Florence Nightingale Comes Home for 2020
This content is adapted from the Florence Nightingale Derbyshire Association’s Exhibition (2010)

The material in this section is not the result of research by the current project team, but rather is adapted from the Florence Nightingale Derbyshire Association’s 2010 Exhibition, which marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Nightingale and was displayed throughout August 2010 at the Gothic Warehouse, Cromford Wharf, part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage site. An associated programme of music, dance, film and walking events were held throughout Derbyshire.

We would like to thank the Florence Nightingale Derbyshire Association for permission to reproduce these materials.



A Derbyshire Family  

...so bright an ornament to her native County...  


      - Mr Francis Wright, Chairman - Derbyshire
        General Infirmary Hospital Committee

Florence Nightingale’s father, William Edward Shore, inherited the Lea Hurst estate (in Holloway between Cromford and Whatstandwell in Derbyshire) along with the Nightingale family name, from his great-uncle Peter Nightingale, who died in 1803.

Florence grew up there, and visited regularly. After her return to Lea Hurst from the Crimea she did not travel to Derbyshire again from her London home until after her father’s death in 1874. Then she spent long periods at Lea Hurst nursing her mother, who died in 1880.

For the last thirty years of her own life, although Florence still wrote to local figures like Mr Burton the schoolmaster, she never came to Lea Hurst again.

Black and white photograph of Lea Hurst from the 19th century, showing the gabled roof and terrace
Lea Hurst as photographed in the late 19th century by Richard Keene, an early Derby photographer and founder member of the Derby Photographic Society. Wikimedia Commons, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY 4.0.



Key Events

Early Life

The Nightingale family were well-to-do, and well-connected: they dined on occasion with the Cavendishes, the Duke of Devonshire's family at Chatsworth. But Florence wanted to rid herself of the mere desire to shine in high society. She would later write: 'I hated the idea of being tied for ever to a life of society'.

Florence grew up in a family tradition of Christian charity and philanthropy, and she found her vocation during her years at Lea Hurst: 'the first idea I can recollect when I was a child was a desire to nurse the sick'. 

In her twenties she began bringing medicine, food and bedding to the poor local villagers. In 1846 she wrote: 

'O happy six weeks at the Hurst, where I found my business in this world. My heart was dilled. My soul was at home. I wanted no other heaven. May God be thanked, as He never yet has been thanked, for that glimpse of what it is to live!'

Childhood Memory

Florence wrote:

'The greatest delight of those childhood days was to visit my dear old Aunt (Elizabeth Evans) in the (Derwent) Valley. Aunt Evans was the very emblem of tenderness and sweetness...the gentlest of God's creatures...She lived in the most perfect of Derbyshire old houses, with its paved terrace and flights of stone steps overlooking the  dashing river...old mullioned windows, with a Virginia creeper over its roof' 

Black and white image of a Romantic-style painting of Florence Nightingale as a baby with her mother and sister

'Mrs Nightingale and Her Daughters' from a water-colour drawing by Alfred Edward Chalon 1820s. Wellcome Collection, used under Creative Commons licence CC BY 4.0.



Crimean War

In the hospital in Scutari during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale wrote of her homesickness:

'How I like to hear that ceaseless roar, the fretting of the Straits (of Istanbul): it puts me in mind of the dear Derwent; how often I have listened to it from the nursery window.'

When she returned to Lea Hurst from the Crimea in August 1856, Florence Nightingale was already famous. Not wanting the publicity, she left the train quietly and walked up the hill to Lea Hurst unnoticed and alone. 

Return from the Crimea and Advisory Role

From the mid-1850s, when she returned from the Crimea, Nightingale was often bed-ridden, and the considerable workload she took on meant she couldn't care for local people herself.

During the 1870s she employed a Derbyshire doctor, Christopher Dunn, to provide for the villages around Lea Hurst. She appointed Dr George MacDonald to continue this work in the 1890s.  

During the 1860s Florence Nightingale was a key advisor to Dr William Ogle, the chief physician of the Derby General Infirmary (which later became The Derbyshire Royal Infirmary). Ogle set up the Derbyshire Medical Association, and the Nursing and Sanitary Issue, for the training of nurses, in 1862. 

A new wing was added to the Infirmary in 1872, and named ‘The Nightingale Wing’, 'in honour of the distinguished lady whose name is so bright an ornament to her native County; and who, by the bestowal and promise of her invaluable assistance, may justly be considered the principal promoter of the undertaking.' 

Colour lithograph of a ward in Scutari hospital, 1856. Nightingale is shown in the left of the picture in discussion and holding a large document. Patients' beds line the walls; one is being attended to by a nurse.

 'One of the wards in the hospital at Scutari', 1856 lithograph. Wellcome Collection, used under CC BY 4.0.


Black and white image of Derbyshire General Infirmary as it looked in 1819, Georgian-style symmetrical building with white exterior, three floors of windows.

'View of the Derbyshire General Infirmary', printed in Charles Sylvester, The Philosophy of Domestic Economy (Nottingham: Barnett, 1819). Wellcome Collection, used under CC BY 4.0

Florence Nightingale Comes Home for 2020
Email: nightingale2020@nottingham.ac.uk