritage Centre. The Heritage Centre is independent of, but closely associated with the NHS Trust. It has a Museum at the hospital, close to the Archives Room. I am Chairman and Dr Tim Smith is Honorary Secretary of the Heritage Centre, and we are currently restoring order to the arrangement of the archives, which were disrupted in the last move, and cataloguing the most important of the newer items. We are seeking funds to get the archives computer-catalogued, to have fungus-affected volumes decontaminated and for conservation work.

Royal Berkshire Hospital - early sketch


The archives relate mainly to the RBH, from its foundation: they include bound volumes of the annual reports and the minutes of the most important committees. There are many bound volumes recording staff and patients -inpatients, outpatients, operating theatre registers etc. Miscellaneous deeds, documents and photographs are stored in cardboard boxes.

In addition there are scattered, very incomplete records from

Berkshire and Buckinghamshire Joint Sanatorium 1915-48;

Henley and District War Memorial Hospital 1942-48;

Oxford Eye Infirmary (a ‘stray’ Annual Report 1910);

Reading Union Workhouse (later Battle Hospital) 1890;

Reading Corporation Isolation Hospital, Bridge Street, 1905;

Redlands War Hospital, 1915-18;

Smith Isolation Hospital 1891-1950;

South Chiltern’s Hospital Board 1928-46;

Wallingford and Crowmarsh Joint Hospital Board 1899+;

Wallingford and Bullingdon Joint Hospital Board 1933-48;

Wallingford Cottage Hospital 1880-88;

Wallingford and District Hospital 1937-48;

Wallingford Isolation Hospital 1906-48.

Tracing staff and patients

From a family historian’s viewpoint, probably the most significant archives relate to staff and patients. It is most important to understand the constraints in accessing this information. Firstly, many of the records are of a highly sensitive nature. Casual browsing cannot be permitted. The Archives Room is locked and access is only possible for bona-fide researchers under supervision. Records over 100 years old may be fully studied. For those genuinely researching a family history, supervised, limited access may be offered to the more recent records. Photocopying of these is not possible. Access cannot be permitted to the fungally infected records until the problem is solved. Access to damaged items may be withheld until conservation treatment has been carried out.

Main sources of information on patients

RBH patients (sadly, we have no record of patients from Battle or any of the other hospitals, except Wallingford Isolation Hospital):

1839-1844. RB 11. In Patients & Out Patients

1839-1846. RB 26. Out Patients

1839-1854, 1863-1943, (1950). RB24. Vols c, d, e,f, g, dd, ee, 1950 isolated (Fungus)

1849-1953. RB 25. In Patients & Out Patients. Alphabetical. Names only. Gaps. Vols for 1945, 46, 49, 51, 52, 53 isolated

1925-1984. RB 31. Anaesthetics journal general theatre

1925-1932. RB 5. X-Ray journal

1929-1969. RB 32. Anaesthetics journal ENT theatre. Vols a, b, c, d, e, f isolated

1927-1930. RB 30. Clinical notes. Mr Powell

1930-1939. RB 27. Out Patients. Vol b isolated

1932-1938. RB 16. Casualty patients. Some admitted

1936-1944. RB 44. Patient services ledger

1937-1954. RB 14. Victoria Ward register

1938-1943. RB 29. Weekly discharge of inpatients. Vol a isolated

1942-1969. RB 15. Anaesthetics journal Gynae theatre

1950-1970. RB 23. ENT outpatients. Oct 1953-Apr 1970 - OP operations

1958-1960. RB 46. Benyon Ward register

Operating Theatre Records of Cases

Orthopaedic Theatre Recovery Room Casebooks:

Theatres 3 & 4. June 1980-Nov 1981. 2 bound volumes

Theatre 3. Oct 1981-June 1990. 4 bound volumes

Theatre 4. Oct 1981-June 1990. 15 bound volumes

Minor Theatre Dec 1984-June 1990. 7 bound volumes

Theatre not specified. March 1983-June 1992. 36 bound volumes

Obstetric (Maternity) Theatre. March 1967-March 1997. 8 bound volumes

Gynaecology (Nuffield Theatre and Maternity Theatre). Sep 1969-Nov 1996. 31 bound volumes. ? completeness.

Eye Theatre Register

Jan 1955-July 1973. 5 volumes

July 1975-May 1981.3 volumes

General Theatre Anaesthetics Journal (includes patient name, surgeon and operation.

These are catalogued under RB 31a- zzzz+. Last vols not catalogued. 1925-June 1984 consecutive

General Theatre Recovery Room Day Cases

April 1970-Dec 1980. One volume, shelved after the anaesthetics journals. These do not correlate with the operations in the anaesthetics journal. (The day cases were recorded separately.)

Main Sources of Information on Staff

Records of Nurses:

Register of Nurses 1899-1943. Six volumes.

Mixture of trained and untrained nurses

Register of Student Nurses 1938-1962. 4 volumes

Register of Trained Nurses 1948-1967. 2 volumes

Register of Private Nurses 1886-1917. 1 volume. 1920-1939. 1 volume

Register of Nurses Blagrave Branch 1930-1966. 2 volumes. Mixture of trained and untrained nurses

Register of Nurses 1923-1930. 1 volume. Needs repair

Register of Nurses 1928-1933. 1 volume. Mostly student nurses

Register of part-time nursing staff, SENS and auxiliaries 1952-1968. 2 volumes

List of Nursing Finalists. 1955-1959. 1 volume

Uniform book. 1913-1941. 1 volume. Issue of uniforms to named nurses

House Committee Weekly Reports 1944-1972. 16 vols. Lacks 1964

Reports on nursing staff:

Nursing sub-committee minutes 1946-1948. 1 volume

Candidates for nurse training 1955-1968. 1 volumes

Nursing report book Nuffield 1 Ward (female surgical) Jan-Feb 1959. Catalogued as RB/45

Individual Nurses. A few files and named photographs of individual nurses and midwives. Numerous unidentified group photographs are stored in boxes

Records of Non-nursing Staff

Personal Files of Medical, Administrative, Technical and Domestic Staff 1913-1950s. 5 metal boxes

Records of a variety of staff 1940s-1950s. 4 small bound volumes

Records of Catering, Domestic and Laundry Staff 1940s-1950s. One large bound volume (These 5 vols are catalogued as RB Add? a-e)

Salary and Wages file 1944-1946. Brown paper wrap. Catalogued as RB/113 (Chronological No 166)

Wallingford Isolation Hospital (These are on mainshelves):

Admission registers 1906-1948. (HO 287 a&b).

Officers’ salaries ledgers 1927-1948. (HO 289 a&b).

Bona-fide enquiries should be directed to the Trust Librarian, Post Graduate Centre, Royal Berkshire Hospital, RG1 5AN (tel 0118 987 7849). Supervised access can be provided by appointment, normally on Monday mornings.

A database maintained by the Wellcome Trust and the Public Record Office provides information on the existence and location of the records of hospitals in the U.K. Currently over 2,800 entries can be found in the database at

Dr Barr was a consultant anaesthetist to the Reading Group of Hospitals from 1973 to 1996. He is the founding Chairman of the Berkshire Medical Heritage Centre. He is co-author of ‘The Royal Berkshire Hospital 1839-1989’ and co-compiler of ‘Care & Compassion: Old Prints and Photographs of Hospitals and Nurses in Berkshire and South Oxfordshire’.

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updated 24th June 2002