VAD Dora J. Unwin

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Dora J. Unwin


Dora J. Unwin has been a difficult lady to trace. Her address on the Red Cross card is 'c/o Barclay & Co Bankers, Princess Square, Plymouth' - so it took a long time to find her. One detail which helped was that she was described as 'trained' which hinted at her being a Registered Nurse.

Sure enough, the UK Nursing Registers have a record, from 1916-1921, of Dora Jane Unwin nee Threlfall, c/o Messrs. Barclay & Co, Princess Square, Plymouth. She trained at Royal Southern Hospital in Liverpool in 1902. She is also at this address in 1931, though her training is recorded as taking place at Manchester Royal Infirmary from 1901-1904 - I assume she transferred partway through her training.

Dora Unwin nee Threlfall on the 1931 Nursing Register

Dora Jane Threlfall was born in late 1869 (I believe 22nd December) in Barrow-in-Furness. Her parents were James Threlfall, a music professor from Ulverston, and Martha Threlfall nee Greenwood from Settle, North Yorkshire. She had an older brother, Edward Greenwood, and a younger brother and sister, John Henry and Mary Greenwood.

In 1871 the family lived at 73 Duke Street in Dalton, Lancashire. They had two lodgers and one servant living with them. In 1881 they were at Kent's Bank Hotel, Upper and Lower Allithwaite, near Grange-over-Sands. By 1891 they had moved back to Barrow-in-Furness and were living at 47 Eastmount. John was working as an apprentice painter. The family had one visitor from Russia - I'm not sure if the enumerator didn't hear the name correctly as his first name is a line!

The Threlfall family on the 1891 census

I have not found Dora on the 1901 census, it may be that she was living in nursing accommodation at one of the hospitals she was training at.

Dora married Stephen Ralph Unwin in the first quarter of 1903 at Barrow-in-Furness. Stephen was a school master from Bath, Somerset and also a 2nd Lieutenant with the Shropshire Light Infantry (Territorial). He had been educated at Selwyn College, Cambridge University.

Dora and Stephen had three children - Dorothy Frances Martha (1905), Philip Ralph Byron (1907) and Kathleen May Threlfall (1910).

In 1911 they lived at Sunnydene, Upper Lattimore Road in St. Albans. Stephen was a school master at a secondary school. Dora's age is documented as 30 when she was actually 41, she was not employed at this point, their children being very young. A governess, cook and nurse housemaid were also with the household.

Unusually for a married lady, particularly with children, Dora returned to nursing by 1916 or before. The Red Cross card states she was working from 13th August 1917 until 16th July 1919 in Plymouth and Keighley. The Nursing Register has her address in 1918 as being the Military Auxiliary Hospital in Millbay, Plymouth.

The 1918 Nursing Register

Stephen was serving during the war also, he was an instructor with the School of Musketry and a Captain with the Devon Regiment and with the Army Education Corps. He was mentioned in the Secretary of State's List for 'Valuable Services'.

Dora maintained her registration as a nurse until 1934 at least, I haven't found her on subsequent registers. Her and Stephen's address around these years was in Gloucester Road, London though they moved to Kensington around 1939.

There are passenger records showing Dora traveling to and from France several times during the 1930s, sometimes with Stephen and sometimes with their daughter Dorothy. Stephen was still serving in the army at that point.

Passenger record from 1938

At the time of the 1939 Register, she and Stephen were at Gresham Court Hotel, Torquay. Dora's date of birth was documented as 22nd December 1878, which we know is incorrect by nine years.

The 1939 Register

Stephen died in January 1951 at their address in Kensington. Dora died on 18th January 1955 at St. Thomas Hospital in London, her address being given as Alexandra Hotel, Harrington Gardens in Kensington.


England and Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915

1871 England Census

1881 England Census

1891 England Census

1911 England Census

England and Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915

UK and Ireland, Nursing Registers, 1898-1968

UK, British Army WW1 Medal Roll Index Cards, 1914-1920

UK, British Army Lists, 1882-1962

UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960

Cambridge University Alumni, 1261-1900

1939 England and Wales Register

London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965

England and Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007

England and Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995



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