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SAUNDERS, Dame Cicely (1918-2005)Identity statement

Reference code(s)
GB0100 KCLCA K/PP 149
SAUNDERS, Dame Cicely (1918-2005)
Level of description
Collection (fonds)
Extent and medium of the unit of description (quantity, bulk, or size)
200 boxes and 1600 books


Name of creator(s)

Saunders, Dame, Cicely Mary Strode, 1918-2005, founder of the modern hospice movement

Administrative / Biographical history

Born, 1918; educated at Roedean school and studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at St Anne's College, Oxford; left early to study nursing at St Thomas' Hospital Medical School, Nightingale School of Nursing, from 1941 and qualified as a State Registered Nurse, 1944; returned to Oxford and was awarded a War degree; qualified as a lady almoner (medical social worker), 1947; meeting with dying Polish cancer patient, David Tasma, helped convince her of the need for more advanced palliative care in modern medicine and the experience also had a profound personal effect, helping to set her on a new career path, including retraining as a doctor to help the terminally and chronically ill; began voluntary work at St Luke's Hospital for the dying in Bayswater, London; qualified as a doctor after training at St Thomas' Hospital, 1951-1957; appointed a research fellow studying pain management at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, at St Joseph's Sisters of Charity in their home for the dying in Hackney, 1958-1965, she continued her research to improve the control of pain in terminally ill patients - the topic of her research fellowship. She accumulated over 1000 case records there, and a large collection of colour slide photos that she used to great effect in her lectures; established St Christopher's Hospice, Sydenham, 1967, which set the standard for modern hospices across the world and combined pain management with a holistic appreciation of the importance of the spiritual well-being of the patient in the treatment of the dying; Medical Director of the Hospice, 1967-1985, and President from 2000; recipient of numerous honorary awards, fellowships and honours including fellowships of the Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Surgeons and Royal College of Nursing, award of the Order of Merit, 1989, and numerous honorary degrees; died, 2005. Publications: notably including Care of the dying (1960); Living wirth dying (1983); Beyond the horizon (1990); ed The management of terminal disease (1978).

Archival history

Collection given by St Christopher's Hospice and the Saunders family, February 2006 and 2nd accession, July 2006; 3rd accession sent from Lancaster University, 2009.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Christine Kearney, St Christopher's Hospice, Sydenham; Lancaster University

Content & structure

Scope and content

Correspondence, notes, reports, research data, diaries, photographs and artefacts relating to the life and work of Dame Cicely Saunders, 1918-2005, including:
Personal papers, 1918-2003, notably appointment, travel and prayer diaries, 1952-2003 (ref K/PP149/1).

Case notes, correspondence, research data, interview transcripts and draft MD thesis relating to Saunders’ research at St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, 1958-1964, on the control of pain in terminal cancer patients (ref: K/PP149/2/2).

Notes, correspondence and background research material, 1925-1977, on topics including surgical and pharmaceutical pain relief, religious attitudes to death and dying, the care of the long-term sick, geriatric care, grief and bereavement (ref: K/PP149/2/3).

Correspondence and other papers, 1959-2003, relating to the planning, building, development, staffing and management of St Christopher’s Hospice (ref: K/PP149/3/1).

Papers relating to research at St Christopher’s Hospice, 1967-1993 (ref: K/PP149/3/4).

Extensive correspondence, 1965-2005, with individuals in the UK and worldwide on topics including the development and funding of St Christopher’s Hospice, medical advice, hospice admissions and the history of the hospice movement (ref: K/PP149/4/1-4).   Also correspondence with other prominent figures in the hospice movement, chiefly in the USA, including: Edward F Dobihal (1927-2015), President of Hospice Inc, Newhaven, Connecticut; photographer and medical historian Grace Goldin (d 1995); psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (1926-2004); Sylvia Lack, Medical Director of the Connecticut Hospice, New Haven, Connecticut; William M Lamers Jr, Chairman of the International Work Group on Death and Dying; Carleton J Sweetser (1921-1996), Chaplain and Director of St Luke's Hospital Center, New York; Florence Wald (1917-2008), Dean of the School of Nursing, Yale University and founder of the Connecticut Hospice, New Haven, Connecticut; palliative care pioneer Balfour ('Bal') Michal Morgan Mount (b 1939).

Correspondence with medical charities and related organisations, 1961-1995 (ref: K/PP149/5).

Notes and drafts for lectures, talks and sermons by Saunders, 1960-2004, on topics including the care of the dying, pain control, the planning and development of St Christopher’s Hospice, euthanasia and medical ethics, bereavement, the care of terminal cancer patients and of patients with motor neurone disease, and the history of the modern hospice movement (ref: K/PP149/6/2).

Published articles by Saunders, 1958-2001, on topics including pain management, the institutional care of the dying, the role of religion in terminal care and palliative care for AIDS patients (ref: K/PP149/7/3).

Objects relating to honours, presentations, travel and religious devotion, 1930s-2005, including badges, crucifixes, travel souvenirs, plaques, statuettes, paperweights and certificates (ref: K/PP149/8).

Photographs and slides, chiefly 1960s-1997, including: patients at St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney; patients, staff and daily life at St Christopher’s Hospice; travel in USA, Poland, Nigeria, Turkey and Israel (ref: K/PP149/9).

Recordings of talks and interviews by Saunders, 1970-2003, chiefly on her life and work (ref: K/PP140/10).

System of arrangement

The collection is arranged into ten sub-series, according to principal subject/type, thereafter chronologically: see detailed catalogue. 

Conditions of access & use

Conditions governing access

Some files include personal or sensitive personal data: these are CLOSED.  Any reader wishing to access these files must complete a Special Undertaking form.   Access will normally only be given to academic researchers allied with an academic institution, who have received ethics clearance from that institution. Details of their research project and their ethics clearance, as well as details of how they will protect the data they access must be submitted in the first instance to the Archives Services Manager before a decision will be made about whether to allow access.

The remainder of the collection is Open, subject to signature of Reader's undertaking form, and appropriate provision of two forms of identification, to include one photographic ID.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Director of Archive Services.

Language/scripts of material

English, with some Polish and French

Finding aids

This summary guide and detailed catalogue.

For details of the Saunders library collection, please consult the main library catalogue.  This is a reference collection that may be ordered for consultation in the Archives Reading Room.


Allied materials

Existence and location of originals

King's College London College Archives

Related units of description

Memorial service programme for service in Westminster Abbey, London, held 8 March 2006.

Description control

Archivist's Note

Sources: Times and other obituaries and autobiographical entry in the British Medical Journal No 7072 Volume 313. Entry compiled by Geoff Browell.  Detailed catalogue by Chris Olver.

Rules or conventions

Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

This catalogue is made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License. This catalogue may be updated from time to time in order to reflect additional material and/or new understandings of the material.

Date(s) of descriptions

August 2006 and January 2016.


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Detailed catalogue

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  • Death
  • Diseases
  • Life cycle
  • Medical sciences
  • Nervous system diseases
  • Neurologic manifestations
  • Nursing
  • Pain
  • Pathological conditions, signs and symptoms
  • Pathology
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Surgery

Personal names

  • Saunders, Dame, Cicely Mary Strode, 1918-2005, Founder of the modern hospice movement

Corporate names

  • King's College London College Archives
  • St Christopher's Hospice, Sydenham

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