Historic ‘Victoria Ward tiles’ information board unveiled at Bedford Hospital

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David Fowler and Victoria Ward tiles history panel
David Fowler and the Victoria Ward tiles history panel

The latest addition to Bedford Hospital details the background to the historic Victoria Ward tiles which have been on display since 1897.

The tiles depict images from popular nursery rhymes and plans to remove them from the hospital last year were described as ‘cultural vandalism.’

There were hundreds of objections to the Hospital’s proposal to remove the listed Victoria Ward tiles to “safekeeping”, which would have damaged many of them.

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

“It became clear that many people had never visited the Victoria Ward,” said local historian and Bedford tour guide, David Fowler, who created the information board.

“So, there is now a board in the main hospital corridor, opposite the Ward entrance displaying them and their history in all their glory.

“When the new three-ward (men’s, women’s and children’s) Hospital was under construction in 1897, sixteen Bedford ladies provided 20 guineas each (worth c£2,500 today) towards the production and installation of tiles to decorate the children’s ward.

“The 20 panels, generally 6ft x 4ft, depict images of popular nursery rhymes and are displayed on the walls.”

The artist was Philip Newman, a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy and designer of decorative works, who would have taken many weeks devising and painting the tiles.

The blank tiles were made at Jackfield, Telford and fired after painting by W B Simpson, London, still supplying tiles to the London Underground.

The Bedford County Hospital opened in 1899, with sixteen children’s cots in the Ward.

The board was mainly funded by Bedford Hospital Charity & Friends, who also publish a booklet “Rhymes & Reasons” produced by Molly Taylor MBE.

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