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Henrietta Stockdale


UPDATED: 06/10/2022

6 October 1879, Kgosi Galeshewe  sentenced to 12 years gaol for his part in the Uprising.
6 October 1911, Sister Henrietta Stockdale dies in Kimberley

Sister Henrietta Stockdale

Sister Henrietta Stockdale stands out for her achievements and her compassionate care of the sick. Born in the little English village of Misterton-with-West-Stockdale on 9 July 1847, Henrietta was the daughter of Reverend Henry Stockdale and his wife, Christine Ann Nicholson. The family was descended from a long line of Anglican churchmen, and there were a number of doctors in their lineage. Jane Austen was also part of the family tree.


Kgosi Galeshewe

Henrietta was highly intelligent and had, from early childhood, a strong sense of right and wrong. She was taught by a number of governesses who themselves were rather limited, and all in all her education was sketchy. One of these governesses, who probably knew no more than Henrietta did and whom she disliked, came back into her life much later. She had come to Kimberley, was unhappily married and in trouble and need when she was admitted to the Kimberley Hospital as a patient under the care of her old pupil.

Henrietta, intending from a young age to come to South Africa in the service of the Anglican Sisterhood, trained at the Clewer Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Great Ormond Street.

On 6 March 1874 the tall, serenely beautiful young woman set sail for South Africa to join the Sisterhood in Bloemfontein. During the first two years Sister Henrietta did most of the nursing in St Michael’s Home and in private homes and was appalled by the lack of facilities for the care of the sick, except in the prison.

Meanwhile, Kimberley was also in desperate need of skilled nurses. Bishop Webb, accompanied by Sister Henrietta, set off to Kimberley in April 1876 to negotiate with Administrator Lanyon. Sister Henrietta found the hospital in a terrible state, with eighteen patients in a room meant for six. There was no mortuary and the dead were put out on the verandah, or in the veld, until they could be buried. After many hours of talks. Lanyon approved the building of new wards at the hospital and a house for the sisters, and Bishop Webb placed at his excellency’s disposal “for the care and nursing required at any separate ward or house of the hospital department ladies and nurses associated with our Diocesan Sisterhood. They will act without remuneration, board and lodging only being provided.”

At the end of September 1876, Sister Henrietta, Nurse Spencer and Miss Sendell arrived in Kimberley. A truly daunting task awaited them. The extension of the hospital had not been completed, sot that they started home nursing under the supervision of Dr James Perrott Prince. Camp fever was, as always in summer, rife and the workload was onerous. Yet Sister Henrietta, who had no certificate from her training school, managed to study obstetrics during the period October 1876 to January 1877.

The Carnarvon Hospital opened in March 1877 and Sister Louisa took over. Sister Henrietta was appointed ‘visitor’ and continued with district nursing and the running of in-service training which she began at the end of 1877. It was soon clear that Sister Henrietta was an outstanding nurse, not only professionally, but also because of her gentleness and here serenity. One of her patients commented “She comes and stands by my bed like an angel carved in marble.”

She professed in June 1877 and in 1878 returned to England where she spent three months at the University College Hospital gaining experience in the training of nurses. When she returned she was appointed sister in charge of the St George Hospital in Bloemfontein, where she remained until March 1879 when she was appointed Sister Louisa’s successor in Kimberley. By now the hospital was in need of extension yet again, and Sister Henrietta rented a small iron house for a nurse’s home so that their accommodation at the hospital could be used for patients. The hospital was always overcrowded, especially during the summer months when typhoid and dysentery were rife, and the nurses were hopelessly overworked, as day nurse were on duty for thirteen hours, and night nurses for 11 hours at a stretch. Sister Henrietta wrote to the Bishop in December 1879, begging him to appeal for more nurses and the appeal was successful.

Now she turned her attention to the establishment of a nursing school and by 1883 it was well known throughout the British Commonwealth. The programme was modeled on the British and consisted of one year’s training as a probationer and a second year as member of the nursing staff. Exams were written at the end of each year and at the end of the second year each successful candidate received a certificate from the Kimberley Hospital. It was thanks to Sister Henrietta that the State Registration of Nurses became mandatory in 1891.

By 1887 the Kimberley Hospital was the second largest and most famous hospital in South Africa and in that year Sister Henrietta busied herself with the building of a chapel and a nurses’ home consisting of 50 rooms and a common room. With her friend, Nurse Mary Hirst Watkins – buried alongside her at St Cyprian’s Cathedral grounds – she also played an important role in the establishment of a ladies’ hostel which was opened in Lennox Street in 1904.

When Sister Henrietta retired from the Kimberley Hospital in 1895, the two friends started a nursing home with a staff of ten where they worked together until Nurse Watkins’ death in 1905. Sister Henrietta felt her death keenly and her own health, which had been deteriorating for some time, began to decline steadily. On 4 October 1911, while dressing to attend church, she suffered a stroke, and died peacefully two days later. She was buried, as was Nurse Watkins and Mother Emma, the Mother Superior of the Order, in the Dutoitspan cemetery. But in May 1984 the three handmaidens of the Lord were re-interred in the grounds of the St Cyprian’s Cathedral, near the base of the Statue of Sister Henrietta.

(Written by the late Maureen Rall).

By Steve Lunderstedt

06 OCTOBER 2015 – The Sister Henrietta Stockdale Chapel at the Kimberley Hospital. Earlier today at Sr Henrietta’s memorial service. Outside entrance, the altar, from the altar, the organ, Sr Henrietta memorial plaque.

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From Kimberley Calls and Recalls on Facebook By Steve Lunderstedt

Aeon Computer Kimberley

About Steve Lunderstedt


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