The Village Nurse

During these days when the threat from the pandemic looms over our lives, it is too easy to assume that the National Health Service has been always there to look after us. We forget that when some of the older villagers were born, there was no NHS.  But there was someone who could be turned to when villagers were in poor health: Nurse Hopkins, the local nurse, whose picture is to be found in the church.

It is a fascinating picture, not just because of the personage of Nurse Hopkins but also because of the vehicle she is driving. At the time, it was one of the very few vehicles in the village. It was purchased by Lady Lilford for the use of the local nurse. By all accounts, Nurse Hopkins was very proud of it.

Charlotte Hopkins was born in Shropshire in 1874 and was appointed to the role of local nurse by the Lilford and District Nursing Association in 1916. In addition to Lilford, her patch included Titchmarsh, Pilton, Achurch, Wigsthorpe and Thorpe. She lived in Newton Cottage here in the village and, after her retirement, was often called out to assist Nurse Duffett who replaced her.

In the days before the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, villagers had to pay an annual subscription in order to access the services of a nurse. Funding was a constant problem. One edition of the parish magazine carried the warning: When serious illness suddenly befalls, it is often far from easy to pay the double annual subscription required before the services of the nurse may be obtained. Everyone, therefore, should think a great many times before dropping this subscription as one of their economies in the present times which are, unfortunately so difficult for many.

The accounts of 1917 show total subscription income of £47 of which Titchmarsh villagers paid £26. There was a deficit for the year of £125, the balance of which appears to have been made up fund-raising events and a donation from Lord Lilford. The costs make interesting reading. Nurse Hopkins’s salary was £60 and the cost of running her car, not including petrol, was £16. For comparison, that salary equates to about £4900 today. The average price of a house in the region in 1917 was £195.

When the Association was finally wound up in 1948, such was the respect accorded to Nurse Hopkins that she was awarded £100 from the final balance of £286 even though, by then, she had been retired for 20 years.

She died aged 82 in May 1956.