Life and times of Florence Nightingale

I”ve been visiting London (England) for the past 40 years and still can’t get enough of the place. There’s always something new and exciting to see and do — the Tower of London and the British Museum, Buckingham Place and the Changing of the Guard, Big Ben, etc.

One of the lesser-known historical gems is the Florence Nightingale Museum. Florence Nightingale was named for the Italian city where she was born (in 1820). She decided to become a nurse, a move that caused a terrible family row. Nurses in those days were thought of as slovenly, gin-swilling housemaids or prostitutes. In 1854 she took a team of 38 trained nurses to Turkey and ministered to the casualties of the Crimean War. British officers claimed Nightingale was asking for "preposterous luxuries" — such as soap, basins, towels and proper kitchens. Her changes saved thousands of lives.

Nightingale became famous for her nightly tours of the military hospitals, a trait that earned her the moniker "Lady of the Lamp". By 1860, she raised sufficient funds to establish the Nightingale Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, just across the Thames River from the Houses of Parlment. The nurses she trained soon spread throughout the world, establishing training schools based on the "Nightingale Model".

In 1907, just three years before her death at age 90, an aide to King Edward VII came to her bedside to inform her she would become the first woman to receive the Order of Merit. "So kind," sighed the Lady of the Lamp. The museum dedicated to this amazing woman is located in St. Thomas’ Hospital, the site of her first nursing school. It’s packed with items from Nightingale’s life and times: letters, photos, drawings, newspapers, personal effects and furniture as well as Crimean War relics. The centrepiece is the full-size re-creation of a Crimean hospital ward, showing the famous nurse and her staff ministering to wounded soldiers.

Watch for more about Florence Nightingale in an upcoming issue of CARPNews FiftyPlus.

  • The Florence Nightingale Museum is located at 2 Lambeth Palace Rd., London, in St. Thomas Hospital, at Westminster Bridge (just across the Thames from Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament). It’s wheelchair accessible, and open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, 11.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. on weekends and Bank Holidays.
  • Admission: £3.60 for seniors and children, £4.80 for adults.
  • For further information on visiting London, contact the British Tourist Authority 1-888-847-4885