Thursday, 11 August 2022

Support grows for memorial garden at new Townlands

A MAN leading a campaign to honour fallen servicemen in Henley has called for a memorial garden to

A MAN leading a campaign to honour fallen servicemen in Henley has called for a memorial garden to be created in the grounds of the new Townlands Hospital.

Mike Willoughby, 68, an amateur historian from Woodcote, said he had always envisaged the garden as the second phase of the Lest We Forget project, which he founded.

He would like it to include two memorial plinths and to be completed by November 2018, the centenary of the end of the First World War.

His call came after the new hospital was handed over to NHS Property Services by developer Amber Solutions for Care prior to opening to patients next month.

Mr Willoughby, who has discovered the names of more than 100 local soldiers from the First World War who are not listed on the town’s existing memorials, says the 6ft by 2ft low level plinths should bear the names of all the fallen servicemen from both world wars.

He said: “It would be so much nicer if every time people had to walk through the entrance of the hospital the plaques were there.

“As far as I’m concerned it would be the culmination of 10 years’ work. From day one of the project something allied to the new hospital has always been on the cards.” He hoped Henley in Bloom and the Gardening Buddies could be involved.

Lest We Forget has already arranged for memorial plaques to be installed at Holy Trinity Church and Henley town hall with a third due to go into St Mary’s Church.

Mr Willoughby is keen to have a fourth memorial at the new hospital because of its strong link to the old Henley War Memorial Hospital.

That hospital was built in 1923 as a memorial to those who died in the First World War and was paid for by public subscription. It was closed in 1983 and then demolished and the land sold for housing.

A pledge was made that the proceeds would go towards the redevelopment of Townlands Hospital but this has never been accounted for by the NHS.

Mr Willoughby said: “There should be an acknowledgement of the old War Memorial Hospital. There are still a lot of people in Henley who are resentful of the way that the money from the old hospital just disappeared into the NHS.”

He has discussed the idea with former mayor Stefan Gawrysiak, a member of the Townlands Steering Group.

Councillor Gawrysiak said: “In the past we have had conversations with NHS Property Services and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group about setting aside a small portion of the grounds of Townlands to remember the fallen of both wars and to have a plaque and plinth based on the research of Mike  Willoughby.

“The Townlands Steering Group needs a conversation with NHS Property Services to finalise the design of the art and the gardens as they did say they would engage with the community.”

A spokesman for NHS Property Services, which owns the Townlands site, said: “We welcome ideas from the local community and woud be pleased to discuss it further with our project partners.”

Lest We Forget is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and sponsored by Higgs Group, which publishes the Henley Standard.

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