Bedford Hospital is planning “cultural vandalism” over nursery rhyme tiles

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Victoria Ward Nursery Rhyme Tiles
Credit: M J Richardson/geograph.org.uk

Plans to remove much-loved Victorian tiles, depicting famous nursery rhymes from a ward at Bedford Hospital, have been labelled as “cultural vandalism” by campaigners who say their removal is completely unnecessary.

Health bosses say the plans are in response to recommendations by the Care Quality Commission after their 2015 review of the hospital and they pose an infection risk.

However, a former senior infection control nurse at the hospital has dismissed this claim, saying: “I would categorically say that in no way would these tiles be a source of infection.”

Linda Wilding, who worked at Bedford Hospital as a senior infection control nurse added: “Infection spreads through touch and washing hands after a ‘dirty’ task breaks the cycle of infection.

“The environment is important in infection control in relation to cleaning and disinfection too, but these tiles are on the walls and are able to be cleaned like any other surface.

“When I worked there I was asked if they put patients at risk, but I told them then there was no risk.”

A campaign has now stated to prevent the removal of the tiles, which have a Grade II listing, and people are being urged to register their objections to their removal through the council’s Planning Portal at: publicaccess.bedford.gov.uk

“It’s cultural vandalism,” said Myra Davies, an admin of the Nursing in Bedfordshire Facebook page.

“The tiles were put on that ward and were given a Grade II listing to stay on the Victoria  Ward. The hospital cannot prove that there is any link to infection. This is a top-down approach to creating a sterile environment.”

The tiles were installed in the Victoria Ward in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. They were commissioned by a group of local ladies ‘for the enjoyment of children’. A preservation order currently prevents their removal.

The planning application states the tiles will be donated to an unnamed ‘local museum’. However, when the Bedford Independent contacted The Higgins Bedford, we were told they had not been approached about storing the tiles and they do not have the space to display them in their entirety.

This news has caused concern with the Bedford Architectural Archaeological & Local History Society (BAALHS) who say they will seek to take an active campaigning stance on this matter and draw everyone’s attention to the fact that they (the tiles) are under threat.

A Bedford Hospital NHS Trust spokesperson said: “Bedford Hospital NHS Trust is currently looking at a number of options to renovate and update Victoria Ward to make it a modern treatment space that is much needed to meet growing demand.

“As part of this process a Listed Building Consent application has been submitted to Bedford Borough Council regarding the historic tiles situated in Victoria Ward, which are currently subject to local planning permission.

“This follows some recommendations made during the CQC Inspection of the hospital in 2015.

“No finalised plans have been made regarding the tiles. The purpose of the application is to enable the Trust to fully understand all of the options available and we will use the feedback from this application to inform how we develop the ward to create a better environment for our patients.

“We are extremely proud of the history associated with the Bedford Hospital site and are aware of the need to balance the current health needs of our local population while also preserving the buildings history.

Members of the public can have their say by submitting their comments through Bedford Borough’s planning portal. Head to publicaccess.bedford.gov.uk and search for application reference: 19/00145/LBC