A Mystery Medical Collection

Historic England

The Historic England Archive has rediscovered a collection of over 4,000 photographs taken by the Topical Press Agency. Dating between 1938 and 1943, they show healthcare in England before and during the Second World War. The story of how the Archive acquired the photographs is a mystery.

A nurse taking a throat swab from a patient at Middlesex Hospital, Mortimer Street, Westminster, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-08-11, From the collection of: Historic England

The Topical Press Agency Medical Collection

The Historic England Archive's Topical Press Agency Medical Collection comprises over 4,000 black and white photographic prints.

They were taken by the Topical Press Agency, a commercial press photography agency that was formed in 1903. The firm supplied images to newspapers, and undertook commissions for numerous companies, government departments and journals.

Our fascinating collection, which dates from 1938 to 1943, covers a broad range of subjects relating to medicine and health care in England. They show staff in training and at work, and a number of treatments, techniques and machinery at a range of medical establishments, some of which are now redundant or demolished.

Most of the collections we care for have definitive origins. However, the reason why we have our Medical Collection is a mystery - no documentation has yet been found to explain how or why it was acquired.

We hope you enjoy this small selection of images and encourage you to visit the Historic England Archive to discover more.

A sister tutor lecturing student nurses at the Preliminary Training School, Liverpool Royal Infirmary, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-06-03, From the collection of: Historic England

A sister tutor lectures student nurses at the Preliminary Training School, Liverpool Royal Infirmary.

3 June 1941

A sister tutor instructing student nurses bandaging a mannequin at Atkinson Morley's Convalescent Hospital, Copse Hill, Merton, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1940-10-05, From the collection of: Historic England

A sister tutor uses a mannequin to demonstrate bandaging to student nurses at Atkinson Morley's Convalescent Hospital, London.

5 October 1940

A student nurse with a jointed model patient, Central Middlesex County Hospital, Park Royal, Brent, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-07-30, From the collection of: Historic England

A student nurse practices using a jointed model patient at Central Middlesex Hospital, London.

30 July 1941

Nurses in the library at Liverpool Royal Infirmary, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-06-03, From the collection of: Historic England

Nurses study in the library at Liverpool Royal Infirmary.

3 June 1941

Nurses inspecting a bust of Florence Nightingale, Liverpool Royal Infirmary, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-06-03, From the collection of: Historic England

Three nurses inspect the bust of Florence Nightingale at Liverpool Royal Infirmary.

3 June 1941

Nurses in an underground air raid shelter at Manchester Royal Infirmary, Oxford Road, Manchester, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1940-12-05, From the collection of: Historic England

Nurses sleep on bunk beds in an air raid shelter at Manchester Royal Infirmary.

5 December 1940.

Nurses and students ice-skating on a tennis court at the London Fever Hospital, Liverpool Road, Islington, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1940-01-01, From the collection of: Historic England

Nurses and students ice-skate on the frozen tennis court at the London Fever Hospital.

1 January 1940

Nurses on a merry-go-round at a fair in Soho Square Gardens, Soho, Westminster, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1939-07-04, From the collection of: Historic England

Nurses enjoy the merry-go-round at Soho Fair, London.

4 July 1939

Nurses on stationary cycles in the gymnasium at the Albert Dock Hospital, Alnwick Road, Newham, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1938-09-22, From the collection of: Historic England

Nurses pose on stationary cycles at the gymnasium of Albert Dock Hospital, London.

22 September 1938

District nurses with bicycles leaving the Willesden District Nursing Association, Park Avenue, Willesden Green, Brent, Greater London, Topical Medical Agency Ltd, 1939-10-13, From the collection of: Historic England

District nurses on bicycles prepare to depart from Willesden District Nursing Association, London.

13 October 1939

Nurses pushing prams at St Matthew's Hospital Nursery School, Tyseley, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-04-08, From the collection of: Historic England

Nurses and their young charges return to St Matthew's Hospital Nursery School at Tyseley, Buckinghamshire.

8 April 1941

A patient with a budgerigar in a cage at Wingfield-Morris Orthopaedic Hospital, Old Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1939-06-01, From the collection of: Historic England

A young nurse watches a patient with her pet budgerigar in a ward at the Wingfield-Morris Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford.

1 June 1939

A children's open-air ward on the roof of the nurses' home at Cheyne Hospital for Children, Chelsea, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1939-06-15, From the collection of: Historic England

A children's roof-top, open-air ward at Cheyne Hospital for Children, London.

15 June 1939

The Sunlight Room at the Health Centre, Oak Lane, East Finchley, Barnet, Greater London, Topical Press Association Ltd, 1939-05-03, From the collection of: Historic England

A member of staff prepares phototherapy equipment in the Sunshine Room at the Health Centre, East Finchley, London.

3 May 1939

Two nurses operating an iron lung at The Hospital Exhibition at Charing Cross Underground Station, Westminster, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1939-05-08, From the collection of: Historic England

Two nurses operate an iron lung on display at The Hospital Exhibition, Charing Cross Underground Station, London.

8 May 1939

Surgical rubber gloves being made at an unknown factory, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1939-01-20, From the collection of: Historic England

An operator prepares surgical rubber gloves for curing at an unknown location.

20 January 1939

Head X-ray at a London Eye Hospital, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1940-11-16, From the collection of: Historic England

A patient undergoes an X-ray at the London Eye Hospital.

16 November 1940

A woman holding a bag designed to house a hearing aid at a Medical Exhibition, Royal Horticultural Society New Hall, Greycoat Street, Westminster, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1938-02-12, From the collection of: Historic England

A woman poses with a handbag designed to house a hearing aid, at an exhibition held at the Royal Horticultural Society New Hall, London.

12 February 1938

A patient wearing a linen mask at St Thomas' Hospital, Lambeth Place Road, Lambeth, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-03-03, From the collection of: Historic England

A young patient poses wearing a linen mask for the treatment of skin diseases at St Thomas' Hospital, London.

3 March 1941

A young girl sitting at a synoptoscope in the Orthoptics Department, King Edward VII Memorial Children's Hospital, Ladywood, Birmingham, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1941-10-21, From the collection of: Historic England

A girl sits at a synoptoscope in the Orthoptics Department at the King Edward VII Memorial Children's Hospital, Birmingham.

21 October 1941

The Bishop of Chelmsford blesses a casualty evacuation train at Goodmayes Station, Redbridge, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1939-11-02, From the collection of: Historic England

The Bishop of Chelmsford blesses a casualty evacuation train at Goodmayes Station, London.

2 November 1939

A group of patients playing cards at Queen Mary's (Roehampton) Hospital, Roehampton, Wandsworth, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1938-05-06, From the collection of: Historic England

Patients play cards in a ward at Queen Mary's (Roehampton) Hospital, London.

6 May 1938

Men gathered around an instructor in the art department at Mill Hill Emergency Hospital, The Ridgeway, MIll Hill, Barnet, Greater London, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1940-08-13, From the collection of: Historic England

Effort Syndrome patients receive instruction at the Art Department, Mill Hill Emergency Hospital, London.

13 August 1940

A patient in a saline bath at Queen Victoria Hospital, Holtye Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, Topical Press Agency Ltd, 1940-12-20, From the collection of: Historic England

A patient at Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, West Sussex, smokes a cigarette and reads a newspaper while lying in a saline bath for the treatment of burns.

20 December 1940

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Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops.

Our archive holds over 12 million photographs, drawings, reports and publications from the 1850s to the present day, covering the whole country.

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