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About our collection

We have a large range of medical, surgical, dental, pharmaceutical and nursing equipment and an extensive collection of memorabilia, photographs and other archival material. 

Our displays include a dental surgery of the 1930s, a ward of the 1950s, an iron lung, audio recordings of patients and staff, a working demonstration of a fibre-optic endoscope, and live leeches.

The following are examples of equipment and illustrations that are on display.

Click on thumbnails to enlarge  
 RBH in 1839 The Royal Berkshire Hospital in 1839. One reason for the building of the hospital was the large number of serious injuries occurring during the construction of the Great Western Railway. The first patient treated at the hospital was George Earley, a railway worker aged 15. He had sustained a severe compound fracture of the upper arm which required amputation at the shoulder.
Bader Douglas Bader at the nurses' prize-giving at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in 1957.  Bader, the hospital's most famous patient, was treated at the RBH following his disastrous flying accident at Woodley aerodrome in 1931. A display on Bader's connection with the hospital can be seen in the concourse of the Centre Block of the RBH.
Iron lung in the Berkshire Medical Museum

Iron lung machines were developed in the 1930s to help victims of poliomyelitis who were suffering from respiratory failure.  A negative pressure was created inside the tank by means of a large bellows, the patient's chest would expand and air would be drawn in through their nose and mouth.  This model dates from the 1960s.

 Hospital clock

The Royal Berkshire hopsital clock which was stolen in 2004 and recovered in 2010.



''A little sun and 'air from Felixstowe'.

This an example from our collection of medical postcards. We have a glass feeding bottle of this type on display.

jack  Tiles depicting 'Jack and the Beanstalk'.

Copies of tile depictions of nursery rhymes and children’s stories can be seen on the walls of the museum. The originals are in King Edward Ward which was built in 1911 as the children’s ward of the RBH.

theatre  Royal Berkshire Hospital operating theatre 1928

This was the main hospital theatre from 1882 to 1928. The 'new' twin general theatres were built in 1928 and this then became the hospital's ENT theatre.

ward  Victoria Ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in the 1930s.

Note the 'hospital corners' on the beds, the highly polished surfaces and the presence of a piano.

 Glass eyes

A collection of glass eyes which belong to the last lady glass eye blower in the UK.


Our guides

All our guides are retired hospital staff. They will be happy to answer your questions and will be pleased to demonstrate various pieces of equipment. If you have any items that you would like identified please bring them along. We will do our best to help although we cannot undertake valuations.


Books on local medical history are sold in aid of the Heritage Centre:

'Care and Compassion. Old Prints and Photographs of Hospitals and Nurses in Berkshire and South Oxfordshire 1839-1930.' Published by the Heritage Centre. Price £6.00.

'Early Medical Services. Berkshire and South Oxfordshire from 1740.' Margaret Railton. Price £10.00.

'The Royal Berkshire Hospital 1839-1989.' Margaret Railton and Marshall Barr. Price £10.00

'Battle Hospital and Workhouse 1867-2005.' Margaret Railton and Marshall Barr. ISBN 0-9539417-1-X. Price £15.99 – SOLD OUT

'Reading Hospital Ward names: past and present'. Marshall Barr and Lionel Williams. Price £1.00

'Leonard and John Joyce: Suregeons of Reading and Newbury'. Marshall Barr and Lionel Williams. Price £1.00.

Charity number 1084890