Historic Eastbourne plaques returned to origins

Mac Hobbs, Steve Tyhurst, Stuart Langridge and Annemarie Field pictured with the plaque in the Hawthorns
Mac Hobbs, Steve Tyhurst, Stuart Langridge and Annemarie Field pictured with the plaque in the Hawthorns

A plaque and foundation stone from the original Princess Alice Memorial Hospital in Eastbourne have been returned to their original site.

The plaque commemorating the extension to the hospital in Carew Road in 1888 and a foundation stone – laid by Prince Edward in 1931 – had been abandoned when the hospital was demolished some years ago and were in a derelict state at the back of the DGH close to the laundry.

They were spotted by Eastbourne residents Fred and Veronica Stoner during a walk around the hospital grounds last month.

Concerned that the plaques would deteriorate even further and possibly be vandalised, a campaign was launched and after an appeal by the Eastbourne Herald and local historians the plaques were moved to the site of the hospital – which is now the Hawthorns Retirement Village.

They were removed by Mac Hobbs from Hobbs Recovery Services and his staff, Steve Tyhurst, and Stuart Langridge, who lifted them on to a truck with a lorry loader crane and drove them to the Hawthorns where they were placed in a flower garden at the entrance.

Mac Hobbs said he had been delighted to help when he read that the plaque and foundation stone needed to be moved.

“This is part of our heritage and of course we wanted to help,” said Mac. “It was a delicate operation as the stones had been there for some time and are really quite fragile. We were delighted to help return them to their original site.”

The original 12 bed Princess Alice Memorial Hospital was opened in 1883, four years after the death of Princess Alice after she spent some of her last months in Eastbourne. The hospital was primarily funded through a public appeal and was designed in a cottage style by architect Mr T C Cutler. Before becoming part of the NHS in 1948, the Princess Alice Memorial Hospital was a general voluntary hospital and funded by subscriptions and local taxes.

As the DGH was built in the 1970s, the need for Princess Alice had waned and it was derelict for some years before being knocked down to make way for the Hawthorns retirement development.

Co-manager of The Hawthorns Justin Bennett said the retirement village was thrilled to see the return of the memorial plaques.

“We treasure our relationship with the local community, so this historical connection between The Hawthorns and the town of Eastbourne and its residents is something to cherish,” said Mr Bennett. “We will be hosting a big party later this year to officially welcome home this royal link between our wonderful residency and a princess devoted to the care of others.”

Fred Stoner said this week he was delighted the plaques had been moved.

“It was terrible when we first saw the plaques laying on the ground,” he said. “It just seemed as if our local history was crumbling away. We are so pleased they have been moved and back where they belong.”

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