Florence Nightingale and Claydon House

A girl trying out Florence Nightingale's bed

Florence Nightingale is best known for her part in improving nursing standards and training from her time in the Crimea War. During 1857 Sir Harry Verney who owned Claydon House came to know the Nightingale family. Explore the connection between Florence and Claydon and find out why we have Florence’s bed here.

Florence’s connection to Claydon

Sir Harry Verney’s first wife had recently died but she very much admired Florence. It was following her death that Sir Harry met and married Florence's sister Parthenope. Following the match, Florence was a regular visitor to Claydon.
 
After 1861 Florence was asked for advice on the building of hospitals and the training of nurses. Sir Harry gave Florence a number of rooms at Claydon to work on her numerous books on nursing and to meet important people. She spent many years at Claydon, particularly in the summer and although she never married or had children she was a favourite aunt to the children of Edmund Verney, Sir Harry's eldest son.
 
You can find out more about Florence at the Florence Nightingale Museum.
 

Timeline of Florence’s life

Childhood

Florence was born in the Italian city of Florence in 1820. Her sister, Parthenope, the Greek name for the city of Naples, she was just one year older than Florence. Their parents were incredibly wealthy and were able to travel around Europe. They owned large estates in the Country and a house near to London.
 
Florence and her sister were able to have lessons at home, as most children did not go to school. Mr Nightingale wanted his daughter to learn many things, including several languages, geography and history. He taught many of the lessons to them himself.
 

Growing up

As Florence grew up she went with her mother to visit the sick and the poor who lived near her home in the country. Florence was a pretty girl and had many offers of marriage.
 
Although she enjoyed travel, loved music and met many interesting people she felt different to other girls. She wrote many diaries and letters explaining how she felt and remained with her parents hoping to find answers.
 

A new life

Florence decided to become a nurse, but her parents were angry. They refused to let her go to Germany to do her training and only allowed her to gain valuable experience at her local hospital. Nurses in hospitals at that time had no proper training and it was not considered suitable employment for a respectable and wealthy young girl.
 
After falling ill and recovering with friends travelling in Italy and Egypt, her mother finally agreed for Florence to go to Kaiserworth in Germany but this had to be done in secret and she had to promise to return home after a few months.
 

Changes

Friends arranged for Florence to get a position working in a nursing home for gentlewomen, this was unpaid but Florence was ready to accept the challenge.
 
Her father eventually relented and was eager to make peace with Florence and her chosen career path. He realised he had been hard on her and gave her the sum of £500 every year so that she could have her own home in London close to where she worked.
 

Florence’s bedroom

Come and try out Florence's bed for size. Is it as comfortable as your bed at home? Imagine what it must have been like to visit Claydon, having lived and worked on the battlefields of the Crimea.