Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedford Hospital nursery rhyme tiles proposal is 'cultural vandalism'

Victoria Ward tiles Image copyright MJ Richardson/Geograph
Image caption Each tile cost 20 guineas and feature stories including "Whittington and his cat"

The proposed removal of 21 Victorian tiled panels depicting nursery rhymes from a hospital has been described as "cultural vandalism" by a former nurse.

Bedford Hospital said it was investigating a "number of options" to upgrade Victoria Ward, where the Grade II-listed panels are displayed, to create a "health care compliant area".

The planning application said they could be relocated to a local museum.

Former employee Myra Davies called them a "work of beauty" which should remain.

Image copyright Bedford Hospitals Charity
Image caption Victoria Ward has been a children's, stroke, medical escalation and discharge ward

The tiles, which are subject to a preservation order, were commissioned in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

They were installed in Victoria Ward, a former children's ward, which is currently a discharge lounge.

Ms Davies said: "They enriched the children's lives.

"When the people who [remove them] do this, they will move to other jobs and the people of Bedford are left behind with the cultural vandalism of what they have done."

Image copyright MJ Richardson/Geograph
Image caption "Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle"

Kelly Edwards, who nearly died from appendicitis aged nine on the ward, said the tiles gave her "peace, happiness and comfort".

However, Sooty Smith, from Bedford, said: "Putting them in a museum is probably a much better fate than them being left."

Deborah Inskip, chairman of Bedford Hospitals Charity, said: "I would be saddened to see them removed as they are part of the fabric of the hospital."

She said if they had to be moved, she wanted them kept together and displayed in public.

Image copyright MJ Richardson/Geograph
Image caption The tiles, described as "painted panels in faience illustrating rhymes and tales", were supplied and installed by WB Simpson & Sons. This one depicts Cinderella

A spokesman for Bedford Hospital NHS Trust said a listed building consent application was submitted to Bedford Borough Council following recommendations made by Care Quality Commission inspectors in 2015.

The application says the tiles could be removed so the walls can be "repaired and finished with plaster and hygienic wall-boarding to create a new appropriate and healthcare compliant area".

No date has been set for the application to be considered by the council's planning committee, but comments on the proposal can be made via the council's Bedford Borough Council's planning portal.

Image copyright M J Richardson/Geograph
Image caption The names of 16 female benefactors who commissioned the tiles is shown above the ward's entrance

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites