A remarkable letter, written by one of Matlock’s most famous daughters, Florence Nightingale, has been unearthed after 122 years.
Penned in 1897 when she was in her late 70s, the four-page letter fell out of a photo album while a house in Dorset was being cleared.
Addressed to a Mr Hollingsworth, it sets out Nightingale’s vision for community nursing, and also contains a polite refusal to an invitation to an event that she couldn’t attend because she was ill.
The letter was found by Bev Peck, the regional manager for the charity, Weldmar Hospicecare, which had been bequeathed items from the house.
Bev duly called in expert Tim Medhurst, from the BBC TV show, ‘Antiques Road Trip’, and he not only verified the letter’s authenticity but also valued it at £1,000.
Nightingale (1820-1910) was universally dubbed ‘the lady with the lamp’ because of the late hours she worked to treat the ill and wounded during the Crimean War. Her family home was Lea Hurst at Holloway, near Matlock.
The letter is considered to be of historical significance because she writes about training nurses to go into the community to tend to sick children and the elderly, which were the founding principles of the NHS years later.
Nightingale writes: “I always feel we are on the threshold of training. Till every poor mother knows how to feed her infant, wash and clothe it, till private nurses have an organisation, a principle and a high idea of their calling, till every poor, sick person has a trained district nurse, we cannot be said to have passed the threshold.”
Bev said: “Nightingale may be best known for her work in the Crimean War, but the NHS probably started with her because of her efforts to take nursing and care to everyone in society. This letter is such a piece of history. I got goose pimples when I found it.”
Medhurst said: “The value of historical letters by famous people comes down to the content and why they were written. This could fetch up to £1,000, but if she had mentioned soldiers on the frontline, that would have brought an even nicer price.”
The charity has yet to decide whether to sell the letter or display it.