Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedford Hospital nursery rhyme tiles removal rejected

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

A hospital's proposal to remove 21 Victorian tiled panels depicting nursery rhymes on "hygiene" grounds has been turned down by the council.

Bedford Hospital had sought permission to remove the grade II-listed panels from the Victoria Ward, renovate them and give them to a local museum.

Bedford Council rejected permission.

The hospital said it would "continue to explore other options to develop the ward to create a better environment for our patients".

"We are aware of the need to balance the current health needs of our local population while also preserving the building's history," a spokesman said.

However, former employee Myra Davies, who campaigned to save the tiles, said: "I am absolutely ecstatic that the planned vandalism will not take place."

The hospital's application said the tiles could be removed so the walls could be "repaired and finished with plaster and hygienic wall-boarding to create a new appropriate and healthcare compliant area" and it was acting on recommendations made by Care Quality Commission inspectors in 2015.

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

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

They were installed in the former children's ward, which is currently a medical escalation area.

Historic England objected to the application on "heritage grounds" and said the removal could cause a "high level of harm" to the tiles.

About 280 comments were registered online on the council's planning portal.

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

Deborah Inskip, chairman of Bedford Hospitals Charity, was pleased the council had "made the right decision on behalf of the community".

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 council spokesman said it was "up to the applicant what action they choose to take next".

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

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