Monday, 20 November 2017

Hospital name change victory

THE new Townlands Hospital in Henley has been renamed in honour of the town’s old War Memorial Hospital.

Health chiefs have agreed to call the £10million building the Townlands Memorial Hospital following a campaign.

NHS Property Services, which owns the hospital, announced the decision on Friday and signs with the new name were put up at the building the same day.

The idea was first put forward by visitors to an exhibition to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War at the Old Fire Station Gallery in 2014.

Historian Mike Willoughby, who staged the exhibition as part of the Lest We Forget project, then raised it again following the completion of the hospital in March.

He started a petition calling for the name change which was signed by more than 1,000 people. He was supported by the Henley and Peppard branch of the Royal British Legion, the Townlands Steering Group, Henley Town Council, former mayor Elizabeth Hodgkin and Rev Duncan Carter, vicar of Holy Trinity Church.

Mr Willoughby, from Woodcote, said: “I am thrilled that NHS Property Services has changed the name. This will mean so much to so many people in Henley.

“Obviously it’s what we have been after for some time, along with the 1,000-plus people who signed the petition, the town council and the steering group.

“On behalf of Lest We Forget, I’m over the moon, it’s absolutely brilliant. It is a very fitting way to remember those who died in the First World War and ensures their legacy and the heritage of the old hospital live on.

“The Lest We Forget project would like to thank everyone who signed the petition.”

John Green, chairman of the Legion branch, said: “The fact that the NHS has agreed to the appropriate renaming of the hospital shows the will of local people, for whom the name has significance.

“The original hospital was down to public subscriptions and a lot of local people are descendants of those lost in the war.

“With the war memorial name now incorporated it ensures that their memory will continue in the future.”

Branch standard bearer Brian Hughes said: “For me, it’s justice. Many of the soldiers still have relatives in the town. I’ve got a great uncle on the town hall memorial.

“The old hospital was put up through public subscriptions as a war memorial. We had quite a few signatures so the community agreed to it and I think it’s a great thing.”

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes said: “It’s what we wanted. We were very happy when NHS Property Services asked the town council for its opinion and were fully supportive of the Townlands Memorial Hospital name.

“This is the best time of year to honour the fallen, not just from the First World War but all wars.”

The war memorial hospital was officially opened on June 3, 1923 to honour those who died in the First World War. It cost £20,500, which was raised by public subscriptions.

It closed in 1983 and was then demolished and the land sold off. Money from the sale was earmarked for the redevelopment of Townlands but this only began in 2014 — more than 30 years later — following a long campaign.

Alasdair White, head of construction programme management at NHS Property Services, said: “We are pleased to be renaming the hospital in response to the strong local support for the change.

“The hospital’s new name honours the fallen of the First World War as well as the heritage of both the hospitals that have served the Henley area since then.

“We look forward to the official opening ceremony of Townlands Memorial Hospital in 2017.”

The new hospital already has a memorial board with the names of the town’s fallen soldiers on the first floor.

The Lest We Forget Project, which was funded by the Henley Standard, the National Lottery and donations from the public, was founded by Mr Willoughby and aims to identify and celebrate every serviceman from the Henley area who died as a result of the First World War.

It organised for three new war memorials to commemorate those who died in the conflict, including those whose names were not on the existing memorials, to be installed at the town hall, Holy Trinity Church and ?????

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