Lea Hurst: Stay the night at Florence Nightingale's beloved childhood home in Derbyshire

It's easy to see why the famous nurse was so attached to her Peak District holiday home
A beautiful building to spend the night, we can understand why Florence enjoyed her time there so much! A beautiful building to spend the night, we can understand why Florence enjoyed her time there so much!
A beautiful building to spend the night, we can understand why Florence enjoyed her time there so much!

Derbyshire has a rich history with links to many notable historical figures including painter, Joseph Wright and inventor extraordinaire Sir Henry Royce.

But perhaps one of the county's best-kept secrets is its irrefutable link to Florence Nightingale. Regarded as the founder of modern nursing, Miss Nightingale spent many of her childhood summers in the county we call home.

Florence Nightingale was born on May 12, 1820, in Florence, Italy, but she came from a wealthy and well-connected family with ties to Derbyshire.

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She spent summers with her parents, William Edward Nightingale and Frances Nightingale at the Derbyshire mansion known as Lea Hurst.

The Nightingale family lived at Lea Hurst, a country house near Matlock in Derbyshire. Florence spent a significant part of her early life at Lea Hurst and received her education from her father, who was an educated and enlightened man.

Florence Nightingale | Photograph by Henry HeringFlorence Nightingale | Photograph by Henry Hering
Florence Nightingale | Photograph by Henry Hering

The family had a summer residence in Derbyshire and considered it their home. They also had a winter bolthole in Hampshire.

Florence Nightingale's upbringing in a well-to-do family afforded her the opportunity for education and exposure to the social issues of her time.

Her decision to pursue nursing was initially met with resistance from her family, as nursing was not considered a suitable profession for a woman of her class. However, Florence was determined to follow her calling.

Lea Hurst as photographed in the late 19th century by Richard Keene, an early Derby photographer and founder member of the Derby Photographic Society.  Lea Hurst as photographed in the late 19th century by Richard Keene, an early Derby photographer and founder member of the Derby Photographic Society.
Lea Hurst as photographed in the late 19th century by Richard Keene, an early Derby photographer and founder member of the Derby Photographic Society.

During the Crimean War (1853-1856), Florence Nightingale gained international fame for her work in nursing and hospital reform.

She led a team of nurses to the British military hospital in Scutari (modern-day Istanbul), where she implemented sanitary measures and significantly improved the care of wounded soldiers. Her efforts during the war earned her the nickname "The Lady with the Lamp."

Florence Nightingale's contributions to nursing and healthcare reform made her a prominent figure in Victorian society. Her legacy extends beyond her wartime achievements, as she continued to advocate for public health and nursing education throughout her life.

While Florence Nightingale was not born in Derby, her family's ties to the area and her upbringing in Lea Hurst are significant aspects of her connection to the city. The nurse famously wrote: "It breaks my heart to leave."

Stay the night

Today, Lea Hurst is a hotel, where people can spend the night. The Florence Nightingale Suites (linked here), overlooks the Derwent Valley, a World Heritage Site on the edge of the Peak District National Park. The house has been lovingly furnished with many elegant period pieces and Nightingale artefacts, whilst also retaining the genuine warmth and comfort of a family home.

A room at Lea Hurst, (The Nightingale Suites) will cost you between £200-£330 per night. The hotel is extremely well-reviewed on TripAdvisor and is rated 5 stars out of 5. Book a stay here or check it out on Instagram here.