Mary SEACOLE, distinguished Crimean nurse

Southport Visiter,

Aug 2nd 1855

A letter from Crimea

We have at present a lady of colour at Balaklava, and occasionally in camp, who is quite an original, she is both a Miss Nightingale and soyer in her way. A native of Jamaica she has travelled extensively on the American continent and has acquired great experience in the treatment of cholera and diarrhoea.

Her powders for the latter epidemic are so renowned, that she is constantly beset with applications, and it, must be stated to her honour, that she makes no charge for her powders.

She is often seen riding out to the front with baskets of medicines of her own preparation, and this is particularly the case after an engagement with the enemy.

Mrs SEACOLE is, moreover, a highly intelligent woman.

She may well exclaim with Orthello:-

"Mistake me not for my complexion -

The burnished livery of the golden sun."


Gazette Tuesday October 28th 1856


SEACOLE Mary and Thomas DAY Jnr, Tavistock St, Covent Garden, and Ratcliife Terrace, Goswell Rd, Middlesex, late of Spring Hill and Balaklava in the Crimea, provision merchants and traders. November 6th, December 11th, Court of Bankruptcy, Basinghall St, Sole King and George, King St, Cheapside, Peter Grover Porsonsby, Mark Lane, City, Dated Oct 27th.

Daily News Dec 2nd, 1856


Lord ROKEBY has received the following letter from Mrs SEACOLE :-

No 1, Tavistock St, November 25th,

Lord ROKEBY, My Lord, With much gratitude I beg to offer you my sincere thanks for your letter, which I have just read in the "Times" today, and would publicly acknowledge your present as well as past kindness to me, but I fancy you, my Lord might object to me placing your name in the public papers, consequently I take this means of expressing to you my gratitude for the interest you take in my case. I am fully aware of the kind feelings yourself and the army have towards me, and this knowledge tends to sustain me in my present difficulties, and far from regretting my visit to the Crimea, I feel proud indeed that I have had the opportunity to gain the esteem of your Lordship along with that of many others in the army, and indeed I would much rather suffer my present poverty, with the knowledge that the Almighty permitted me to be useful in my small sphere, than have returned wealthy without the esteem and regard of the brave defenders of our country. Trusting your Lordship will excuse the liberty I have taken in thus writing to your Lordship. I am your Lordship's very humble and grateful servant -


To the Right Hon Lord ROKEBY. M.G, Portman Square, London.

Daily News Jan 9th 1857

Court of bankruptcy, Jan 8th


The bankrupts Mary SEACOLE and Thomas DAY were described as provision merchants of Tavistock St, formerly of the Crimea, this was the adjournment examination meeting. The name of Mrs SEACOLE has been rendered familiar to the public by the notice of her establishment in the Crimea.

The accounts prepared by Messers HART extend from March 1st 1885 to the 27th August last. The following are the principal items creditors £2020, secured £35, liabilities £333. By good debts £202, doubtful £512, bad, £385 property surrendered £382, held by creditors £100. Profits in trade £2478, Mrs SEACOLE'S capital £288, trade expenses £1222, Mrs SEACOLE'S drawings £360, Days drawings £2217, losses £1956. Nearly all the debts due to the estate are owing by officers in the army. In one instance a swindler induced Mrs SEACOLE to discount a draft for £30, and made his escape from the Crimea before the fraud was discovered.

Court of Bankruptcy

Jan 30th, 1857, before Mr Commissioner EVANS


Certificate meeting in the matter of SEACOLE and DAY of Tavistock St, Covent Garden, and late of Spring Hill and Balaklava provision merchants. Mrs SEACOLE is well known as a caterer for the British army when encamped before Sebastopol and the lady for whom a subscription is being raised among military men in appreciation of her kindly services at a critical period of the campaign.

The assignees offer no opposition and Mr POTTER said, he appeared for a creditor who kept a store adjoining Mrs SEACOLE'S before Sebastopol, and he was only surprised that, with the materials at their command, Messers HART had been able to compile the accounts so skilfully.

The learned Commissioner granted first class certificates.

Subsequently a bystander inquired of Mrs SEACOLE, what certificate she had got, she exclaimed in a voice sufficiently audible to be heard by every one in court, "What class? A first class to be sure. Am I not a first class woman ?" An observation which caused general amusement.

Bristol Mercury, Aug 1st 1857


Wonderful adventures of Mrs SEACOLE in many lands, edited by W. J. S. - J. BLACKWOOD, Paternoster Row, London

There are few readers not acquainted with Mrs SEACOLE'S name and fame in connection with the war in the Crimea. As the originator and proprietress in conjunction with her partner Mr DAY, of the "British Hotel" Spring Hill, near Balaklava, she was the means of ministering bountifully to the comfort of many of our brave countrymen in the East, while the sympathy and soothing care which she manifested to the sick and wounded, in the midst of every difficulty and danger, deservedly gained her the respect of the whole British army, and the title of "Mother" by which she was commonly addressed, seems to have had in it much of really affectionate significance. But the peace which brought repose to our harassed soldiers before Sebastopol was attended by no especial boon to Mrs SEACOLE. It deprived her of her home in which she had so usefully established herself, and scattered her prospects to the winds.

The poor old British Hotel, she says, "We could do nothing with it. The iron house was pulled down, and packed up for conveyance home, but the Russians got all of the out houses and sheds which were not used as fuel. All the kitchen fittings and stoves, that had cost us so much, fell, also, into their hands. I only wish some cook worthy to possess them had them now. We could sell nothing. Our horses were almost given away, our large stores of provisions etc, were at anyone's service. It makes my heart sick to talk of the really alarming sacrifices we made. The Russians crowded down ostensibly to purchase, in reality to plunder. Prime cheeses which had cost us ten pence a pound, were sold for less than a penny a pound, for wine, for which we had paid forty eight shillings a dozen, they bid four shillings. I could not stand this and in a fit of desperation I snatched up a hammer and broke up case after case, while the bystanders held out their hands and caught the ruby stream. It may have been wrong, but, I was too excited to think. There was more of my own people to give it to, and I would rather not present it to our foes.

The result was that the old Crimean firm of SEACOLE and DAY was obliged to succumb to fortune, "one of us" says the lady, "started only the other day for the antipodes, while the other is ready to take any journey to any place where a stout heart and two experienced hands may be of use." In this "fix" Mrs SEACOLE has received the active sympathy of many of the distinguished campaigners to whom she was known in the Crimea, and the volume now published is calculated to evoke a greatly expanded appreciation of her character and services, for it invites perusal as a striking and very entertaining autobiographical sketch. It was not in the Crimea that Mrs SEACOLE made her debut as a caterer for the public. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, when the century was young, a Creole, but with, "good Scotch blood" coursing in her veins, to which element she attributes her energy of character, she was early a traveller. She took West Indian preserves and pickles to London for sale, made trips to New Providence, Hayti, and Cuba, was distinguished by her proficiency in Creole medicinal art, and, after acceding to "a certain arrangement" which Mr SEACOLE, "timidly proposed" it was her kind nursing and attention which mainly kept the poor invalid alive. Having lost this precarious protector, and she does not omit to tell her readers that it was not for any want of candidates that the late Mr SEACOLE'S shoes remained unfilled, she migrated to Panama, and while hotel keeping at Cruces and elsewhere she saw much of the wild life and lawless temperament of the reckless rovers to California, and was many times brought face to face with the fell visitant cholera, beneath whose influence so many a brave heart afterwards succumbed in the Crimea. Amongst the many remarkable experiences which she records is that of actually performing a rude post mortem examination on the body of an infant which had been carried off by the malady, with the view of ascertaining the workings of the disease, and, if possible, how they might best be overcome. In fact the book is full of interest as a stirring tale of real life, such as few females have encountered. It is prefaced by a few lines from Mr W. H. RUSSELL, Times correspondent, who, tersely says, "If singleness of heart, true charity, and Christian works, if trials and suffering, dangers and perils, encountered boldly by a helpless woman on her errand of mercy in the camp and in the battle field can excite sympathy or move curiosity, Mary SEACOLE will have many friends and many readers"

1881 census entry for Mary SEACOLE

Saturday May 28th 1881

Death of a distinguished Crimean nurse.

The trustees of the fund established some time since on behalf of Mrs Mary SEACOLE, wish it to be known that she died on the 14th inst. The deceased it will be remembered greatly distinguished herself as a nurse on the battlefield and in hospitals during the Crimean war. A Creole she was born in Jamaica early in the present century and from childhood was instructed by her mother in the art of nursing. In 1855, after it had been announced that no more nurses were required in the Crimea, she established a mess table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent soldiers at Balaclava, where she landed in the month of February. She was present at many battles, and at the risk of her life often carried the wounded off the field. Before Sebastopol she was a patient nurse among those stricken with cholera and when she returned to England after the peace she was ruined in fortune and injured in health. The sum raised for Mrs SEACOLE enabled her to end her days in ease and comfort.

The fund referred to was started, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Duke of Cambridge being patrons/

Strange to say she has bequeathed all her property to persons of title.

In 1857 she published an autobiography entitled , "Wonderful adventures in many lands" the preface being written by Dr W. H. RUSSELL.

Illustrated London news

August 5th 1881

The will of Mrs Mary SEACOLE formerly of Jamaica but late of No 3 Cambridge St, Edgware Rd, who died on May 14th last, was proved on the 11th ult by William Nielson FARQUHARSON the surviving executor, the personal estate amounting to £2600. The testatrix, among other legacies bequeaths £100 to the Cambridge Institution for Soldier's Orphans, £50 to purchase a ring to Henry MONTAGU, Lord ROKEBY as a slight acknowledgement of his many kindnesses, £50 to purchase a jewel or some other ornament to Colonel Hussey Fane KEANE in acknowledgement of his many kindnesses, to Count GLEICHER, the diamond ring presented to her husband by his godfather Viscount HOOD, and £50 to Count GLEICHER'S eldest daughter, her best pearl ornaments, and to each of his other children 19 guineas. The residue of her property she leaves to her sister Mrs GRANT.

Wonderful adventures of Mrs SEACOLE in many lands, read it here


Copyright 2002 / To date