Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820 into a rich, upper-class, well-connected British family at the Villa Colombaia, in Florence, Italy, and was named after the city of her birth. In 1838, her father took the family on a tour in Europe where he was introduced to the English-born Parisian hostess Mary Clarke, with whom Florence bonded. She recorded that "Clarkey" was a stimulating hostess who did not care for her appearance, and while her ideas did not always agree with those of her guests, "she was incapable of boring anyone." Her behaviour was said to be exasperating and eccentric and she had no respect for upper-class British women, whom she regarded generally as inconsequential. In Rome in 1847, she met Sidney Herbert, a politician who had been Secretary at War (1845–1846) who was on his honeymoon. He and Nightingale became lifelong close friends. Herbert would be Secretary of War again during the Crimean War, when he and his wife would be instrumental in facilitating Nightingale's nursing work in the Crimea. Florence Nightingale's most famous contribution came during the Crimean War, which became her central focus when reports got back to Britain about the horrific conditions for the wounded. On 21 October 1854, she and the staff of 38 women volunteer nurses that she trained, including her aunt Mai Smith, and 15 Catholic nuns were sent (under the authorisation of Sidney Herbert) to the Ottoman Empire. Nightingale arrived early in November 1854 at Selimiye Barracks in Scutari (modern-day Üsküdar in Istanbul). Her team found that poor care for wounded soldiers was being delivered by overworked medical staff in the face of official indifference. Medicines were in short supply, hygiene was being neglected, and mass infections were common, many of them fatal. There was no equipment to process food for the patients.
The museum tells the real story of Florence Nightingale, "the lady with the lamp", from her Victorian childhood to her experiences in the Crimean, through to her years as an ardent campaigner for health reform. Nightingale is recognised as the founder of modern nursing in the United Kingdom. In 1860, four years after her famous involvement in the Crimean War, Nightingale founded the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St. Thomas' Hospital and the museum is located on this site. The new museum is designed around three exciting pavilions that tell her story: The Gilded Cage tells the story of Nightingale's privileged childhood and her struggle against stifling social conventions. The Calling is dramatic and moving, explaining how Nightingale and her team coped with the crisis in the military hospitals where the legend of the lady with the lamp was born. Reform and Inspire shows the other side of Nightingale, the reformer who campaigned tirelessly for health reform at home and abroad. Highlights from the Collection include: The writing slate Nightingale used as a child. Her pet owl Athena, which she rescued in Athens and hand reared, and which became her constant companion, travelling everywhere in her pocket. Nightingale’s medicine chest, which she took with her to the Crimean, containing a mix of medicines and herbal remedies, from bicarbonate of soda to powdered rhubarb. A rare Register of Nurses that lists women who served under Nightingale in the military hospitals in Turkey and the Crimean. Audio tours are free with entry and accessed via your own set of stethoscopes. New interactive exhibits have been created to offer different ways of exploring Florence's story and influence. Free creative activities for children are offered during the holidays. It is fully wheelchair accessible, with accessible toilets. Loop systems are available for the hard of hearing. Marks and Spencers + Cafe located in St Thomas Hospital.
Location : 2 Lambeth Palace Rd, Lambeth, SE1 7EW
Opening Times: Everyday 10:00 to 17:00.
Closed Christmas and Good Friday.
Tickets : Adults £7.50. Children (under 16) £3.80.
Concessions $4.80, Carer free.
Tel: 020 7188 4400.