Today's Object of the Week is actually a collection of objects - a treasure trove of a collection belonging to a midwife who worked in a bygone age.

 A DISCOVERY of photographs, textbooks and equipment dating back as far as 1928 has provided a unique insight into the development of the work and skills of the midwife.

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust midwife Val Driscoll, who followed in her great auntie Lilian’s professional footsteps, discovered a treasure trove of midwifery items from days gone by when clearing out her home in 1996 after her passing.

The Northern Echo: Three of Lilian’s textbooksThree of Lilian’s textbooks

As part of International Day of the Midwife on Thursday, which this year is exploring 100 years of progress, Val and her family shared the story of midwife Lilian Richards.

Born Lilian May Cullen in Stockton in May, 1905, Val’s great auntie first trained as a nurse before specialising in midwifery at the British Hospital for Mothers and Babies in Woolwich, London.

The motto of the hospital is apt for a maternity centre: Esto sol testis: ‘Let the sun be my witness is a lovely thought of a long night of labour and a new life born with the rising of the sun.’

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In 1944, aged 39, Lilian went onto to marry Bill Richards while living in Norton and the couple would later spend time living in South Africa where Bill worked as an engineer.

On returning to the UK, Lillian would work as a midwife at Coniscliffe in Darlington, Barton House in Stockton and Middlesbrough’s North Riding Infirmary.

The Northern Echo: Midwife Lilian Richards and a colleague (name unknown) at North Riding Infirmary (1964)Midwife Lilian Richards and a colleague (name unknown) at North Riding Infirmary (1964)

Bringing her impressive career to an end with a well-earned retirement, Lillian Richards died at the age of 91 in Billingham in 1996 having delivered hundreds of babies.

On Lillian’s passing, Val and her mum were taking care of her belongings and they found the textbooks, photos and midwifery equipment.

Val said: “I was entrusted with her treasured possessions from her time as a district midwife. Everything was pristine, wrapped in white tissue paper. She took care of everything.

“Auntie Lillian once said to me “Do you know Dr Warnock?" and funnily enough I did! I was a student nurse in 1979 at North Tees and my first placement was on ward 25 with Dr Warnock.

“Looking through the textbooks indicates how some of the equipment was used. Toxaemia of pregnancy was treated by hot towels and purging the body with a saline enema. Thankfully much more is now known about the condition and modern management helps to save the lives of mothers and babies.

The Northern Echo: Midwifery equipment that belonged to LilianMidwifery equipment that belonged to Lilian

“We can learn a lot though. Midwives in those days totally relied on their clinical skills. They had no scans, blood tests nor modern anaesthesia.

“I'm so proud of following in my Great Auntie’s footsteps by being a midwife.”

* North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is proud to support International Day of the Midwife and is grateful to Val Driscoll and her family for sharing this extraordinary piece of their personal history.

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