Memorial to special west Suffolk midwife, Nurse Daniels

Nurse Daniels.

Nurse Daniels.

A permanent memorial to a much-loved district nurse has been installed at the new Sudbury health centre – some 27 years after her death.

(L-R) Anne Gant and Christine Johnson outside the new Sudbury Health Centre with the memorial bench

(L-R) Anne Gant and Christine Johnson outside the new Sudbury Health Centre with the memorial bench that has been dedicated to district nurse Elizabeth Daniels. - Credit: Archant

Midwife Elizabeth Daniels, from Acton near Sudbury, delivered more than 500 babies and tended to the ailments of countless children during her long and eventful career.

Nurse Daniels, as she was widely known, came to Acton in the early 1930s where she served as a district nurse for about 28 years, covering an area including Newton, Leavenheath and Assington, with only a bicycle for transport.

She held a surgery in the front room of her council home in Acton High Street and even after retiring at 70, she asked to help out at St Leonard’s Maternity Hospital in Sudbury.

She did this for three years before cardiac problems forced her to retire for good.

Nurse Daniels, who was born in South Wales in 1891, died in 1988 aged 97. Many people in the community expected a memorial service to be held, but this was against her family’s wishes.

Instead, people in the area sent donations to the parish clerk as a gesture of thanks for her work – it was these funds which have helped to provide the memorial.

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Former parish clerk, Christine Johnson, said: “The parish council had never asked for this money and was not sure what to do with it. It didn’t belong to us so it had to be kept completely separate from the council’s money and I was always conscious that it was just sitting in the bank.

“In 1988 there was already talk of a new hospital being built in Sudbury and it was decided that the money donated should be used to buy something for the new hospital.

“It has taken another 27 years but finally the Sudbury Community Health Centre is about to open and Acton Parish Council has arranged for a bench, paid for by the public donations, to be placed outside the centre bearing an inscription in memory of Nurse Elizabeth Daniels.”

The £10million health facility is a far cry from the small front room where Nurse Daniels tended to her patients. Anne Gant, 77, who was one of the hundreds of babies delivered by Nurse Daniels during her heyday, remembers her as being the most important – and the kindest – person in the village.

Mrs Gant said: “She delivered me and my three siblings, all in the front bedroom of our home in Acton. She did it all on her own and managed so well because she was extremely competent.

“My sister Pat had the (umbilical) cord around her neck during birth so Nurse Daniels undoubtedly saved her life.

“She often had to dash from one house to another when more than one person was in labour. Never mind Call the Midwife, she did it all single-handedly and cycled miles and miles to get to her patients.”

Such was her popularity, grateful patients eventually clubbed together to buy Nurse Daniels a moped to save her legs.