Throughout the Victorian years the population of Pilton grew by leaps and bounds as people crowded into Barnstaple from the surrounding parishes in search of work, bringing their families with them. Unfortunately there were not enough houses, and families shared tiny cottages without sanitation or running water. Sickness was rife due to poor diet and bad housing, and when epidemics such as cholera came to Pilton the parish had more paupers than any other place in North Devon.
The records of the Feoffees of Pilton United charities throw light on the action the charity took in the early 1890s to aid the plight of the sick and needy of the parish, which was serious enough to justify the engagement of a properly trained parish nurse, both to care for the sick in their homes and to educate them in the practice of simple hygiene and cleanliness, which must have been difficult to achieve in the circumstances. This was a major undertaking for a hard-pressed charity, with many calls on its resources, but in September 1892 the decision was taken to proceed. Apart from employing a trained nurse, providing her with a uniform, medical supplies, etc., the project also required a furnished house, a housekeeper and an overseeing committee – quite a commitment.
This document tells the story of the Pilton Parish Nurse and those who held the post until the arrival of the National Health Service in 1948 some 50 years later.