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Our history

For more than 35 years St Helena has been helping local people with incurable illness, supporting them and their families, friends and carers.

Over that time we have brought comfort and relief to tens of thousands of people. Throughout our history we have relied heavily on the help and generosity of our fundraisers, donors and volunteers. Without them we wouldn’t exist and without them we wouldn’t still be here for the people of north east Essex. On behalf of all the staff and trustees at St Helena, a massive thank you to everyone who has so generously supported us over the years.

1979 - A public meeting was held in Colchester Town Hall in July bringing together a Steering Committee of health and social care people with the finance and legal expertise needed to get the project off the ground. By December an appeal was launched for £250,000 to fund the hospice.

1983 - Myland Hall was acquired in February and in November the Duchess of Norfolk visited for the ground-breaking ceremony as work began to develop the site, while the Steering Committee instigated the work of specialist nurses in the community.

Read more detail on the 6 years of planning as part of our St Helena Hospice Heritage Stories project.

1985 - The Hospice opened on 20th May! We were proud to be able to support our first patient at our 15 bed unit.

1986 - The hospice was officially opened on 11th April by The Queen Mother.

1988 - Diana, Princess of Wales, officially opened the Joan Tomkins Centre in April - built to host our day therapies services, thanks to a generous donation from local businessman Robin Tomkins, in memory of his wife.

1993 – The innovative STARS programme (Supporting Talking Adjusting and Remembering Someone Special) began providing intensive bereavement support for young families.

1995 – The Learning and Development Centre was opened to share our expert knowledge and promote our philosophy of total support among health and social care professionals across north Essex.

2002 – The Tendring Centre opened in the centre of Clacton-on-Sea providing a wide range of day therapies and bereavement support services.

2007 – The hospice was extended and refurbished.

2010 – The Joan Tomkins Centre was extended and modernised.

2011 – The Learning and Development Centre was extended and modernised.

2015 – St Helena celebrated 30 years of supporting our community; radio and television presenter Dermot O’Leary became patron; SinglePoint, a 24/7 telephone advice line and care coordination centre, was introduced, along with the My Care Choices Register which empowers people to plan ahead and share their choices.

2020 – Covid-19 brought many challenges to St Helena.

Through our St Helena Hospice Heritage Stories project we are collecting, recording and preserving memories of people involved at the beginning of our journey, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund with our thanks to National Lottery players.  

Please email stories@sthelena.org.uk if you have a story to tell about the early days of St Helena Hospice. 

Some of our heritage stories so far...

“When I first came up for an interview with matron she said all she wants is for the kitchen there to be the hub of the place.”

Doreen Hill

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“St Helena came about because several people could see that we could be looking after people who we then called ‘terminally ill’, much better”

Dr Elizabeth Hall

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“We needed to raise funds and the response was enthusiastic because people supported the idea of a hospice.”

Dr Peter Kennedy

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“35 years ago St Helena Hospice was anticipating the arrival of its first patient, after six years of planning, fundraising and building.”

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“I started at St Helena Hospice on my birthday in early May 1985, so I couldn’t forget that!”

John Garbett

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“They were still finishing the place off. It was all very, very new. It was literally only just opened and they got her in right away.”

Brian Brenchley

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“I feel very thankful it was fate that sent me down the lane that day and find the premises.”

Mary Fairhead

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“I was very young to be starting a career in palliative care but it was my passion. ”

Sue O'Neill

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“We travelled around the county talking, talking, talking, spreading the word about the Hospice and getting it to be known.”

Allan Crabtree

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