One of the Test Valley’s most famous monuments has fallen victim to the winter storms.
A huge lime tree toppled onto Florence Nightingale’s tomb in East Wellow on Friday night.
The tree, estimated to be between 80 and 100 feet tall, broke the cross and pinnacle off the top of the 10ft marble memorial and almost jolted the whole structure from its plinth.
Brian Scott, a former churchwarden at St Margaret’s, who tends the churchyard said: “It was amazing that the tree missed every other gravestone. None of the others are damaged.”
Vicar of Wellow, the Rev Chris Pettet, said: “It’s obviously very sad news, given the affection for Florence Nightingale that there is across the county and the whole country.”
He said that the church was in discussions with experts about repairs and added that he hoped the memorial could be restored in time for the annual Florence Nightingale Service held at St Margaret’s in May.
The memorial, which attracts visitors from all over the world, predates Florence’s death in 1910 by some years, as it was the family tomb and her parents, who lived at nearby Embley Park, are buried there too.
The church itself was undamaged by the falling tree, but as the lime’s roots were ripped from the ground, they brought down part of the churchyard wall.
Mr Scott added that a sinkhole, measuring about a metre wide by two metres deep, had opened up in another part of the churchyard during the recent storms and this had been coned off.