Lea Hurst, the Nightingale family name for its first and then later summer home, played a constant and important role in FN's life. If you study the map of Derbyshire you see that it is a small distance to the site of the Nightingale lead smelter which smelted raw ore during FN's lifetime and deposited 10% of what it processed -- which was silver -- in the Bank of England. There is on record and now a modern study on the effect of lead poisoning upon the Nightingale family and the village of Lea. There are several symptoms in children with lead poisoning. One is "drop wrist" or a weakness in the wrists. Florence writes about this in her opening of her curriculum vitae. Also lead-poisoned children are hard to get along with, cranky, uncooperative, difficult ... she was a difficult child. Lead poisoning plays havoc with reproductive organs, etc. None of the Nightingale women ever gave birth after the girls were born away from Lea Hurst and the lead smelter.
But notice should also be taken of the hat factory in the direction of Dethick, a possible source of environmental mercury. Mercury is a deadly toxin that effects the kidney, the brain, and the nervous system. It can cause kidney damage and failure, can destroy the nervous system, and acts as a carcinogen. Perhaps the most famous fictional victim of mercury poisoning is the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. People suffering from exposure become reclusive and fearful of interacting with other people. This might explain some of FN’s behavior as a young child and her fear of eating with guests that she "might do something strange with her knife or fork."
It also should be noted that John Smedley had a "water cure" hospital right down stream from the smelter. And history indicates that there was a very large factory also in the same location employing up to 200 factory girls.
FN moved to Hampshire with her family when she was about 6/7 yrs old but Lea Hurst remained the summer home and retreat for the family and family friends constantly during FN's lifetime. Each visit brought her close to lead and mercury again and perhaps can be paralleled with her moods and illnesses.
For many years Lea Hurst was a Royal Surgical Aid Society rest home. It has since been sold to a private party. Learn more.