Bedford Hospital must keep historic nursery rhyme tiles

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

Bedford Hospital’s application to remove over 20 historic nursery rhyme tiles has been rejected by Bedford Borough Council.

The hospital said the application was in response to recommendations made during a CQC inspection in 2015.

Bedford Hospital NHS Trust say they’ll now “continue to explore other options”.

The 21 tiles were installed in the Victoria Ward in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee after a group of local ladies commissioned them ‘for the enjoyment of children’.

Campaigners, who said removal of the tiles would be “cultural vandalism” received support from across the country, with Historic England even objecting to the application.

Myra Davies, who launched the campaign to save the tiles, said: “We’re absolutely ecstatic that Bedford Borough Council’s Planning Committee has seen sense.

“The application was so unthinking, we should be celebrating these works of art, not getting rid of them.

“I’d like to thank English Heritage for their support, we couldn’t have done this without them.”

270 other objections were also received with medical professionals commenting that there was no link to the tiles and infection, saying they can be cleaned just like any other surface.

At the time of the campaign, Linda Wilding, who worked at Bedford Hospital as a senior infection control nurse said: “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.”

The hospital had said in its application that the tiles would have been donated to a local museum for display.

However, an investigation by the Bedford Independent found that The Higgins, Bedford, the only Bedford museum likely to store them, found they had not been contacted.

Even so, campaigners said that the tiles would never have been able to be shown in their entirety and would more than likely just sit in storage.

The Ceramics Society also warned that as they were fixed to the wall with render, most of the tiles would be damaged upon removal.

Deborah Inskip, chairman of Bedford Hospitals Charity, added: “I am relieved to know that the Planning Committee has rejected the planning application to remove the tiles.

“This decision is a happy outcome and will be welcomed by both the local and wider community.”

Commenting on the rejection of their application, a spokesperson for Bedford Hospital NHS Trust, told the Bedford Independent: “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.

“One of these options included the submission of a Listed Building Consent application to Bedford Borough Council regarding the historic tiles situated in the ward, which are currently subject to local planning permission.

“Based on the outcome of this decision, the hospital will continue to explore other options to develop the ward to create a better environment for our patients, which follows some recommendations made during the CQC Inspection in 2015.

“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.”

Bedford Hospital NHS Trust does have the right to appeal the decision but Myra warned: “If they appeal we’ll be ready and waiting.”