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PETHARD, Nancy Kathleen (1903-1984) – Wickhamford Nurse and Midwife

When the 1939 Register was compiled in the Autumn of 1939, the vast majority of men in Wickhamford were employed in market gardening, agriculture and related work.   The women were nearly all recorded as having the occupation of ‘domestic duties’, mainly unpaid (i.e. housewives), or some in paid work.  One exception was Nancy Kathleen Pethard, who lived on Pitchers Hill in ‘Rosebank’, with her parents, Edward and Annie, sister Violet, and brother-in-law, Cecil Ward, and a lodger.  She was recorded as working in a professional capacity as a ‘Hospital Theatre Sister’ with the qualifications S.R.N. and C.M.   Her name was recorded as ‘Nancie K Pethard’ and this was later amended to ‘Nancy K. Pethard’.   Both versions of her first name appear in documents during her lifetime.  The index numbers names, based on a person’s location, would eventually be used as their N.H.S. number after the War.

Early life

Nancy Pethard
Nancy Pethard (right) with her sisters, Priscilla Marjorie and Violet Lilian, in about 1910.

She was born on 8th July 1903, the youngest of three daughters of Edward John Pethard and his wife, Annie Georgina (née Smith).  Her birth was registered as ‘Nancie’, but when she was baptised in Wickhamford on 23rd August it was entered as ‘Nancy’.  She entered Badsey School, Infants’ Department on 4th May 1908, leaving on 29th July 1910. 

She went to the Mixed Department from 2nd August 1910 until she left on Friday 6th July 1917, as she would turn 14 that weekend.  Whilst at school she was good at art and some of her paintings still exist. One memory of her was recalled by Fred Mason, who she escorted to his first day at Badsey School, when he was aged five, in May 1915.

No other records of Nancy have been found in this period, apart from an article in The Evesham Journal of 19th January 1918 when she and her sister played the parts of Beauty and the Beast in some entertainment at Badsey School.

Medical career

Nancy Pethard
Nancy Pethard in about 1930, aged about 27.

‘Nancie’ Kathleen Pethard is entered in the 1934 edition of the General Nursing Council for England & Wales.  It gave her address as Pitchers Hill, Wickhamford, and notes that she was first registered on 15th July 1927, in London.  She had been trained at Warneford Hospital, Leamington Spa, during 1923-1927, and had gained her qualification by examination.  Similar information is given in the Register for 1946.   She is recorded as ‘Nancy’ Kathleen Pethard in the 1935 edition of ‘The Midwives Roll’. She was then living at Warneford Hospital and her date of enrolment was given as 25th May 1928. 

Also, in this edition are two other Pethard entries – Jane Ann, who was first registered in 1911 and Maggie, first registered in 1923.  They both lived at 75 Burford Road, Evesham, which was the ‘Avonview Nursing Home’, a small maternity home.  Maggie Pethard (née Heritage) later became Matron at Avonview.  Jane Ann was Nancy’s third cousin-once-removed and Maggie was the wife of Jane Ann’s brother, Robert, so this was a distant relationship which normally would not have influenced Nancy's choice of career.  However, both Maggie and Nancy grew up in Wickhamford and both went to Badsey School.  Maggie may well have been influenced by her much older sister-in-law, and Nancy in turn may have been influenced by Maggie who was 4½ years her senior.

Women were given the vote after the Great War, but all women were not enfranchised until 1928, if over 21, and Nancy was listed in 1929 and 1930 Electoral Registers whilst resident at Warneford Hospital, Redford Road.

The Coventry Evening Telegraph of 16th April 1948, reported on a study of factory workers’ conditions, when a five-day course was attended by matrons and administrative officers of Midland hospitals.  One of those attending was Miss N. K. Pethard, who was described as ‘Home Sister of Nuneaton General Hospital’.  It is believed that Nancy finally became a Matron.

Nancy Kathleen Pethard died, unmarried, at Evesham General Hospital, Avonside on 12th April 1984.  The Badsey, Aldington and Wickhamford Parish Magazine in May noted her death and her funeral and cremation in Cheltenham.   Probate records show that she left £29,906.

Tom Locke – June 2020

See also:  Pethard - a top ten name in 19th-20th century Badsey, Aldington and Wickhamford