She was the trailblazing nursing pioneer whose legacy of dedication and diligence is embodied by the nation’s modern-day healthcare heroes.
Now, ahead of what would have been her 200th birthday, a timely tribute to Florence Nightingale is shining a light on the special relationship the iconic Lady with the Lamp shared with Leeds’s Lotherton estate.
Through a series of social media stories and a community campaign, staff will explore some of the objects on display at the estate which link Lotherton to Florence’s fascinating life.
Local residents who are socially distancing are also being asked to create their own miniature knitted Nightingales which will be displayed during a special celebration of nursing when the estate reopens to the public.
Gwendolen Gascoigne, Nightingale’s god-daughter, was once the Lady of Lotherton Hall and her mother, Marianne, was Nightingale’s cousin and best friend during her formative years.
Marianne also married Sir Douglas Galton who later became Florence’s consultant on hospital design. Together, they helped design Leeds General Infirmary which was the first civic hospital in the world, built using Nightingale's pavilion plan.
Enjoying a close bond with her cousins, as a young woman, Nightingale wrote daily letters to Marianne where she detailed her frustrations with the aristocratic path she was expected to follow and her internal struggles about leaving the high society life she felt created a “forced idleness”.
A writing desk which once belonged to Nightingale, which she used when staying at Marianne Nicholson’s house, Waverley Abbey in Surrey, remains on display at Lotherton today. Also on display is Marianne’s own writing set, which she would have used to pen all her letters to Nightingale when she was young.
Born in May 1820, Nightingale was the founder of nursing as a profession, leading the first team of British women to nurse during the Crimean war, organising care for wounded soldiers and becoming a prominent figure in Victorian culture.
Her rounds of overseeing wounded soldiers at night saw her dubbed The Lady with the Lamp, but she was also a prolific writer, social reformer and a pioneer in data visualisation.
Still recognised today for her contribution to hospital reform including design, administration and the care of hospital employees, Nightingale also discovered the importance of cleanliness for the prevention of the spread of disease and became a strong advocate for hygiene and frequent hand-washing- messages which have added relevance today.
To commemorate Florence Nightingale’s 2020 bicentenary, community groups from Lotherton Hall and Leeds Art Gallery have partnered with the staff at LGI and St James's Hospital to renovate the Winter Garden in the centre of LGI.
Nightingale promoted fresh air, music and the arts as ways of improving patients' health and wellbeing and the garden will be used as a venue for music and art events.
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Florence Nightingale has a very special place in history and a name which has become synonymous with a dedication to excellence and a selfless devotion to patient care.
“Those values continue to be exemplified by the truly remarkable efforts of our modern-day healthcare professionals, whose extraordinary courage and commitment during this unprecedented pandemic has been a unifying source of national pride.”
Knitting groups in the community near Lotherton have been knitting little Florence Nightingales, each with encouraging messages attached to them. These will be placed around the Lotherton estate and local community during a celebration of nurses and community carers which will take place after the current coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Anyone who would like to be involved in knitting their own Nightingale, please contact assistant community curator Stephanie Davies at Stephanie.firstname.lastname@example.org