Blue plaque honour for first black NHS matron Daphne Steele

The woman credited as the “first black matron” in the NHS has had her achievement marked with the first official blue plaque outside London.


Daphne Steele has been honoured at the former St Winifred’s maternity home in Ilkley, West Yorkshire.

Originally from Guyana, Ms Steele arrived in the UK in 1951 and enrolled on a nursing course in south London.

Her son Robert Steele said she would be “speechless” to see that a blue plaque had been dedicated to her.

The plaque was unveiled by Lord Parkinson, arts and heritage minister, as part of a roll out of the official Historic England scheme.

It reads: “Daphne Steele. 1927-2004. Guyanese nurse and midwife. Pioneering black matron in the NHS lived and worked here.”

Mr Steele, who attended the unveiling, said: “My mother saw herself as a nurse and midwife.

“As far as she was concerned, she was just getting on with her job.

“She would be speechless, mind-blown, to see a plaque dedicated to her and to know that she had made such a difference to so many people.”

Ms Steele enrolled on the course at St James’s Hospital in Balham and graduated two years later.

She then undertook midwifery training in 1954 and worked in America, Oxfordshire and Manchester.

Her appointment as matron in 1964 attracted national attention and acted as a turning point in the history of the NHS.

Ms Steele became a matron at St Winifred’s maternity hospital in Ilkley with a reported salary of £1,230 per year – today’s equivalent would be £20,733.

Chief Nursing Officer Dame Ruth May called her “an inspiring woman”.

She added: “Daphne had a remarkable career in nursing, midwifery and as