12th September 1781. Florence Shore?

Surnames are tribal, attached to property, location and continuance.

Women’s surnames were traditionally unalterable on marriage, whilst men’s were permanent and related to identity and inheritance. But not quite! For often the power of a Will can override the natural and the given.

A notable case resulted from the marriage Today in 1781 of William Smith with Mary Evans. MP for Norwich, a Unitarian and a supporter of the abolition of slavery William was grandfather to Florence Nightingale. How so?

Their daughter Francis married William Edward Shore in 1818, but their children were Florence and Parthenope Nightingale.

Florence’s grandmother, Mary Evans was the the niece of Peter Nightingale, a Derbyshire lead-mining entrepreneur who stipulated that her son-in-law, William Edward Shore change his name to William Edward Shore ‘Nightingale’.This as a precursor to inheriting the Nightingale Family’s heraldic arms, and estate of Lea Hurst, Derbyshire.

Thus Florence Nightingale could easily have been remembered by history as Florence Shore.

The period is that of Jane Austen, when men were expected to have a competency in land, or to acquire this through inheritance, but often with the proviso that they changed their surnames. This happened with her brother Edward, when he changed his, to that of Knight.

Godmersham Park

Godmersham Park

Jane’s father was the Rev. George Austen, who with eight mouths to feed was only willing to part with one, when rich relatives, Thomas and Catherine Knight, who were childless, offered to take the 3rd eldest boy Edward as heir, an arrangement not uncommon at the time.

The stipulation of Catherine, as survivor, was that Edward take the name of Knight, an offer he no doubt couldn’t resist. For now in 1812, Edward Austen Knight inherited three estates: Steventon, Chawton and Godmersham, which also included a manor at Wittersham.


Chawton House home of Edward Knight.

Then Harris Bigg-Wither who proposed to his sister Jane- a one day success- had been Lovelace-Bigg and on inheritance became Bigg-Wither. Jane could have become a Bigg-Wither!

James Leigh, Jane’s uncle became Leigh-Perrot to inherit property of his great uncle, Thomas Perrot of Northleigh, Oxon.

However James Leigh-Perrot tore down his inherited house at Northleigh, selling the land to the Duke of Marlborough and moving to the more prosperous area near Maidenhead.

Edward Austen Knight provided for his sister, Jane, at Chawton and rich in acres, became High Sheriff of Kent.

Florence Nightingale spent her final years at Claydon House, Bucks, once the home of her elder sister Frances Parthenope, Lady Verney, who had married the elder son of General Sir Harry Calvert, after Florence had spurned him.

Harry?: He changed his name to Verney in 1827 so to inherit Claydon.


Claydon House, Buckinghamshire where Florence spent her final days.

Ref: Jane Austen’s Names, Riddle and Personal Places. books.Google, Margaret Doody 2015.

Ref: janeaustenworld.blogspot.com/images.

Ref: wikpedia/edward knight/william shore.

Ref: nationaltrust/image of Claydon.


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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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