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Florence Nightingale

1820 - 1910
Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale spent her early childhood and many later summers at Lea Hurst in Holloway near Matlock. She loved the place, choosing to go straight there on her return from the Crimean War in 1856. Her exploits in the Crimea are legendary and she went on to revolutionise nursing practices, hospital design and medical care in the military. She maintained close connections with Derbyshire throughout her life and did an enormous amount of charity work for the sick and needy in Holloway and Whatstandwell. 

Early life

She was born in 1820 in Florence. In 1821 the family returned to Derbyshire, initially living at Lea Hurst. In 1825 they moved to Hampshire. Lea Hurst became their summer home to which Florence returned many a time.

Well-educated by her father she developed an early desire to help the less fortunate. She was bored of what she saw as the empty life of the rich and privileged and wanted to train as a nurse. Her parents refused to let her as hospitals were unsanitary.

Initial work in nursing

In 1850 she visited a religious community in Germany where women devoted their lives to the sick and the deprived. This showed her the possibility of changing nursing, by training suitably motivated women of any class to care for the sick and setting up professional standards.

She studied to make herself an expert on hospital administration and got a post as unpaid superintendent to the Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness in Harley Street, London. She impressed all those who came into contact with her especially during the 1854 cholera epidemic in Soho.

The Crimean War

This gave Florence the opportunity to make her enduring mark on nursing. She led a party of nurses to Scutari where they transformed the filthy conditions at the hospital and saved many lives.

At the end of the war in 1856 the British Government wanted to give her a heroine’s welcome but she preferred to travel incognito back to Lea Hurst. 

Back in England she created the modern nursing profession

She achieved many reforms in public sanitation, in nursing as well as in healthcare in the British Army. She founded the Nightingale School of Nursing at St Thomas’s Hospital, London and raised the art of nursing in the country to an honoured vocation. Her ideas on training were copied throughout the UK and all over the world.

In 1907 she became the first woman to be invested with the Order of Merit. She died in London in 1910 aged 90.

Florence's blue plaque

Florence Nightingale was nominated by John Slaney of Whatstandwell and John Rivers of Cromford

This was the final blue plaque to be unveiled. The ceremony took place on Wednesday 12 November 2014 in Holloway.