Florence Sleeve Notes

Download ‘Florence’ by Louise Jordan – sleevenotes

Sleeve Notes

Cypress Trees
Florence’s sister Parthenope and brother-in-law Sir Harry Verney lived at Claydon House in Buckinghamshire. Florence visited and spent time there. One of Parthenope’s step children Sir Edmund Hope Verney sent a photograph to Florence in 1905, after she had become too frail to visit.

The photograph is of the Cypress trees at Claydon House grown from cones Florence had brought back from Scutari, where she had worked during the Crimean War.

After finding the trees were no longer there, I consulted a horticulturalist friend who assured me that they still exist within the soil. It made me question concepts of memory and remembrance. What did the trees signify to Florence? What does Florence signify to us?

Unloving Love
Florence wore a bracelet whilst in Scutari, serving the British Army during the Crimean War. I saw the bracelet on display when I visited the Florence Nightingale Museum. Wrapped around the bracelet are locks of hair from Florence’s father, mother, sister and favourite cousin ‘Shore’. Hair jewellery was fashionable during the Victorian era.

I think it fair to say that Florence had a complicated relationship with her family – wanting to pursue her own path but feeling compelled to play the role of dutiful daughter as required by Victorian society. Florence wrote about family expectation in ‘Cassandra’ as well as in her personal letters and notes where her conflicted feelings are revealed.

Florrie’s Lorry
Famed as the ‘Nurse of the Crimea’ I was fascinated to find out the breadth of roles and changes that Florence instigated whilst working during the Crimean War – from
setting up a postal service so soldiers could send wages home to becoming the unofficial Quarter-Master managing supplies, Florence organised laundries and cleaned wards to improve standards of hygiene and sanitation.

I found out about ‘Florrie’s Lorry’ – the nickname given to the carriage in which Florence is reported to have travelled to inspect the different hospitals. The news reporting of the Crimean War turned Florence into a national heroine and the carriage became part of the urban myth associated with her. Apparently Florrie’s lorry was featured in exhibition displays and even in Harrods shop window before being returned to St Thomas’s Hospital where the Nightingale Training School for Nurses had been set up. After suffering damage during the Second World War it was moved to the Army Medical Services Museum in Aldershot and then to Claydon House.

After the Crimean War, Florence was determined to investigate the causes of mortality amongst the British Army, finding preventable disease and infection to be significant factors. She fought for transparency and accountability, using the evidence she had gathered.

Whilst in between gigs I visited Glasgow Royal Infirmary to find the statue of Florence Nightingale displayed there. Florence did not want to be idolised and disliked statues and images of herself, preferring to focus on her work.

I began questioning why Florence became famous as a nurse when she had relatively little training and experience in this specific field, compared with her experience researching, producing reports and data. This song outlines some of the ways Florence was and continues to be remembered and it questions more broadly how our cultural heritage is created and who curates it – how do we learn about the past?

Idle Women
Florence was born into a position of wealth and privilege. Showing a desire for learning and self-improvement from a young age, Florence wanted to put her time to use and disliked the idleness she felt was forced onto women in her situation.

Whilst creating the live show ‘Florence’ I wondered which women Florence would have been in contact with. I am also interested in Florence’s decision not to marry which she discusses in letters and personal notes. It brought me to the age old question of whether women can ‘have it all’ and in what circumstance.

“A married woman was heard to wish that she could break a limb that she might have a little time to herself.” (Florence Nightingale, Cassandra)

Statistics Save Lives
Florence made a significant and lasting contribution to healthcare through her work as a statistician. In order to save lives, Florence believed that evidence should be identified and gathered and then used to demonstrate the benefits of change and to hold decision makers to account.

By making data available to the public in ways that could be easily understood, Florence acted as a political campaigner and social reformer. In an increasingly connected world where opinions travel quickly, Florence’s commitment to evidence based research remains relevant today.

Mr Daly
“The moment a person becomes sick, he ceases to be a pauper and becomes brother to the best of us and as a brother he should be cared for….Love of mankind ought to be our one principle.” (Florence Nightingale, 1867)

Florence Nightingale planned to return to England after the Crimean War and investigate workhouse infirmary reform. As a woman she could not hold office; nonetheless Florence’s advice was sought on a range of issues including hospital design and architecture and training for nurses and midwives. Using her influence as an expert, Florence campaigned and lobbied Members of Parliament and officials for the employment of professional nurses in workhouses.

Florence was interested in the death of Mr Timothy Daly at St Bartholomew’s Hospital following alleged neglect at Holborn Union Workhouse. Whilst she was interested in the use of statistics to present a case for reform, Florence was also compassionate about individuals.

I researched Timothy Daly’s death through newspaper archives and found conflicting reports, pointing the finger of responsibility. It reminded me of stories I have read in recent years; people suffering in horrendous conditions as a result of Universal Credit.

Living Water
In the very early days of my research into Florence, I visited Hampshire Record Office. Along with childhood letters, I found a publication by Florence ‘Life or Death
in India by Florence Nightingale: A Paper read at the Meeting of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, Norwich, 1873, with an appendix on Life or Death by Irrigation 1874’.

I was intrigued as to why Florence Nightingale had written a paper about sanitary conditions in India. Within the report Florence uses the phrase ‘Living Water’ as she describes the benefits of running vs. stagnant water. In another of her papers Florence begins “We do not care for the people of India” and I have used and adapted some of her words in this song.

I find Florence’s attention to detail, her recourse to facts and her directness in calling us all to account for the impact of our actions on people elsewhere in the world truly inspiring.

Since I started writing songs about women’s history, I’ve enjoyed visiting local archives. It’s a very special experience to hold a handwritten document, from the hand of the person you are studying. Some of Florence’s correspondence with Sidney Herbert (Secretary at War) is deposited at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. This song was written after a visit, when I held Florence Nightingale’s words in my hands for the first time.


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