Like its predecessor, 2021 will probably be remembered for the continuing impact of the COVID pandemic on our lives and world. However, there are promising signs of a ‘return to normal’ and the Thoroton Society continues to work to maintain its usual programme of events and activities. The recent Annual Lunch, which will be reported on in the Annual Report next Spring, was a very welcome chance to renew acquaintances with Thoroton members on a personal basis.

However, the year has not been without its wider significance, in terms of local history, heritage and archaeology. The highlight has undoubtedly been the re-opening of Nottingham Castle, after a £30m transformation project which has been in train for several years. Many Thoroton members will know the frequently-expressed desire to make the Castle a more engaging visitor experience. As someone closely involved in the development of the new ‘Rebellion Gallery’, I have been delighted to see how successful the Castle transformation has been and to see a very welcome re-engagement with this crucial visitor destination and local landmark by audiences drawn from far and wide.

This issue of the newsletter rightly places the Castle centre-stage, with special pieces on each of the new elements of the site.

Looking ahead, 2022 marks the 125th anniversary of the Thoroton Society. We have a number of events planned and are working with our friends in FONA (Friends of Nottinghamshire Archives) on a week-long celebration which commemorates our support for heritage preservation and archives. Part of this involves opportunities for Thoroton Society members to highlight an aspect of their own research, based on the collections at Nottinghamshire Archives. The prospective dates fall in the week of 9-15 July 2022. If you are interested in contributing, please contact me at with a brief outline of your proposal.

Wishing you all a peaceful end to another challenging year and with warmest good wishes for a healthy and Happy New Year!

Richard Gaunt (Chair of Council)


The proposed solar farm on land around the conservation village of Halloughton was refused by Newark & Sherwood DC - the applicant, Pegasus, has appealed, adding what the company itself called “minor amendments.

Many respondents noted the fact that the “minor amendments” were indeed very minor. Representations addressing the appeal on behalf of the Society were prepared and sent to the Inspectorate - the outcome is awaited. The application for an “animal rendering plant” at the important Roman site at Villa Farm, Norton Disney, has been withdrawn. This follows considerable objections, including from the local Norton Disney History Society and our own Thoroton Society. More recently an application for a Sainsburys Food Hall overlooking the very special town of Southwell was made. This would have been visible from the iconic stretch of road down towards the town and been what would have been called “a blot on the landscape”; it would also have compromised the archaeology of the field where it was proposed to site it. Once again, a representation was made and we await the decision of the District Council. Please remember that if you have concerns about proposed developments or works at historic or archaeological sites please let the Response Group know and we will see if we can make a case against whatever it is.

Barbara Cast, Response Group co-ordinator (


Research project

Social History of Nursing in Nottinghamshire - recipient Val Wood.

The history of nursing has been dominated by scholarship which is either national in scope or London-centric in its focus. There has been little analysis of the developments in the nursing profession within provincial England. To date, there has been no published material in academic journals, books or local history publications detailing how nursing evolved in the city and county, nor on the specifics of nurse training and education, the exception being nursing experiences during WW1. This was an absence which came into sharp focus during a period of celebration to mark 2020 as the year of the nurse and midwife, the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth (1820-2020) and the commemoration of the centenary in 2019 of the campaign for nurse registration, which resulted in the introduction of the 1919 Nurse Registration Act. This resulted in a small group of locally based historians sharing ideas and knowledge of known local nursing history revealing, through discussion, a significant and untapped number of resources and potential for scholarly study.

The funding provided by the Thoroton and Geoffrey Bond Research Award has enabled us to formally constitute a small group dedicated to researching the history of nursing in Nottinghamshire. Despite the limitations arising from the Covid 19 pandemic which has impacted on several of the anticipated outcomes, we have been able to meet regularly. After initial face to face meetings, we have used zoom to maintain continuity, with two outdoor garden meetings when the lockdown was lifted and a community bank account opened. The latter in anticipation that we may be successful in obtaining further funding for our research. We have been able to establish digital platforms including Twitter and Facebook and established a dedicated website. The website includes pages on the life and work of Ethel Gordon Fenwick (1857-1947), who spent her formative years in Nottinghamshire and commenced her nursing career at Nottingham Children’s Hospital.

Information sheets about nursing in Nottinghamshire prepared by the group are available to download. They are free from the website

We have significant interest from nursing staff in the local hospitals, some of whom have contributed by writing blogs for the website and providing personal stories and photographs. Retired nurses have been in contact with our group, and we plan to collect nursing memories and testimonies through oral history recordings. The group has also established links with national and international nursing history groups and academics working in the field.

The group has submitted a book proposal to Palgrave Macmillan, receiving positive feedback, and members of the group are currently working on their respective chapters.

The pandemic has prevented planned talks and events, and these are now rescheduled for autumn 2021 and early 2022 including, in September, a talk for Radcliffe Local History Society relating to the development of nursing in Nottinghamshire 1830-1914 entitled “From Servants to Sisters”, speaker Val Wood; in October David Stewart to Nottingham Women’s History Group; and in spring Rosie Collins will be discussing the Asylum Nurses Strike at Saxondale 1922 for Notts and Derbyshire Labour History Society. Papers submitted and accepted for the UKAHN (Association of Nursing History) Colloquium will be rolled over to the 2022 conference. The group also supplied a powerpoint presentation for the INSPIRE digital platform to promote local history in May this year.

A brief overview of the proposed book’s content is:

On behalf of the Nottinghamshire Nursing History Group, I would like to express our thanks to the Thoroton Society for the funding made available through the Thoroton and Geoffrey Bond Research Award. This has enabled us to successfully establish ourselves as a group and achieve some of our goals. We will be reflecting the research award in the forthcoming book and acknowledgement of the award is clearly stated on our website.

Val Wood


2022 sees the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Thoroton Society. It is of interest to look back at our early members, like those who can be regarded as Founder Members, who attended (or sent apologies for) the inaugural meeting in 1897. Some went on to be significant names in the history of the Society. Others were faithful, if relatively undistinguished, members for many years.

Up until 1958, the Society in fact published the names and addresses of all members in the annual Transactions (unthinkable nowadays with data protection concerns).

John Wilson has prepared a database of early members who were in membership for a significant number of years, to act as a resource for future research. Hopefully, we will have the biography of an Early Member, so far as it can be traced, in future issues of the Newsletter.

I am looking for a contribution for the Summer 2022 Newsletter. If any member would be interested in researching the life of an early Thorotonian, please contact John Wilson who will give you details of the database.

A reminder that the Spring Annual Report will include a few pages of Thoroton Society News at the end of the Annual Report. The next full Newsletter will be the Summer Edition.

Paul Baker


Memorial bench and grave.

On Thursday 30 September, the centenary of the opening of the Nursing Register, I attended a commemorative event for the achievements of Ethel Gordon Fenwick. Members of the Nottinghamshire Nursing History group joined with members of the Ethel Gordon Fenwick Commemorative Partnership to lay flowers on Ethel’s grave in the churchyard of St.Helena,Thoroton. Reverend Tim Chambers, vicar of the Cranmer group of churches, officiated.

Since Ethel was a suffragette, the flowers were purple, green and white.

Ethel Manson (aged 21) of Thoroton Hall began her nursing training at Nottingham Children’s Hospital in 1878 as a paying probationer. The hospital had 45 inpatients and over 200 outpatients. She then continued training at Manchester Royal Infirmary before becoming a Ward Sister at The London Hospital, Whitechapel.

Ethel then became matron at St.Bartholomew’s Hospital. Ethel trained nurses and worked towards the professionalisation of nursing.

Ethel married Dr Bedford Fenwick in 1887 and had to resign her job. Together they founded the British Nurses’ Association, which was granted a Royal Charter in 1893. Ethel worked for thirty years for the state registration of nurses. This met with Florence Nightingale’s disapproval as Florence saw no need for registration.

In 1902 Ethel founded the Society for Registration of Nurses and in 1904 the National Council of Nurses of Great Britain and Ireland. The Nurses’ Registration Act was finally passed on 23 December 1919. Ethel Gordon Fenwick became the first State Registered Nurse. Ethel continued to campaign into the 1940s for standardisation of nursing training.Ethel died in March 1947 and was buried in Thoroton churchyard. A plaque and a written account of her achievements are on display inside the church.

Nottinghamshire Nursing History Group was formed just before lockdown. Our aim is to record the Nursing History of the county. We would welcome any written or oral memories and pictures from anyone who has nursed in Nottinghamshire

Jill Oakfield

Further details can be found on the website: or by email:



29th December marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Doris, Lady Stenton. She attended University College at Reading, earning a first-class degree in 1916. As Doris Mary Parsons she was engaged in the transcription of Lincoln Cathedral charters and other Lincolnshire projects. In 1919 she married Frank Stenton, who held the first chair of history at Reading and was one of the foremost Anglo-Saxon scholars.

In 1949 Frank was knighted and they became Sir and Lady Stenton - both being esteemed for their historical studies and writings.

They both wrote continuously throughout their life together - but after his death Lady Stenton focused on the completion of the final edition of his Anglo-Saxon England and also a collection of his papers. She is buried with her husband in the graveyard of St James in Halloughton.

Barbara Cast


The very recent publication of Professor John Beckett’s ‘Centenary Cust Foundation Lecture’ is now on sale and can be bought by contacting Rob James:

This will be reviewed in the Spring Annual Report/Newsletter.