Mary Seacole facts for kids (and Did Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole ever meet?)

Did Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole ever meet?

Mary Seacole, born in Jamaica in 1805, was a British woman who became famous for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War. She set up hospitals and provided medical care for soldiers on both sides of the conflict.

She was not a military nurse but rather a civilian who took it upon herself to help provide medical treatment to the soldiers in need.

Mary Seacole did meet Florence Nightingale for one day in Turkey and they both knew about each other before then. It happened in 1855 while Mary Seacole was on her way to the Crimea. Mary Seacole stayed overnight before continuing on her journey.

Jamaican flag

Mary Seacole’s Early Life

Mary Seacole was a Creole, half Jamaican and half Scottish. Her mother was a famous Jamaican healer known at the time as a doctress. Later in life Mary Seacole also used to be used to like to be known as a doctress, ie the female equivalent of a doctor rather than a nurse.

Her father was James Grant, a white Scottish army officer. She also had a sister called Louisa.

Mary’s mother, Mrs Grant, ran a lodging house in Kingston, Jamaica, called Blundell Hall.

She was also a famous Jamaican healer. Female doctors at the time were known at the time as a doctresses. Later in life, Mary Seacole also used to like to be known as a doctress.

As a healer, Mrs Grant taught Mary many of her skills using traditional Jamaican medicines.

From an early age, Mary practised medicine on her doll, dogs, and cats, and on herself.

In her autobiography she wrote:

“It was very natural that I should inherit her tastes; and so, I had from early youth a yearning for medical knowledge and practice which never deserted me…. And I was very young when I began to make use of the little knowledge I had acquired from watching my mother, upon great sufferer – my doll… and whatever disease was most prevalent in Kingston, be sure my poor doll soon contracted it.”

Mary was also a great businesswoman. When she was a teenager, she visited London and learned more about nursing, but she also started to trade Caribbean goods.

Mary Seacole’s husband

On 10 November 1836, Mary married Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole in Kingston.

There was a family legend that Edwin was an illegitimate son of Lord Nelson and his mistress, Emma Hamilton and he was adopted by Thomas, a local “surgeon, apothecary, and midwife”.

However, Seacole’s will indicates that Horatio Seacole was Nelson’s godson.

Edwin Seacole was a merchant and together they moved to Black River. There they opened a grocery store that unfortunately failed. They returned to Blundell Hall in the early 1840s and sadly Edwin died in 1844.

Mary Seacole and the Crimean War

From October 1853 until 1 April 1856, the Crimean War raged between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the United Kingdom, France, the Kingdom of Sardinia, and the Ottoman Empire.

The main battles were fought on the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea and in Turkey.

A large number of troops were drafted to the area and disease broke out almost immediately.

Cholera claimed hundreds of lives. Many more would die waiting to be shipped out or on the voyage.

When they arrived at the understaffed, dirty and overcrowded hospitals which provided the only medical treatment for the wounded, their prospects were not much better.

Florence Nightingale was asked to send nurses to help save lives in hospitals in Britain.

Interviews were quickly held, suitable candidates selected, and Nightingale left for Turkey on 21 October.

At this time Seacole had travelled to England to deal with her investments in gold-mining businesses.

However, she then decided to try to join the second team of Florence Nightingale’s nurses going to the Crimea.

Her application to the War Office and other government offices was turned down as she was told plans for departure were already under way. However, she wondered whether this might may have been an excuse for racist attitudes.

In the end, Seacole opted to use her own resources to travel to Crimea and open a hotel there. She was accompanied by her maid, Sally.

Soon after she formed a partnership with Thomas Day, an acquaintance from the Caribbean.

According to her journal, Mary met up with Florence Nightingale at Scutari which was a district of Istanbul, in Turkey. It was a friendly meeting and she was given a bed for the night before going off to meet her ship.

From there it was a 4-day journey to get to Balaclava where she would set up the British Hotel for sick and wounded soldiers.

The hotel was built in March 1855 out of driftwood, packing cases, iron sheets, and salvaged materials such as glass doors and window frames.

Meals and supplies were available for offices and medicines were given out when they were needed.

Mary would also go amongst the soldiers selling food and other provisions and seeing to the wounded.

At the end of the war, the hotel was no longer needed and although it cost Mary £800 which was a lot of money in those days she wasn’t able to sell it.

Mother Seacole

While in the Crimea she became known as Mother Seacole to many of the soldiers.

Back in London

When Mary returned to London she was both bankrupt and in poor health.

In 1857, Sir William H Russell wrote about Mary in The Times.  Many soldiers also wrote letters to The Times explaining how she had cared for them.

A fund-raising gala was held for her over 4 nights in 1857 on the banks of the River Thames. The event was attended by over 80,000 people.

Mary Seacole’s Autobiography

In the same year, she published her autobiography, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands.

I know that this is available as an ebook from Birmingham Library and so may be available from other libraries.

It will certainly be available from many booksellers.

Mary Seacole on YouTube

There are some brilliant videos on Youtube

For KS2 there is a series of 3 5-minute videos from the BBC.

Part 1:…

Part 2:…
Part 3:…

And you might only like to try these animated videos from Credits Extra.

Part 1 : Mary Seacole – A Bold Front to Fortune – Extra History

Part 2 : Mary Seacole – Mother Seacole in the Crimea – 

Mary Seacole and Doctor Who!

For any Dr Who fans – you might like to watch this introduction to her life which includes clips from Dr Who and comments from the main characters. partially Jodie Whittaker, about why Mary Seacole was such an important historical figure.

Mary Seacole is played by Sara Powell.

One of the things Sara shows you in some detail (towards the end of this video clip) is her costume, including the one bit that Mary wouldn’t have worn.

However, there is also quite a lot in the middle of the video about the Dr Who plot, the Flux and the Sontarans, so it would probably only really be of interest to Dr Who fans who also happened to be learning about Mary Seacole.

Mary Seacole’s Medals

In the Dr Who clip above there is a suggestion that Mary Seacole wore medals that she hadn’t officially received.

This is challenged by historian Elizabeth Anionwu, Emeritus Professor of Nursing, University of West London

Mary Seacole Song from Horrible Histories

Here the Horrible Histories team sing a song about Mary Seacole.

Mary Seacole Quizzes

After watching some of these videos your child might like to try these quizzes – 8 easy multiple-choice questions – 16 multiple-choice questions. – I’m in 6th place (JK). Can you beat me?

Any comments or feedback?

I hope you found this page useful.

Have you, or your children any questions for me?

Where next?

Why not take a look at one of these pages –

The Great Fire Of London

The Great Fire Of London

The Great Fire of London is a popular topic for Key Stages 1, 2 and 3.

There are lots of resources around including whole websites dedicated to the fire, websites of museums in London who have their own collection of objects, videos, craft activities, worksheets etc.


Videos Of the Great Fire of London for KS1, KS2 and KS3 and beyond.

There are many videos for your children to watch on Youtube.

Here are a few I would recommend:

These ones are aimed many at KS1 but may be fun for some younger KS2 pupils as well.


These are more suited to Key Stage 2 and above.

These were created by Channel 5 who also do some fire investigations in the first programme with wattle and daub doors.



Facts about Great Fire of London – 1666

The Great Fire of London began on Sunday, September 2nd 1666 near Pudding Lane. at Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane. A baker had left some flour-dusted dough out overnight on an oven that had not been cleaned. Sparks from the oven ignited the fire which then spread quickly across the city.

This led to the destruction of most of the buildings in London including 13,200 houses, 87 parish churches, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Royal Exchange and left over six thousand people homeless.

People were forced to flee their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and thousands lost everything. Many of those ended up living in tents on the outskirts of London.

The spread was rapid due to the wooden construction of the buildings and the lack of firefighting equipment available at the time.

There was no formal fire brigade, little training and very basic equipment available such as leather buckets, fire squirts, but they and local people worked hard to put out the fires caused by the Great Fire of London.

The fire burned for five days and nights before finally being put out on September 6th by blowing up houses with gunpowder.

There had also been a drought in London for more than 10 months. The city had not seen rain since November of 1665 and the only water supply available was from a single well at Moorfields. This lead to the houses burning even quicker than they might have done otherwise.

We know so much about the fire as it was documented in letters and newspapers, and artists painted pictures of what it was like.

One survivor was Samuel Pepys who wrote a famous diary. He was born in London on February 23, 1633.

Pepy’s diary records his key social and political observations, including those about the Great Fire of London in 1666

A monument was built to remember the Great Fire. This was called “The Monument” and is a column which is 202ft tall and was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Dr Robert Hooke. It stands on the corner between Fish Street Hill and Monument Street. 202ft is the distance between it and the fire.


The Monument to the Fire of London

Before the Great Fire of London, the houses were all made out of wood which caused them to be easily burnt. When they rebuilt the city, they made sure that many new buildings were built in bricks and weren’t as close together.

One of the buildings that was engulfed by fire was Old St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was rebuilt in the same area but following a new design by Christopher Wren.

Five ways London changed after the fire was explained by the BBC London News team in this accessible article which also includes lots of interesting pictures.

It includes new building regulations, no hanging signs for pubs and better access to water. I was particularly surprised to read that previously the water pipes were wooden!

A very good overview from Channel 5 who also do some fire investigations with wattle and daub doors.


A bit of interactive fun for children

The Great Fire Of London

Children need to be familiar with the story in order to play this game.

If they are not, let them watch one or more of the videos at the top of the page.


Craft Activities

If you search on Google Images or Pinterest you’ll find plenty of examples of school displays. Just looking at these will give you all your children a few ideas.

I also particularly like shoebox craft activities that many people do. There is a particularly good example on the Lottie Makes blog, see the third pin on my Pinterest board – I will also put a link to the blog below.

Fire of London Pinterest Board
My Board on Pinterest about the Great Fire of London

Shoe box idea

Great Fire of London – Story in a Shoe Box

The Great Fire of London for Kids – KS1 Scrapbook Crafts



Some useful websites

The National Archives

This site is particularly useful if you would like to do some work using primary sources.

They are presented in a way that is very accessible and with suggestions for investigating using his resources.

Museum of London

The Museum of London also makes good use of primary resources. In this case, they have used items from their own collection

You can scroll through photographs and read about the individual items. This would be more appropriate for adults or older children.

The London Fire Brigade website

Here, among other things, they estimate the total cost of the fire was about 10 million pounds at the time when London’s annual income was about £12,000 a year. I found myself wondering about how this compares to the cost of the pandemic that we are presently going through.

Historic UK

Historic UK does have its own page about Great Fire of London which is more general but I like this one because it shows you some of the most interesting buildings that survived the great fire.


Visit London

If you are lucky enough to live near or visit visit you may want to try one of these walks.

Great Fire Of London Walk With Kids

A Great Fire of London walk with kids – visit Great Fire of London locations

Free walking tour London to learn facts about the Great Fire of London

Make a shoebox

Here is a great idea for a craft activity done in a shoebox from the website Lottie Makes.

Some more useful videos

We have some daft dancing in a garden in between verses and there’s not a lot of information but children might like it and you can talk through the pictures that appear.

Now this is a throwback to my early days of teaching and I do remember this episode – actually I just remembered the buring of the cheese!! I and my kids used to love Magic Grandad! You might find it a bit dated?


For even more resources check out my Great Fire of London Board on Pinterest

King Henry VIII’s Wives – free resources

King Henry VIII’s Wives – free resources

Here I have listed some of the free resources that are available when you are researching King Henry VIII’s Wives.

His 6 wives were Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Kathryn Howard and Katherine Parr.

Catherine of Aragon

There is a rhyme to help us remember how their marriages ended –

“Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived”.

An Introduction to Henry’s Wives

This is suitable for Primary school children and beyond as an introduction

as is this –

A Crossword and a Word Search from Primary Resources

– with answers VIII_xwd.


PowerPoints from Primary resources – there are a few here

Another introduction to the wives

– aimed at secondary but accessible for older primary

Horrible Histories song about the wives

– with a transcript on this page

Another amusing song to help you remember the wives

– perhaps check this out before sharing with children.

Personally I love it!

It is sung to the tune of Money, Money, Money by ABBA

More about the six wives

– small pictures with links to much more information

All on one page –

Nice clear pictures on this one –

Information for teachers/parents – with a word search and a matching activity

– aimed at teachers for KS2 children Bookworms/newobwhenrysixwiveswork.pdf

Here is a word search of the six wives – you will know their names by now.

Choose the 20 by 20 grid. (Well you can choose any size but the bigger one I more likely to get all of the six wives in.)

The names are all written left to right or going downwards.

[game-wordsearch id=”394″ ]

I look forward to hearing from you if these resources useful or you have others to suggest.

Please leave comments below.  I do read them all.