Florence Nightingale’s Wheelchair

Florence Nightingale’s customised wheelchair goes on display for the first time in the UK; the acquisition of which was supported by the Company of Nurses Charitable Trust

The customised wheelchair used by Florence Nightingale in the years following her return from the Crimean War, is to go on public display in the UK for the first time, as a new permanent display opens at the Florence Nightingale Museum in London.

The early 20th century mahogany and iron chair, with red and tan floral brocade seat cover, will be displayed to coincide with Military Nursing in Peace and War, a new display tracing the history and vital, life-saving importance of military nursing, from the Crimean War achievements of Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole to today.  The new permanent display will open on Saturday 24 June – Armed Forces Day – at the museum dedicated to the mother of modern nursing, in the grounds of St Thomas’ Hospital at the southern end of Westminster Bridge.

Acquired by the Museum earlier this year, following a successful fundraising appeal, the wheelchair was used by Florence Nightingale in her Mayfair home, as she fought her own illness while transforming healthcare and inspiring generations of nurses across the world in ways that continue today. The generous support of The Company of Nurses Charitable Trust, as well as individuals across the world, has enabled the wheelchair to join the world’s most extensive Nightingale collections at the Museum.

Brenda Griffiths, Chair of the Board of Trustees of The Company of Nurses Charitable Trust said,

"The last fifty years of Florence Nightingale’s life as a nurse are often glossed over in favour of her Crimean efforts but of course she went on to influence the nursing profession as we know it today, despite the challenge of ongoing disability. Her wheelchair is a powerful emblem of strength, physical commitment and accomplishments, despite her limited mobility and as such, it is a positive message for all wheelchair users today. We were pleased to donate funds from the Princess Helena and Ethel Mary Fletcher Fund for Nurses to enable the Museum to repatriate the wheelchair and display it for educational purposes.”

The Museum acquired Florence Nightingale’s wheelchair by Deed of Gift from The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, USA. In 1920, Dr Howard Kelly, chairman of Gynaecology at Johns Hopkins, bought the wheelchair and presented it to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses.

Freemen of the Worshipful Company of Nurses are entitled to discounted entry to the Museum. A discount code has been posted on the Members' Noticeboard in the log in section of the website.