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Florence Nightingale’s Bicentenary, 2020


Florence Nightingale was born on 12th May 1820 and lived for many years at Lea Hurst in Holloway. Unfortunately, the planned bicentennial celebrations could not happen, but in their place the village has created an artwork presenting the influence Florence has had on our village. The DLH Horticultural Society contributed to the artwork with a section on the use of Herbal Remedies  during Florence's Lifetime.

The Display Board was erected in January 2021 at the end of Holme Close in central Holloway.


For more information click the following link to  the DLH Village website.

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Dr Richard Bates, Research Fellow, History at the University of Nottingham is working on The Nightingale project.


An excellent short documentary film on Florence Nightingale’s Derbyshire can be watched from his website, with much more information to browse.

The Use of Herbal Remedies during Florence Nightingale’s lifetime.


Victorian Medicines

The massive growth of towns and cities in Britain after the industrial revolution had produced terrible problems of public health. People living in overcrowded slums with insufficient and contaminated water and heaps of human and animal refuse piled around them were subject to endemic diseases such as small-pox, tuberculosis, typhoid, and dysentery, but also to murderous epidemics, especially cholera which swept through Britain in 1832, 1849, and 1854.


Treatments relied heavily on a 'change of air' (to the coast, for example), together with emetic and laxative purgation and bleeding by cup or leech (a traditional remedy only abandoned in mid-century) to clear 'impurities' from the body. A limited range of medication was employed, and the power of prayer was regularly invoked.

Most Victorians bought their drugs over the counter without a prescription. The Victorian chemist stocked readymade patent and proprietary medicines and home-made remedies, many based on the latex obtained from the opium poppy.

  • Laudanum (containing ~10% opium) for dysentery and to relieve pain,

  • Chlorodyne (laudanum with cannabis and chloroform) to treat cholera and for pain relief, and

  • Camphorated tincture of opium for asthma and local pain relief.

Camphor is found in the wood of the camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora), a large evergreen tree found in Asia.


















Florence Nightingale’s Medical Expertise

Florence Nightingale longed for a college education, but could not find any particular subject to channel her thoughts. A critical turning point in her life was visiting the Lariboisiere Hospital in Paris in 1853. She noted the favourable environment which enticed the human body’s natural senses to healing. She began to develop her theory for practice while at Lariboisiere, noting that the filthy enclosed spaces encompassed disease and allowed for the diseases to spread. This opened her eyes to the idea that cleanliness lead to the prevention of disease.

Florence Nightingale believed in the miasma theory. In miasma theory, diseases were caused by the presence in the air of a miasma, a poisonous vapour in which were suspended particles of decaying matter. These caused its characteristic foul smell.

The miracles she achieved in the Crimean War hospitals resulted from her insistence that bad smells must be eradicated by thorough cleaning. While serving as a nurse in Crimea from 1854 to 1856, she noticed that more soldiers in her care were dying from infectious diseases than were dying from wounds. She thought this was due to overcrowding and malnutrition.

A talented mathematician, Nightingale spent the late 1850s proving statistically that a concentration on sanitation and cleanliness in hospitals had a hugely beneficial effect on patient recovery rates. Her proposed solutions – better ventilation and better sanitation – provided the basis for a nursing revolution.

Florence was a prolific letter writer covering issues on the design of hospitals, the training of nurses, the organisation of health services and personnel letters to relatives following the death of her patients. One letter to a Mrs. Alexander, dated April 5, 1855, from the Barrack Hospital, Scutari, Florence recounts the final illness of Mrs. Alexander's son, who died of frostbite and dysentery while under Nightingale's care. She states that she “gave him Arrow Root and Port Wine in small quantities and frequently”





Health and hygiene in the 19th century. Article written by Liza Picard. British Library. Published:14 Oct 2009 at

For the full digitised letters from Florence Nightingale  see

And for the letter to Mrs Alexander see

Medicinal plants: Past history and future perspective Fatemeh Jamshidi-Kia1 , Zahra Lorigooini1* , Hossein Amini-Khoei1 1 Medical Plants Research Center, Basic Health Sciences Institute, Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, Shahrekord, Iran

Historical review of medicinal plants’ usage Biljana Bauer Petrovska from Pharmacognosy Reviews An Open Access, Peer Reviewed Journal in the field of Pharmacognosy.

The Wellcome Collection

The Cholera graph from

By Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen - List of Koehler Images The Internet Archive, Public Domain,

Cholera graphs.jpg

Graph showing deaths in 1849 and the associated air temperature


Opium poppy - Papaver Somniferun

Arrowroot - Millefolium


Cinnamomum camphora

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Extract from a letter from Florence Nightingale advocating the value of open air for the treatment of incipient tuberculosis.


The life of Florence Nightingale in summary

Florence was one of the most famous women in British history. Her work in the Crimea set the standards for modern nursing. For the rest of her life she continued to campaign for improved sanitary conditions in both military and civilian hospitals.

Born into the local Nightingale family, she lived for many of her early years at Lea Hurst, Holloway. Florence overcame the narrow opportunities offered to girls of her station. In 1851, despite the disapproval of her family, she completed a course of nursing training in Germany.

Responding to newspaper accounts of soldiers' suffering in the Crimean War (1854-56), Florence answered a government appeal for nurses. She was appointed Superintendent of the Female Nurses in the Hospitals in the East. At Scutari, near Constantinople, the conditions were atrocious. The dirty and vermin-ridden hospital lacked even basic equipment and provisions. Florence and her nurses improved the medical and sanitary arrangements, set up food kitchens, washed linen and clothes, wrote home on behalf of the soldiers and introduced reading rooms.

On 2 May 1855, Florence left the hospital in Scutari in order to witness for herself the conditions of the army at Balaklava. Within a few days of her arrival in the harbour, she was struck down with 'Crimean fever'.

Although it was feared that she was near to death, by 24 May Lord Raglan was able to telegraph London that she was out of danger. However, her recovery was slow, hampered in part by her demanding schedule.

On returning to her duties, the exertion of travelling to far-flung field hospitals took its toll on Florence's delicate health.

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Florence returned to England in August 1856. In the years that followed she continued to campaign for the reform of nursing and for cleaner hospitals.

By 1859 well-wishers had donated over £40,000 to the Nightingale Fund. Florence used this money to set up the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas' Hospital on 9 July 1860.

Once the nurses were trained, they were sent to hospitals all over Britain, where they introduced her ideas. Florence also published two books, Notes on Hospital (1859) and Notes on Nursing (1859) that laid the foundations of modern nursing practice.


Edited from text by the National Army Museum, Royal Hospital Road, London, W34HT

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