Former patients of Booth Hall and Calderstones Hospitals remembered at poignant Royal British Legion remembrance service in Whalley
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A procession took place from Mersey Care NHS Foundation, once Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, and later an asylum and then a hospital for the patients who now lie in the field.
The Friends of the Cemetery are fighting relentlessly to stop the ground being deconsecrated, according to Jean Lord from the group.
She said: “Following the service and the Lostock Hall Memorial Brass Band’s accompaniment and laying of wreaths, we walked to a section where The Booth Hall babies lie on either side of the path.
“The chapels are still standing, just, one for Church of England and one for Roman Catholics. The Legion standard bearers lined up between and several wreaths laid.
“The Mayor Mark Hindle, representatives of The Friends Dennis Buckley and David Fitzpatrick, residents of Calderstones Woodland Group, relatives of those interred and others laid their wreaths at what was a very moving interlude.
“Mr John Rowbotham gave a moving potted history, and the new chaplain also said a few words.
“As the hospital is now in new hands it would be the last time under the Merseycare Foundation. We are indebted to the officials of the Royal British Legion who assured us they will continue the Remembrance at the same spot each year.
“’Lest we forget’ those poor unfortunate souls who had precious little in life except the care and dedication of the teams of carers at Calderstones Hospital.”
When Calderstones Hospital was built in 1915 it had its own private three-acre cemetery, one third of which was to become the Queen Mary's Military Hospital cemetery in which 33 service personnel are buried.
The remaining two thirds of the site is the Calderstones Hospital cemetery, in which at least 1,172 former patients and staff members are buried or have had their ashes interred. It is this larger section of the overall Cemetery, which the Friends of Calderstones Cemetery are seeking to protect.
The adjoining Queen Mary's Military Hospital cemetery is completely separate and managed by the Commonwealth Graves Commission.
It is conspicuously well maintained and cared for, which is all the more poignant when it cannot be accessed without passing through the abandoned and overgrown field in which, with all their gravestones removed, are hidden the 1,172 bodies of the hospital patients, all of whom died after the service personnel, and for some, nearly 70 years later,
The Friends of Calderstones Cemetery were formed in 2006 with the objective of trying to protect and safeguard the graves of the former patients and staff of the Calderstones Hospital who had been buried or had their ashes interred in the hospital’s own cemetery, officially between 1920 and 1989 but possibly also a little later.
From 1920 until 2000 the cemetery was managed and maintained as part of the Calderstones Hospital estate.
For more information there is a Calderstones Cemetery website https://calderstones-cemetery.co.uk or listen to the Podcast on Whalley Local History.