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18th May 2020

Heritage stories: Early days

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

The gardens had been landscaped and planted up by a team of dedicated volunteers, headed up by Margaret Farrow.

Matron Jenny Wayte and her nursing team were ready to continue the vision of Cicely Saunders, the pioneer of the modern hospice movement, by caring holistically for the whole person.

Chris Holmes, chair; Pat Gosling, administrator; Dr Elizabeth Hall, medical director; and the rest of the of the council of management, were about to see their hard work come to fruition.

It was 20th May 1985.

Timeline to St Helena Hospice's opening day

6th July 1979

A meeting was held in the Grand Jury Room, Town Hall, Colchester, “to consider the setting up of a hospice for the terminally ill to serve the Colchester Health District”. Those present: The Bishop of Colchester, Father Michael Stokes, Dr Kennedy, Dr Rhys Lewis, Deirdre Allen, Irene Overton and some 140 members of the public

July 1979

A steering committee was formed chaired by Dr Elizabeth Hall, and the volunteers of the Colchester Area Hospice Project were ready to take on the groundwork

17th May 1980

A £250,000 public appeal is launched at an old time music hall at Holmwood House School to establish St Helena Hospice, named after the patron saint of Colchester

11 August 1980

St Helena Hospice was incorporated and the steering committee became the council of management

October 1980

Colchester health officials agreed to back a proposed home care scheme “to provide specialised care at home for the terminally ill” run in conjunction with the planned Hospice, as long as the National Society for Cancer Relief would fund it for the first three years

1st April 1981

The National Society for Cancer Relief agreed to fund the home care scheme throughout north east Essex, with the help of Keith Dallisson, District nursing officer for the community, who became director of St Helena Hospice a few years later

May 1981

St Helena Hospice registered as a charity organisation

July 1981

Two Macmillan nurses, sister Nuala Peddel and sister Maureen Percival, were appointed to the home care scheme

Hospice Appeal logo

July 1981

The Hospice Appeal logo was launched, described as “the cross, emblematic of St Helena who carries it on top of our town hall with the H for Helena and Hospice”

St Helena 1981 planning application

30th October 1981

A planning application was submitted to change the use of Myland Hall, a 17th century grade II listed building being used by Highwoods developers French Keir, to a hospice.

Myland 1983

January/February 1983

The Hospice was given the green light and Myland Hall was acquired in February

Duchess of Norfolk

23rd November 1983

Anne, Duchess of Norfolk, cut the first sod in a ceremony in the grounds of Myland Hall to begin the building work, paying tribute to “everyone who has worked so hard and contributed so much”

Myland Hall 1981
Myland Hall 1984
Myland Hall 1985

December 1983 to May 1985

Building work at Myland Hall


17th January 1985

The Hospice appeal reached £800,000

15th April to 11th May 1985

The local community was invited to look around The Hospice

20th May 1985

St Helena Hospice welcomed its first patient, 22 year old Lisa Brenchley

St Helena nurses 1985

Heritage stories

Through our St Helena 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.

Please email if you have a story to tell about the early days of St Helena Hospice.

National Lottery Heritage Fund

Related news and stories


Queen Mother's visit to St Helena Hospice

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visited Colchester on 11th April 1986 to officially open the inpatient unit.

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People's Princess Visit

Diana, Princess of Wales officially opened the Joan Tomkins day centre on 26th April 1988, where she captivated patients, hospice volunteers and staff.

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I planted the long border that goes up the drive

Angela d’Angibau was part of the team of volunteers who worked tirelessly before The Hospice opened in May 1985, to create a tranquil garden for people to enjoy and reflect in.

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Heritage stories: Dr Elizabeth Hall

Dr E chaired the 1979 steering group and was the first medical Director.

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Heritage stories: Mary Fairhead

Mary found the site for the new hospice and was part of the appeal committee.

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Heritage story: Allan Crabtree

Allan promoted the new St Helena Hospice in the community.

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Heritage stories: Dr Peter Kennedy

Peter spoke at the 1979 public meetins alongside sister Deirdre Allen.

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Heritage stories: Lisa Brenchley

Lisa was the first patient to be admitted to St Helena Hospice.

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