Hoots from the Archive - Item from the Archive - A Letter from Florence Nightingale

Posted by Rachel Kneale on 28 Sep 2023

Florence Nightingale

A claim to fame for the MGS archive, this letter written by Florence Nightingale is from the part of our collections that were held by Manchester City Council for a brief period during the 1980s to 2000s until they were reunited with the rest of our archives in readiness for 2015 and the quincentenary celebrations.

The context of the letter is clear, as it pertains to Manchester. Nightingale writes on hearing the news of the death of her friend, noted reformer and campaigner, Joseph Adshead:

30 Old Burlington St

Feb 23/61

My dear Sir

I have been much shocked by hearing of the death of my good and kind friend, Mr. Adshead of Manchester.
I do not know his nearest relatives yet I would gladly convey to them how much I feel their loss.
Manchester has lost among her many good, one of her very best citizens. He was always thinking of doing her good.
England has lost one of those men who, I do believe grow only in England – men of business and of the world who incessantly apply those habits of business, without going out of the world, to mending the world’s ways.
Words, hackneyed in most cases, occur to me as literally true in Mr. Adshead’s case.
To me the loss is a severe one, because he was going to carry out my ideal of a Country Hospital.
The best tribute that could be paid to his memory (the one which, of all others, he himself would have liked) would be if Manchester would yet carry out his plan.

Believe me

Yours Faithfully

Florence Nightingale

If you know any particulars of his last illness I should be anxious to know them. His last letter to me must have been written well before. He said he was “better”.

Adshead campaigned against the corn laws, for penal reform and the improvement of public health. The reference in Nightingale’s letter to “his plan” was Adshead’s desire to build a convalescent hospital in the Manchester area. Adshead died in 1861, but in 1871 construction started on the Barnes Hospital in Cheadle which would serve as a convalescent home for patients in the Greater Manchester area until its closure in 1999.

The existence of this letter in our archive is something of a mystery. Was the recipient of the letter a member of staff or Governor at the school? Nevertheless it is good to hold a document that can tell us something about the wider history of Manchester.

Rachel Kneale


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