Hampshire Biographies

Florence after the Crimea

On her return to England in 1856, Florence devoted her life to the training of nurses and started the Florence Nightingale Training School and Home for Nurses at St. Thomas’s Hospital, which opened in 1860, with the aid of a fund of £50,000 subscribed by a grateful public. In that same year her book ‘Notes on Nursing’ was published followed by other influential books and articles. The example set by Florence in starting a training school for nurses was eventually followed by other hospitals and the standard of nursing care improved immeasurably, to the benefit of patients, doctors, and surgeons alike.

London became Florence’s base upon her return to England and, in 1865, she settled down in a new home in South Street, Mayfair, where she lived for 45 years until her death in 1910. Florence made a number of visits to Embley in 1869, 1870, 1871, and 1872. On one of her visits to Hampshire she was able to use her influence in the siting of the present Royal Hampshire County Hospital at Winchester on its airy hilltop instead of a proposed site low down in the city.

Netley and the Royal Victoria Hospital

Florence also tried to influence the redesign of a new military hospital at Netley in Hampshire, but without much success. Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for The Royal Victoria Hospital in Netley on 19 May 1856, and work was completed in 1863 at a cost of £350,000. It had 138 wards and beds for over 1000 patients. From 1865 ships carrying wounded troops could dock at a pier on nearby Southampton Water, and in 1901 a railway, was built to bring the wounded to and from Netley.

Hospital train
A steam train bringing wounded soldiers to the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, c1900
Hampshire Record Office ref 92M91/2/4/18

Florence saw the plans for the hospital when she returned from the Crimea and immediately wrote a report condemning the plans and suggesting alternatives. Her main complaint was about the lack of windows in the wards and the very long corridor which ran in front of the wards, which she thought would become ‘a permanent receptacle for contaminated effluvia’. However, apart from some changes to the windows little was done to meet Florence’s criticisms of the planned hospital.

The success of using nurses during the Crimean War led to The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, being established as a training centre for the new Nursing Service. Netley became the largest military hospital of its time, and was full to capacity during the First World War. The hospital was handed over to the Americans during the Second World War.  Only the former hospital chapel now remains which has become a heritage centre at Royal Victoria Country Park.


Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale on her return from the Crimea
Hampshire Record Ofice ref 94M72/F697/7