February 25, 2024 Bradford Civic Society

Bradford chosen for first ‘national’ blue plaque

Bradford Civic Society has supported Historic England’s new national blue plaque scheme which has seen a woman who made history by becoming the first black matron in the NHS commemorated with an official heritage marker in Ilkley.

Daphne Steele, the first black matron in the NHS, was honoured with the first blue plaque in the new national scheme which is delivered by Historic England on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Arts and Heritage Minister Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, together with representatives of Historic England, the son of Daphne Steele, and local representatives from Bradford City Council, Bradford Civic Society, and Ilkley Civic Society celebrated the trailblazing NHS matron’s life by unveiling the plaque at the former St. Winifred’s maternity home in Ilkley, part of the Bradford District.

Daphne arrived in Britain in 1951 from Guyana. Despite the challenges she faced, she helped to break down barriers and paved the way for nurses from a wide range of backgrounds to play a vital part in running the National Health Service. Her appointment as matron in 1964 attracted national attention and acted as a turning point in the history of the NHS. 

These first plaques outside London will help to inform the new national scheme, made possible thanks to a change in the law last year. This summer, nominations will open so the public can put forward their own suggestions of people who should be recognised in their local area.

Bradford’s own scheme continues with a blue plaque for trade union pioneer Julia Varley, supported by UNITE the Union, to be unveiled in Spring 2024.