A letter unearthed at a free valuation event has been described as ‘my best Lichfield find ever’ by an antiques expert.
Adrian Rathbone, associate director of Hansons Auctioneers, which holds valuation events every Monday at The Hedgehog Inn, Stafford Road, has discovered a letter written by Florence Nightingale.
And such is its importance, it has been entered into Hansons’ Fine Art Library Auction on July 2, estimate yet to be decided.
Mr Rathbone, who found the letter on Monday (April 9), said: “I was astonished to see this letter penned by one of the most famous women in British history at a free valuation day. It has to be one of my best finds ever in Lichfield.
“It’s a friendly, chatty letter to a Mrs Battersby and is dated May 26, 1894. The writing paper features a printed address, ‘10 South Street, Park Lane’.
Mr Rathbone said: “We know Florence spent the final years of her life in South Street, London. She died at the age of 90 in 1910 so this letter would have been written when she was 74 years old.”
Though it is hard to make out all the text, the letter appears to refer to a member of her staff who was preparing for confirmation and ‘has had a great deal more responsibility than I like in the kitchen. I am hurrying a new cook in to prevent a reoccurrence of this’.
Mr Rathbone said: “The letter’s importance is derived from the fact that Florence Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing – The Lady with the Lamp, a Victorian icon.”
Born on May 12, 1820, Nightingale came to prominence while training fellow nurses and tending to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Images of her holding a lamp as she walked through the wards have become iconic.
In 1860, she laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was the first secular nursing school in the world, now part of King’s College London.
In recognition of her pioneering work, the Nightingale Pledge taken by new nurses, and the Florence Nightingale Medal, the highest international distinction a nurse can achieve, were named in her honour, and International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on her birthday.
The Florence Nightingale letter will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, on July 2. Hansons experts offer free valuations every Monday at the Hedgehog Inn, Stafford Road, Lichfield, WS13 8JB, from 10.30am-12.30pm. To find out more, call Carol Jones on 07802 839915 or email [email protected]