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Florence Nightingale Ship’s Figurehead, 19th century

Display No. 180

This sculpture of Florence Nightingale is a ship’s figurehead, thought to date from the nineteenth century. Figureheads are the carved wooden sculptures that decorate the prows of sailing ships.

Sailing on the open ocean was full of danger, where good or bad luck with the weather could be a matter of life and death. The superstitions of sailors meant that figureheads held great significance to those on board and they would go to great lengths to care for them.


Selwyn / Alamy Stock Photo

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Nightingale is respected worldwide for her pioneering role in developing the nursing profession, her statistical work, and her evidence-based approach to healthcare. In honour of her bicentenary the World Health Organisation have named 2020 the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

In our special exhibition, you will find out about objects, people and places which tell interesting stories about Florence’s life and legacy. You’ll discover artefacts from her life, people she both inspired and challenged, and places she helped to shape. There’s many more insights too!

Please click on the different sections of her famous coxcomb diagram to explore various aspects of her life and legacy. We hope you enjoy exploring!