Photograph of Florence Nightingale’s lamp (S. Clarke’s Patent Fusee Candle Cooking Lamp), by Russell’s of Southgate, Chichester. [c. 1888–1911.]

Sepia photograph mounted on card, image size 97 x 143 mm., with long manuscript note on verso. Scattered foxing on the mount, otherwise in good condition.

The note on the verso of this photograph of Florence Nightingale’s famous lamp explains that the purpose of the lamp was to provide not light, but heat. Nightingale “saw the difficulties of obtaining a little hot water in the hospital where she worked & by her efforts some small lamps heated by a candle were ordered. Two metal dishes, or trays to hold the liquid formed part of the equipment, either of which the user could slide into the side of the lamp above the candle & so keep the contents hot & ready for use.” This particular lamp was given by Nightingale to Hospital Sergeant Edward Baker of the 34th Border Regiment, during the Crimean War. Baker lived in Chichester, and after his death it passed to a lady living in nearby Bognor, who allowed it to be photographed. The firm of Russell & Sons was one of the earliest professional photographers in Chichester, founded by James Russell in about 1858. His sons all joined the business with several studios mostly in and around Chichester. The studio in Southgate, Chichester, operated between 1888 and 1911. This photograph and its provenance completely alter the legend of “The Lady with the Lamp”, a nickname gained by Nightingale from a report in The Times during the Crimean War, saying that she moved among the wounded at Scutari in the darkness, holding a lamp for light, after all the medical officers had retired for the night. In fact these metal lamps were first produced in 1855 expressly for heating food as well as for giving off light. Made of tin, the heating compartment was at the top, the candle section in the middle, and a storage compartment at the bottom, and Nightingale introduced them into the hospital at Scutari to supply a small quantity of hot water when required. See the Newsletter of the Fairy Lamp Club, issue LXIII, May 2012.


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