Florence Nightingale and Claydon House

Florence Nightingale and Sir Harry Verney in 1880 in the grounds of Claydon, Buckinghamshire

Florence Nightingale is best known for her part in improving nursing standards and training from her time in the Crimea War. In 1858 Sir Harry Verney married Florence's sister, Parthenope Nightingale. Explore the connection between Florence and Claydon.

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. After their 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.
Left: Florence in 1855, London Stereoscopic Company (Smallhythe Place, Kent); Right: Florence in 1856 on her return from Scutari (Claydon, Buckinghamshire)
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) in 1855
Left: Florence in 1855, London Stereoscopic Company (Smallhythe Place, Kent); Right: Florence in 1856 on her return from Scutari (Claydon, Buckinghamshire)

Timeline of Florence’s life


Florence was born in the Italian city of Florence in 1820. Both sisters were named after the places of their birth, Parthenope is the Greek name for the city of Naples. Their parents travelled around Europe on an extended honeymoon, when both children were born. Back in England they owned large estates 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 daughters to learn many things, including several languages, geography and history. He taught many of the lessons to them himself.

Early years

As Florence grew up she went with her mother to visit the sick and the poor who lived near her home in the country. She wrote many diaries and letters explaining how she felt she had a duty to help those around her. 


Changing attitudes

Despite disapproval from her parents and society, Florence was determined to become a nurse. Her paretns were reluctant to let her go to Germany to do her training, and she was 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 upper-class ladies.

After Florence fell ill and recovered with friends travelling in Italy and Egypt, her mother finally agreed for Florence to go to Kaiserworth in Germany. This had to be done in secret and she promised to return home after a few months.

Beginning a new career

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 see the suite of rooms where Florence stayed. Imagine what it must have been like to visit Claydon, having lived and worked on the battlefields of the Crimea.