Sister Dora

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Statue of Sister Dora, Walsall town centre

Sister Dora (born Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison, 16 January 1832, Hauxwell, Yorkshire - 24 December 1878, Walsall) was a 19th-century Church of England nun and a nurse in Walsall, West Midlands.


She was the second-youngest child of the Rev. Mark James Pattison, and sister of the scholar Mark Pattison Jnr. From 1861–1864, she ran the village school at Little Woolstone, Buckinghamshire.

In the autumn of 1864, she joined the Sisterhood of the Good Samaritans at Coatham, Middlesbrough and devoted her life to nursing. She was sent to work at Walsall’s hospital in Bridge Street and arrived in Walsall on 8 January 1865. The rest of her life was spent in Walsall and it was there that in local eyes she became to be compared with Florence Nightingale.

Later she worked at the Cottage Hospital at The Mount.

In 1875, when Walsall was hit by smallpox, Sister Dora worked for six months at an epidemic hospital being set up in Deadman’s Lane (now Hospital Street). During 1876, Sister Dora attended more than 12,000 patients.

The last two years of her life, Sister Dora worked at the hospital in Bridgeman Street, overlooking the South Staffordshire Railway (later the London and North Western Railway). It was there that she developed a special bond of friendship with railway workers who often suffered in industrial accidents. The railwaymen gave her a pony and a carriage and even raised the sum of £50 from their own wages to enable Sister Dora to visit housebound patients more easily.

In 1877 Sister Dora developed breast cancer, and died on Christmas Eve in 1878. At her funeral on 28 December the town of Walsall turned out to see her off to Queen Street Cemetery, borne by eighteen railwaymen, engine drivers, porters and guards, all in working uniform. On her death Florence Nightingale was paid the following tribute, 'May every nurse, though not gifted with Sister Dora's genius, grow in training and care of her patients, that none but may be better for her care, whether for life or death'. Her epitaph read, 'Quietly I came among you and quietly let me go'.


The former Walsall General Hospital was renamed Walsall General (Sister Dora) Hospital. It has now been largely demolished in the rearrangement of the town's provision of health services, but Sister Dora's name is still perpetuated in the new hospitals. The provision for outpatients at Walsall Manor Hospital is named Sister Dora Outpatients Department. In Alumwell Close, Walsall, behind the Manor Hospital is a Mental Health Hospital which has been dedicated to Sister Dora. 'Dorothy Pattison Hospital' cares for Mental Health patients and belongs to the Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership Trust.

In 1882, a stained glass window at St. Matthew's Church, Walsall, was dedicated to her.

In October 1886, a statue of Sister Dora by Francis John Williamson was unveiled in Walsall by a Mr. B Beebee. Reputedly it is the UK's first public statue of a woman not of royal blood.

An annual church service is held in her memory in at St. Paul's Church at the Crossing in Walsall.

A portrait of Sister Dora by George Phoenix has been preserved at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

A British Rail Class 31 diesel locomotive (31 430, now in preservation with the Mid-Norfolk Railway) was named after her.Later a British Rail Class 37 diesel loco (37 116, now in preservation on the Chinnor & Princes Risborough Railway) received the name from the Class 31.

The Midland Metro has a tram named 'Sister Dora'.

The main road through her home village of Woolstone, Milton Keynes is called Pattison Lane.

Sister Dora Gardens in Caldmore and Dora Street in Pleck are named after her.


  • Walsall's Own 'Lady with the lamp', Miss W R Probert, The Blackcountryman, Spring 2007, Vol. 40 No. 2 p. 51ISSN 0006-4335
  • Watkin B., Sister Dora of Walsall (Dorothy Pattison)., Nursing Mirror. 1977 Jun 23;144(25):7-9.
  • Price, Millicent, "Inasmuch As..." : The Story of Sister Dora of Walsall. Published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1952. N.B. Millicent Price in her book refers to a biography of Sister Dora written by one Margaret Lonsdale and published during the 1880s "It ran into 39 editions and was included in the Tauchnitz library" but provides little detail and refers to "bitter" criticism of the writer by Sister Dora's colleagues and family. Price also refers to Ellen Ridsdale, "a Walsall woman bound to Sister Dora through years of close friendship" who published a pamphlet about sister Dora and comments "The Lonsdale book and the Ridsdale pamphlet and a few newspaper cuttings are all the records now available" to anyone researching the life of Sister Dora. Presumably she intended her own work to address this situation.
  • Lonsdale, Margaret, Sister Dora, London, Kegan Paul, 1895
  • Ridsdale, Ellen M M, Sister Dora : Personal Reminiscence of her Later Years, with some of her Letters, Walsall, Griffin, 1880