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200th Anniversary of Florence Nightingale

Derby will be playing its part in commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale in 2020.

Although Florence Nightingale is a familiar historical figure, most people do not know that her early years, and plentiful summers throughout her life, were spent in Derbyshire, where her family had built a home and owned a large estate.

Nightingale was born in the Italian city that she was named after, on May 12, 1820. But while she was still a baby, her parents moved to the village of Lea in Derbyshire, close to the industrial town of Cromford and the spa town of Matlock. This was the source of the family's fortune, thanks to the industrial success and connections of her great uncle Peter Nightingale.

After the family moved to Embley Park in Hampshire in 1825, they retained the Derbyshire home, Lea Hurst, as a summer house, spending around three months a year there. At the age of 17, Florence claimed to have had her calling from God while in the gardens at Embley, the family's Hampshire home.

Florence herself is credited with reforming nursing in the mid-19th century. Her papers on hospital planning and organisation are said to have had a profound effect on nurse training in England and throughout the world.

She also championed the role of hygiene and sanitation in the hospital environment, elements of medicine which are now imperative to the delivery of safe and successful care. 

Florence Nightingale died in 1910, and is buried in the family grave at East Wellow, Hampshire.

Remembering Florence in Derby

In 2018, Florence came second in a poll of the top 40 most influential women in history. Her status as the founder of modern nursing is etched in history. In addition to her global fame, she is also honoured extensively in the streets and buildings of Derby and appears more so than any other figure from the city's past.

In Derby, visitors can find reminders of her time in the county – and for 2020, the nursing pioneer will be back in the city once more as one of the ‘stars’ of a new virtual tour.

She is part of an augmented reality walk of fame, ‘Made in Derby II’, which superimposes a computer-generated image of 10 famous Derby-connected characters past and present, via a smart-phone.

Elsewhere in Derby, a stone statue erected in 1914, which stands outside the former site of the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary on London Road, shows Nightingale famously holding a lamp.

When the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary closed in 2009, a stained-glass window, previously located in the DRI chapel and commissioned in the 1950s, was moved to St Peter’s Church, in Derby City Centre. The window commemorates Nightingale’s life and connection to the hospital.

Opposite St Peter’s Church in Derby is the former Boots the Chemist building, which was built in 1912. The building features a statue of Nightingale alongside other historic figures associated with the city’s industrial heritage including John Lombe, who created Britain’s first successful silk throwing mill, and industrial pioneer Jedediah Strutt.

And in 2014, a plaque in commemoration of Florence was dedicated at Derby Cathedral to mark International Nurses Day.

Follow Florence's footsteps and stay in her childhood bedroom

Florence Nightingale was deeply attached to Lea Hurst, the family's summer home, writing that "it breaks my heart to leave Lea Hurst". It is easy to see why. The house sits in a magnificent position, on the edge of the village of Holloway, overlooking the Derwent Valley.

As Nightingale's bicentenary approaches, Lea Hurst is open to offer the Nightingale Suite to guests and fans keen to follow in her footsteps. Lea Hurst is also a convenient base from which to explore the delights of the Peak District.


Derby Museums - Florence Nightingale: Health in the Home Exhibition

A special exhibition celebrating 200 years since Florence Nightingale’s birth on 12 May 1820

With its Florence Nightingale exhibition closed to the public due to the current coronavirus lockdown, Derby Museums is making a special collection of content available online to commemorate the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth this year.

Derby Museums closed its doors to the public on 18th March in response to the government’s coronavirus guidelines. Its brand new exhibition, Florence Nightingale: Health in the Home, was due to open at Pickford’s House on the same day, but remains unvisited under lockdown restrictions.

Since then staff at Derby Museums have been busy behind the scenes, creating a special collection of content related to the Florence Nightingale exhibition that will be shared online over the coming months,  starting on 12th May – the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale’s birth.

An English social reformer and statistician, Florence Nightingale is credited as a founder of modern nursing, and came from a wealthy, reformist Derbyshire family who had a home at Lea Hurst near Matlock.

As well as quotes from the Derbyshire icon herself, the museum will be showcasing new video of the Florence Nightingale exhibition along with interviews from curators, asking the public: What do you do to be well?

Poems created by staff from the University Hospital of Derby and Burton (UHDB) NHS Foundation Trust, together with illustrations from artist Emma Lance, will be shown throughout June as part of the museums’ collaborative project with Air Arts and the UHDB NHS Foundation Trust Library.

An audio discussion about the National Portrait Gallery’s painting - The Mission of Mercy, painted by artist Jerry Barrett in 1857 – will also be made available online shortly. Currently on loan to Derby Museums from the National Portrait Gallery, London as part of the COMING HOME project, the painting portrays Florence Nightingale attending wounded soldiers at Scutari, Turkey, during her time there as a nurse during the Crimean War.

Tony Butler, Executive Director of Derby Museums commented:

“Florence Nightingale is an inspirational figure of global importance, whose life and work provide a fascinating insight into the origins of our healthcare system today. On this important anniversary we are proud to celebrate one of our best-known local heroines with our communities. Although our museums are not yet open to the public, this specially curated content will enable people to discover more about Florence from home until they can visit the exhibition in person when lockdown restrictions are lifted.”

Florence Nightingale: Health in the Home will run until spring 2021. The online content will be made available via Derby Museums’ social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all: @derbymuseums) and on the museums’ website at:

View Historic Florence Nightingale Scrapbook Online for the First Time


A scrapbook showing how Florence Nightingale became a cultural phenomenon is going on display online in time for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the pioneer of modern nursing.

The Derbyshire-born nurse's work during the Crimean War revolutionised hospital sanitisation, and she led the way in collecting and displaying data to show the impact of care. Her influence can still be felt today, especially as the world tackles COVID-19.

But in her time she was also extremely famous as an icon of popular culture, as shown by the scrapbook, part of the collection at Derby's Local Studies and Family History Library. A digitised version was due to go on display at the library, but following the closure of the building because of the pandemic, it is being made available online. 

It is complemented by a specially-recorded online talk by Sunday Times bestselling author Katharine McMahon, who has a lifelong interest in Florence Nightingale.

The scrapbook was compiled by Llewellyn Jewitt, a local 'antiquarian' (historian) and a contemporary of Florence Nightingale. Originally from Plymouth, he settled in Derby and was one of the founders of Derbyshire Archaeological Society. He also led the local Nightingale Fund, raising money for her efforts in the Crimean War.

The scrapbook can be viewed here, the bicentenary of Miss Nightingale's birth in 1820. 

Don't miss Sunday Times bestselling author Katharine McMahon's talk on Florence's life and the newly digitised scrapbook here.

See Florence Nightingale's Made in Derby star come to life

A national heroine even in her own lifetime, Florence Nightingale was much more than a pioneer of the modern profession of nursing.... read more

Florence Nightingale Suite at Lea Hurst

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