Community welcomes renaming of £10m new hospital

Townlands Memorial Hospital

by Alex Cameron

The £10million new hospital in Henley-on-Thames is to be renamed Townlands Memorial Hospital in response to strong support for a name change from the local community.

Earlier this year, local history project Lest We Forget wrote to NHS Property Services to propose changing the name from Townlands Hospital to ‘Townlands Memorial Hospital’ to acknowledge the Fallen of the First World War and the heritage of the former Henley-on-Thames and District War Memorial Hospital.

NHS Property Services has since been working with partner organisations in the local community who are delighted that the legacy of the Fallen and the heritage of the former hospital live on at Henley’s state-of-the-art new facility.

NHS Property Services, which has the head lease on the new building, consulted Henley-on-Thames Town Council as the local democratically accountable body, asking for its recommendation on the suggestion and appealed via local media for local people to share their views about the proposal with their local town councillor.

The authority confirmed it strongly supports the renaming and that members officially voted unanimously in favour of the proposal in May 2016. The council also said it was aware of strong community support for the change.

Townlands Steering Group (TSG), which represents a very large cross section of the community from the wide area served by the hospital, also wrote to NHS Property Services to say its members had voted unanimously in favour of the proposal in July this year.

TSG is made up of representatives from local parish, district and county councils, the Friends of Townlands Hospital, members of the local community and clinicians.

The reasons given in support of the change by TSG include:

  • The group has discussed the proposed name change several times with no opposition;
  • It reflects the name of the Henley and District War Memorial Hospital, which closed in 1983;
  • The group believes the delivery of the new hospital honours a pledge made to reinvest funds from the sale of the War Memorial Hospital in Townlands.

Local historian Mike Willoughby, of the Lest We Forget project, who has campaigned for the renaming, said: “I am thrilled that NHS Property Services has changed the name – this will mean so much to so many people in Henley.

“It is a very fitting way to remember those who died in the First World War and ensures their legacy, and the heritage of the old hospital, live on.”

Mr Willoughby has secured over a thousand signatures in support of the proposal to rename the hospital.

Alasdair White, Head of Construction Programme Management at NHS Property Services, said: “We are pleased to be renaming the hospital in response to the strong local support for the change.

“The hospital’s new name honours the Fallen of the First World War as well as the heritage of both the hospitals that have served the Henley area since then.

“We will be updating the signage at the site and look forward to the official opening ceremony of Townlands Memorial Hospital in 2017.”

The names of the Fallen from the local area are listed on a wooden memorial board that transferred from the old hospital and is on display in the first floor of the new building.

No objections to the name change have been received from local NHS partners or other stakeholders.

The first amended signs have already been put up at the hospital.