(Bloomberg) -- Peter Kay wasn’t sure whether he wanted to move back to the UK back in 2011. The former banker at Standard Chartered was living in Asia, but while visiting his parents in England, he saw a newspaper advertisement for Lea Hurst. The stone manor was the childhood home of Florence Nightingale, widely considered the founder of modern nursing.

Kay liked the house’s eye-catching position on a hilltop overlooking a valley and the privacy it offered while still being close to a village with primary schools. But it was Lea Hurst’s famous former resident that made him decide to make an offer.

“I didn’t want to miss my chance to own a piece of British history,” Kay says. “Nightingale’s one of the most notable British female figures of the modern age, and I fell in love with the idea of following in her footsteps.”

More than 13 years after reading that advertisement and buying the property for £1.7 million ($2.16 million), he’s listed Lea Hurst with Blue Book Agency for £3.75 million. For that price, a buyer gets 12,840 square feet of space with 13 bedrooms and seven bathrooms situated on 19.3 landscaped acres of rolling green countryside. Kay says he’s selling Lea Hurst because he’s moving to his wife’s home country of the Philippines, where they own a resort.

The house itself is in the small Derbyshire village of Holloway (population 520), and has an imposing gray stone façade decorated with wisteria and ivy.

The layout is set over three floors, with a gothic arched front door opening to the ground floor, which has a formal reception room. A modern kitchen has granite countertops, an Aga stove and a butler’s pantry.

There’s also a playroom on this level for Kay’s three young children, as well as a room with a snooker table, a dining room and a light-filled breakfast room.

Kay appreciates how much space the place had for his children. “We’ve turned the house back into a family home for the first time since the Nightingale daughters were running around here in the 1820s,” he says. 

A stone staircase leads up to the 13 bedrooms split over two levels, including the principal bedroom with a large walk-in dressing room, as well as an en suite bathroom with a roll-top bathtub and walk-in shower. 

Kay says he was always interested in history—it’s what he studied at university—but since he moved into the house, he was eager to learn more about Florence Nightingale’s life and legacy.

“I’ve become a trustee of the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, and it has opened my eyes to all her achievements,” he says. “I was unaware that she was a genius statistician.”

He’s since started collecting items such as a statue of Nightingale that has a twin at No. 10 Downing Street. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to her with the statute in the background during her 200th birthday in 2020.

Kay has references to Nightingale throughout the house. In a hallway hangs a copy of the Jerry Barrett painting The Mission of Mercy, which depicts her receiving wounded soldiers at Scutari Hospital in Istanbul during the Crimean War. 

Lea Hurst was originally a 17th century farmhouse and came into the possession of Nightingale’s father in the early 1800s. He “extended the home considerably,” according to Kay.  In her writing, Nightingale described Lea Hurst as a “small county house.”  With its 13 bedrooms, it’s very large by modern standards, though perhaps not to Victorian aristocrats.

The Nightingales moved to an 80-bedroom manor in Hampshire in 1826 and used Lea Hurst as a summer retreat, spending several months a year there. Friends frequently visited, and Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell finished North and South while staying at Lea Hurst.

The house, however historic, wasn’t kept in great condition by previous owners, Kay says. It was used as a nursing home from the 1950s until the early 2000s and needed five years of extensive work and “north” of £1 million to make it a livable home for his young family.“Amazingly, all the original period features survived it being a nursing home, like the old fireplaces and shutters and floors,” Kay says. “But we really had to knock it into shape because it had sadly become quite neglected over the years.” 

That renovation included redoing the electric and plumbing systems and restoring original Jacobean stone fireplaces. Kay says he also restored the gardens to how they were in the Victorian age.

“I was basically naive about how much work it would take,” Kay says, noting that it was stressful to have builders in and out alongside his growing family. “But turning it into a family home again has been really satisfying.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, his favorite part of the house is a room that was frequently used by Nightingale herself. It’s his office, which used to be her private sitting room. It has expansive views of the rolling hills outside and a large balcony.

“You can really feel her essence in here,” he says. “It’s where she would receive visitors like cabinet ministers and where she held the meetings about setting up the first nursing school.”

As for who he thinks would be interested in buying the house, Kay says the title deed permits up to five bedrooms to be used for bed-and-breakfast purposes and that he has occasionally taken in guests. But he hopes he can “hand the baton” to another family, one that can enjoy it like his children and the Nightingales did. 

Kay says Nightingale once wrote that it broke her heart to leave Lea Hurst. “I could be saying that quite soon as well,” he adds.

 

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