Leeds' estates timely tribute to lady with the lamp Florence Nightingale

As the lady with the lamp, Florence Nightingale has for centuries stood as a beacon of hope for thousands in their darkest hour.

Monday, 13th April 2020, 6:00 am
Caption: British nurse Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910) makes her rounds in the Barrack hospital at Scutari, during the Crimean War, 24th February 1855. (Photo by Illustrated London News/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

This symbolism has never meant more than it does today, as the baton is passed with honour to a new generation keeping solitary watch over those in need.

Now, in a timely tribute to mark 200 years since her birth, historians are to shine a light on the nursing pioneer’s links to Leeds’ Lotherton estate.

There is the writing desk where she would pen her daily letters to a young cousin, whose daughter would go on to become lady of the Hall.

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Caption: English nursing pioneer, healthcare reformer and Crimean War heroine, Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910). (Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images)

And in the renovation of the Winter Garden at Leeds General Infirmary, the world’s first civic hospital, which will be used as a venue for music and arts.

“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,” said Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council.

“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.”

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This pen set belonged to Marianne Nicholson. She would have used it to write all her letters to Florence Nightingale when she was young. It contains a pen with nibs, ink, a pen wipe, a seal engraved with MN and a stick for rubbing paper ready for a wax seal.

Florence Nightingale, born May 12, 1820, would go on to become a trailblazing pioneer in laying the foundations for modern healthcare and transforming the nursing profession.

Leading the first team of British women to nurse in the Crimean war, she was described as a “ministering angel” who walked the corridors at night, carrying a lamp to lead her way long after the medical officers had retired.

In time, she would set the standards for modern nursing, but she was also a prolific writer, social reformer and a pioneer in data visualisation.

Now, through social media stories and a community campaign, her links to the Lotherton estate are being explored.

Estate links

Nightingale’s god-daughter Gwendolen Gascoigne was a Lady of Lotherton Hall, while her mother Marianne was the nurse’s cousin and best friend through their formative years.

They would exchange daily letters, with Nightingale detailing her frustrations at the aristocratic path she was expected to take and her internal struggles about leaving the high society life she felt created a “forced idleness”.Yo

Marianne would also go on to marry Sir Douglas Galton, Nightingale’s consultant on hospital design who built the LGI on her pavilion plan as the world’s first civic hospital.

Nightingale’s writing desk remains on display at Lotherton, alongside Marianne’s own writing set.

And to commemorate the 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 had always promoted fresh air, music and the arts as ways of improving patients’ health and wellbeing and the garden, they say, will be used as a venue for music and art events.

Knitted miniatures

Miniature knitted Nightingales are being created by people in isolation which will be displayed in a special celebration of nursing when the estate reopens to the public.

Florence Nightingale was a strong advocate for hygiene and frequent hand-washing, discovering the importance of cleanliness for the prevention of disease spread.

Knitting groups in the community near Lotherton have been knitting the little Nightingales, each with messages of encouragement attached to them, and the hall is seeking more.

Once current restrictions are lifted, these will be placed around the Lotherton estate and within the nearby community areas.

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