Nineteenth Century Nurses' Pensions 

Front page of the Trained Nurses' Annuity Fund's 1886 Annual Report (HO1/ST/NC/18/021/074) © London Metropolitan Archives, City of London Corporation

Trained Nurses' Annuity Fund

Founded in 1874, the Trained Nurses' Annuity Fund offered a £15 annuity for  'broken down Trained Nurses of good character' who were aged 50 years or over, had worked in nursing for at least 15 years, and could produce testimonials as to their good character. When elected for the annuity, worth around £900 in today’s money [1], annuitants had to pay £15 towards a general Fund, a condition that was intended to encourage nurses to foster provident habits. In the Fund’s 1886 report nurses were encouraged to save 4d a week towards this cost.

The main archives of the Fund are in the Royal British Nurses’ Association Collection (held at Kings College London College Archives)[2]. London Metropolitan Archives' Saint Thomas’ Hospital Nightingale Collection holds a collecting card for the fund, the Fund's Annual Report for 1886 and a letter from the Fund’s Honorary Secretary R. Gofton Salmond in the (HO1/ST/NC/18/021/073, HO1/ST/NC/18/021/074 and HO1/ST/NC/18/021/081).

The charity is still in operation today.

 Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses

Prospectus for the Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses (H09/EV/Y5/1) © London Metropolitan Archives, City of London Corporation

The National Pension Fund for Nurses was founded in 1887 by Henry C. Burdett (1847-1920), and based at 8 King Street, Cheapside, London. Burdett was secretary to the shares and loans department of the Stock Exchange, but had a background in hospital administration as secretary to the Queen’s Hospital Birmingham between 1868 and 1873, medical student at Guy’s Hospital from 1874 and then as house governor to Greenwich Seamen’s Hospital. Burdett used his connections to the prince and princess of Wales to secure their patronage for the Fund. He was also involved in the Sunday Fund, Prince of Wales’s Hospital Fund for London and the League of Mercy hospital charities [3].

The chief object of the Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses was to provide nurses with a retirement income or allowances for those unable to work through sickness or accident. The Fund was open to ‘all responsible paid officials connected with hospitals and kindred institutions’.

The Fund was based upon the contribution of members, the profits made from investments of these contributions, and a Donation Bonus Fund. As with the Trained Nurses' Annuity Fund, beneficiaries were expected to have made some contribution to the Fund - the prospectus argues that it is 'better for her self-respect and peace of mind that she provide for herself, not only in youth but in sickness and in age' rather than be dependent on others - but the Fund also attracted a number of benefactors. 

The first donation of £20,000 (around £1,000,000 in today’s money) was received from Junius S. Morgan (head of merchant bank J. S. Morgan & Company, which in 1910 became Morgan, Grenfell & Company), and the Fund’s administrators solicited further donations and annual subscriptions from both from individual donors and organisations involved in the training and employment of nurses.

Records at London Metropolitan Archives relating to the Royal National Pension Fund for Nurses include a prospectus from 1888 (H09/EV/Y5/1), which both encourages donations and sets out how the fund is administered.  Tables set out the pension a nurse could expect to receive for contributing to the fund: for a pension of £15 per annum starting at the age of 50 (around £2,850 in today’s money), a 30 year old nurse would need to pay 16s 3d per month (around £49 in today’s money).

The booklet also describes the Morgan Benevolent Fund, established as a memorial to Junius Morgan which offered relief to those Fund members in distress or unable to keep up their pension contributions and annuities for Fund members over 60 who, through no fault of their own, were unable to provide for themselves after the age of 60.

The Evelina Hospital collection also includes leaflets outlining schemes of federation for the Fund to enable hospitals and other institutions to enrol their staff in the Fund (H09/EV/Y/05/002 and H09/EV/Y/05/003). The St. Thomas’ Hospital Nightingale Collection includes a letter from Henry C. Burdett to Henry Bonham Carter on the initial success of the Fund (H01/ST/NC/18/027/073).

PAT has recently received a donation of a certificate, souvenir programme and menu card from a reception for the Fund's nurses held by the Fund's president, Queen Alexandra, at Marlborough House in 1901 (reference LMA/4635). The souvenir programme includes photographs key figures in the fund and members of the Pension Fund.

Letter from Henry C. Burdett to Henry Bonham Carter 'You may be interested to hear - and Miss Nightingale may also like to know it - that more than 800 nurses have now joined the National Pension Fund including those attached to large institutions like the St John’s the Divine, the Mildmay and the Seaman’s Hospital' (H01/ST/NC/18/027/073) © London Metropolitan Archives, City of London Corporation

Other records

The Saint Thomas’ Hospital Nightingale Collection, which comprises of material relating to Florence Nightingale collected by the executors for Nightingale’s first biographer and augmented by further donations, includes a number of letters on nurses’ pensions. Letters from E. Vincent, matron of the St. Marylebone Infirmary, describe how keen her nurses would be to join a pension club, and how she was ‘anxious that something should be done in this direction: Nurses are a most improvident class.’  (H01/ST/NC/18/027/079).

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[1] All estimates of modern price equivalents are based on prices from The National Archives' currency convertor (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/currency/).

[2] See the King's College's Archives and Special Collections website for more information: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/library/archivespec/index.aspx .

[3] Information on Henry C. Burdett from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: http://www.oxforddnb.com/.


The Pensions Archive Trust - Registered Charity No. 1122633    

Chairman - Alan Herbert     Secretary - Peter Dawes