Florence Nightingale Service – 13 May 2018

Florence Nightingale Annual Commemorative Service at St Margaret’s Church, East Wellow, Hampshire. 

The Nightingale family lived at nearby Embley Park, and Florence always considered it her favourite family house. The Nightingale memorial is fairly easy to spot. It stands south of the church and is a typical Victorian monument, in the shape of a church spire. Three sides of the monument have inscriptions to other members of the Nightingale family, but one side has the very simple inscription:

Born May 12 1820
Died August 13, 1910

On Sunday 13th May 2018 Guild Freemen Annie Robertson and Liz Bardolph attended the annual Commemorative Service at St Margaret’s Church, East Wellow.  The 700 year old Parish Church, a Grade 1 listed building nestled deep in the Hampshire countryside, is accessed via narrow winding lanes and is easy to miss!  Florence Nightingale’s simple memorial stands within the extensive churchyard.  The setting is peaceful, and on this particular Sunday morning the spring sun shone and the birds sang, contributing perfectly to a very special occasion.

The service was attended by a ‘flock’ of Nightingales, as well as the regular congregation. It was good to see the small church filled to capacity with worshippers.  The Vicar, The Rev Christopher Pettet, led the service, and Dr Tom Keighley, a distinguished nurse, delivered the sermon.

He spoke about some of Florence Nightingale’s many attributes.  What may not be generally known is her gift for languages, which included: German, Greek, Hebrew and Latin. She was fluent in them all.  Apparently she read her Bible from cover to cover each year and it is heavily annotated, as befitted her lively and enquiring mind.

After we had sung her favourite hymn written by Charles Wesley we all moved to the churchyard where the Director of the Florence Nightingale Museum, David Green, laid a wreath at her grave.  Following the Nightingale School Fellowship Prayer, which concluded the formalities, some repaired to the Church Rooms for coffee.  Annie and Liz remained and chatted before going to the ticket only lunch at the Wellow Village Hall.  An excellent lunch was provided and we were privileged to be sitting on the same table as Margaret, who is Florence Nightingale’s first cousin, twice removed.

It was a very special and memorable occasion and humbling to meet so many older nurses who had trained in Florence Nightingale’s shadow.