‘The kitchen became my domain’
In 1981, after the name ‘St Wilfrid’s’ was chosen for Eastbourne’s new independent hospice, number 2 Mill Gap Road came onto the market. Thanks to a generous donation of £90,000 from an anonymous donor, its purchase became possible and the hospice project was registered as a charity. Then, in January 1982 – just one year after the first meeting of the steering committee – the house was secured, and the Nurses and volunteers moved in.
Recently, we heard from Ruby Clemence, née Seymour, who was a cook at the first hospice in Mill Gap Road and helped to oversee the preparations of the house and the kitchen before the first patients arrived. She has kindly shared her memories with us.
‘Once the house for the original hospice had been brought and the builders had done their bit, the cleaning ready for the patients had to be done. A small group of us, from all walks of life, got together and took down old curtains, scrubbed floors, and anything else that was needed. How we enjoyed getting dirty for a good cause!
‘This all done, other things had to be thought of, such as staff, and this is where I came in. A cook was needed and as that was my work, the kitchen became my domain.
‘Marks & Spencer offered to supply anything we needed for the kitchen. One of our volunteers and myself were invited to lunch at M&S and then to choose anything at all that we needed for our kitchen. What fun buying all that equipment and not paying for it! (But still very thoughtful of M&S).
‘My time at the hospice was a really happy time, getting to know the patients and the staff, even though of course there was sadness as well.
‘One lady, I remember, made a quilt for every bed in the hospice. I often wonder what happened to them; maybe they had been washed too often!
‘I loved my time there but remarried and my husband wanted me at home with him. That lovely place could take you over!’
We also received this memory from Mary Feeney, who worked for Marks & Spencer at the time:
‘When I worked at Marks & Spencer in Eastbourne in the early eighties, I remember myself and my manager Frank Green visiting the house in Mill Gap Road, which was to become the hospice. M&S were donating the cost of fitting the kitchen, along with many other local companies who were donating items. I think it was a great gift and was glad to be involved.’