A Visit to Lea Hurst – Florence Nightingale’s Derbyshire Home
17 January 2020 | Deborah Evans, Queen’s Nurse
Lea Hurst is an early Victorian house, standing amidst the lovely scenery of North Derbyshire, most famous as the childhood home of Florence Nightingale.
Although she was named after the city of her birth, Florence spent much of her childhood in the Derbyshire mansion and it was used by the Nightingales as their summer residence. The Nightingale family also had a house in Hampshire, Embley Park, where they would spend the winter months; however, it was to Lea Hurst where Florence returned in 1856, after the end of the Crimean War. Lea Hurst is now a hotel.
When I am no longer even a memory, just a name, I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life.Florence Nightingale
Our discovery of Lea Hurst was quite by chance. My husband and I were planning a visit to Chatsworth and were looking for a place to stay nearby. The property had only just begun to market its accommodation three weeks previously. When I realised this was the childhood home of Florence Nightingale and where she cared for her mother in the last days of her life, I felt compelled to visit. Florence epitomised the essence of today’s message espoused by the Queen’s Nursing Institute, not least in respect of the critical role of district nurses in end-of-life care. Florence was instrumental in helping establish the QNI in 1887.
It seems Lea Hurst was managed by the Royal Surgical Aid Society following the death of Florence’s only relative Louis Nightingale. The home was sold in 1946, and then sold again in 1951 to William Bowmer who ran it as a nursing home in memory of Florence Nightingale. Lea Hurst closed to residents and was sold on in 2004. The current owners, Peter Kay and his wife, are now keen to restore Lea Hurst back to its former glory.
Live life when you have it. Life is a splendid gift – there is nothing small about it.Florence Nightingale
Our visit to Lea Hurst was remarkable. The present owner Peter Kay and his wife have invested much time in collecting and restoring items either linked to Florence or in memory of her. These are placed to be viewed throughout the accommodation. The sense of calm and wonder was quite apparent when we stepped into the home. I understand my husband and I were the 6th and 7th guests to date. For me it was a privilege to have visited and I felt empowered to share the fact that I was, indeed, a Queen’s Nurse and a qualified District Nurse (now working in the community as a Parkinsons Clinical Nurse Specialist, in a community setting).
This led to a great conversation with Peter about his journey and interest in the restoration of Lea Hurst, which was quite breath-taking. There was even a copy of the ‘Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale Receiving the Wounded at Scutari’ circa 1857 in the main hallway. However, the owners were not familiar with the Queen’s Nursing Institute, so I offered a brief overview of the history of the oldest nursing charity in the world.
Later the same month, I had the opportunity to meet up with colleagues at the QNI conference in London. What followed was a plan to return to Lea Hurst in 2020 with other Queen’s Nurses and indulge in an afternoon tea. May this be the start of many Queen’s Nurses visiting Lea Hurst?
Deborah Evans, Queen’s Nurse
To celebrate the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, Lea Hurst is offering a special discount to all nurses of 10% discount for 1 night, and 20% discount for 2 nights and longer (discount code FN2020 for 1 night stays and FN2DAY for stays of 2+ nights). Click here to book.