Louisa Taylor was the superintendent nurse at the infirmary attached to Newton Abbot workhouse. It is her attitude that contributes to Albert’s sense that everything is slipping terrifyingly out of control. Although we know some of the actual words that she spoke during the trial, we know very little about her. So few clues and the surname Taylor make her very difficult to research. Although the newspaper reports of the incident that leads to her appearance in Barefoot on the Cobbles consistently refer to her as Louisa, she was probably Martha Louisa Taylor and was appointed in 1915, three years before her appearance in the book.
It is likely that she was born in Bitton, Gloucestershire on 1 January 1876 to George and Mary L Taylor; her father was a coal miner. In 1911, Martha Louisa was working as a charge nurse at the workhouse in Kenninghall, Wayland, Norfolk. She remained at Newton Abbot workhouse until at least 1929 but she later retired to Keynsham, Somerset, where she shared a home with two other retired nurses. She died in Somerset in 1958. She is just the sort of character who it is a privilege to have included, as she as no descendats to honour her memory.
‘Louisa Taylor, the superintendent nurse at the infirmary, took Albert into a cramped office. Black-covered ledgers lined the walls and untidy papers trickled over the desk. The nurse, in her sharply starched uniform, moved a pile of books from a chair and bade Albert sit down. She was a woman past middle age, with a plain but pleasing, lined face and iron grey hair. Her brisk efficiency was at odds with the state of her surroundings.’
Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.