November 1, 2019|News

Beverley Babes turn 80!

On 12 October 2019, over 30 Beverley Babes and their families joined together at St Nicholas Church for a service and exhibition to commemorate the 80 year anniversary of the Beverley Babes.

It was a day filled with reminiscences, questions and coincidences, culminating in a beautiful and, at times, emotional service led by Reverend Jane Isaac.

Beverley House, along the Southwick Road a short way from the Church crossroads, was used as a naval maternity home from 2 September 1939 until June 1946. It estimated that 2000 babies were born at Beverley, with some babies given the name ‘Beverley’ – including the boys!

Pamela, our first visitor of the day, was one of the earliest Beverley Babes as she was born on 4 October 1939, a month after the maternity home moved to Beverley.

We had a brother and sister, both born at Beverley – a lady born on a plank placed over a bath because there were no beds available – a baby girl whose life was saved by the Matron’s instance that the doctors operate – a baby weighing in at 9lbs 14oz (4.48kg)!

Overheard were exclamations of “I didn’t know he/she was a Babe!” as people they had known for years were recognised.

Weather was a big topic – when isn’t it? Many stories were recounted of the Mums journeys to Wickham in deep snow and visitors struggling to visit, abandoning bicycles in the snow drifts on Portsdown Hill.

I was born on 29 April 1944. My mother was travelling from Portsmouth by taxi; when they got to the top of Portsdown Hill they were stopped. There were tanks stationed all along the Southwick Road so she had a motorbike escort of Canadian soldiers to Beverley House. The next day, two soldiers came to visit Mum to see if she and her baby were well.

Many thanks  to all those Beverley Babes and their families who joined us for the service and those who were so willing to share their stories, both on the day and at other times.

A special thanks to Malcolm Coleman who presented a much-admired original drawing of Beverley House, commissioned for his mother Ruby Coleman who married in 1938, had him in 1939 and became a War Widow in 1940, all before the age of 23 years.

With gratitude to the Reverend Jane Isaac who led our moving service, assisted by the Reverend Dr Ruth Howlett-Shipley; Rosemary Crane for non-stop refreshments; and Sue Deciccio for her support with the display.

Jane Painter

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