An historic moment for North Walsham War Memorial Hospital happened 100 years ago this month.
A foundation stone was laid which marked the start of a hospital which has brought treatment, care, and comfort to generations of patients – and a bevy of babies into the world.
The hospital’s Friends group has recreated the moment to remind people how vital public support was at the beginning of its proud history – and still is today.
Friends secretary Angie Batson taking the role of Lady Suffield who performed the ceremony on September 17 1919. Mrs Batson wore an Edwardian-style outfit supplied by The Community and Theatre Wardrobe at Sheringham.
Friends chairman Keith Jarvis said: “We didn’t want this important centenary occasion to go un-noticed, so we thought we would make it happen again.
“The hospital was built using funds and land gifted by local people, after a public meeting earlier in 1919 voted unanimously to provide a hospital in memory of the men who gave their lives in the First World War.
“Although today’s rebuilt hospital is run by the NHS, it still has a big place in the hearts of local people because of the care it provides. And the Friends continue to rely on public support for funding the ‘extras’ the NHS cannot provide. So the bond between the hospital and the community is still strong today – which is something we want to celebrate. “
Work on the hospital did not start until 1923 while the funding was completed. It was opened in August 1924 by Princess Marie Louise. Over the years it has carried out minor operations, and provided post-operative and rehabilitation care – as well as a maternity unit.
It was demolished in 2011 to be replaced by a new unit the following year. The original site is now a wildflower meadow.
Over the past decade the Friends have provided “extras” worth around £400,000, ranging from a new training suite, and refit of the day room, to presents and carol singing to cheer up patients at Christmas.
FLASHBACK TO 1919
Edwardian VIPs wore their Sunday best for the foundation stone laying, a cutting from the Eastern Daily Press on September 18 1919 reported.
Ladies are seen sporting their best hats and long skirts, gentlemen a mixture of bowlers, trilbies and big caps.
Lady Suffield did the honours with a silver trowel, and said simply: “I declare this stone to be well and truly laid, and I trust that the hospital which is to be erected on this site will have a very prosperous and successful future.”
Guests included war memorial committee chairman John Dixon, and high sheriff Mr F H Barclay.
A string of speakers stressed that the hospital aimed to complement rather than rival the Norfolk and Norwich, and the crowd was told that it would cost £4678. Prayers were said and schoolchildren sang a hymn. The day finished with a tennis tournament which raised £5 for hospital funds.