Lord Mayor's Show

2020 was going to be a big year for the Florence Nightingale Museum.  It is a small museum, based in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital in London, but it had big plans for a special anniversary.

Florence Nightingale had been born in Florence, Italy, on 12th May 1820, so 2020 was the bicentenary of her birth. The museum had a three year project underway, and a whole programme of events lined up.  There was an exhibition: Nightingale in 200 Objects, People & Places; there were plans for a Choral Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral; the Museum was due to take part in the Lord Mayor’s Show through the streets of the City of London; and much more.  The World Health Organization had declared 2020 to be the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Nightingale in 200 Objects, People & Places

In 2018, the director of the museum, David Green, had asked Julie to see whether a guided walk through Florence Nightingale’s London would be feasible.  After some initial research, Julie confirmed that it would indeed be possible.  She set about planning a route, starting at Florence’s home in Mayfair; wending a way through the upmarket areas of Westminster; passing the statue of Florence at Waterloo Place; and finishing at the museum.  Since the route was ready in early 2019, the museum director decided there was no need to wait until 2020 to launch the walks, and so they were advertised on the museum website.  Julie mentioned to Debbie that she might be needed to lead walks in 2020.

Blue plaque – South Street, Mayfair

Reservations for the walking tours started slowly, and gradually built up.  Then a group booking arrived, for 50 people from Brazil.  That was too big a group for one guide, however proficient, so Julie called on Debbie.  All of a sudden, Debbie needed to get up to speed much earlier than anticipated.  Fortunately, Julie had prepared thoroughly, so Debbie had some excellent research to rely on.  The walk went well, the customers were happy, and the museum was delighted.

Meanwhile, Julie had also started developing some talks about Florence Nightingale’s London.  The advantage of a talk is that you are not limited to a particular area, and can mention locations (flocations?) that do not appear on the walk route.  This enabled Julie to include one of the places Florence had worked as superintendent (matron): The Establishment for Gentlewomen during Illness, in Harley Street. 

Harley Street

Debbie and Julie were also delighted to learn that some of the buildings of the German Hospital in Dalston, East London still existed.  They knew that Florence had first visited in 1846, but did not realise it had survived.

German Hospital, Dalston

As 2020 started, Julie and Debbie were looking forward to a busy year of guiding.  The Florence Nightingale Museum planned a launch event for their exhibition, with a distinguished guest list, including the Secretary of State for Health. The launch party took place, with many illustrious guests.  Unfortunately, the minister was unable to attend.

And then the world changed, as the pandemic took hold.