“Watfordians and their visitors have watched with a fascinating horror as the well-loved building has taken scandalous hammering from vandals. The vandals have had a field day. All the windows have been smashed…and this monument built by public subscription in the memory of the gallant men who died in the Great War, is now in a disgraceful state of dereliction. “
Source: Watford Observer, March 1988.
During 1965 to 1985 NHS services at the Peace Memorial Hospital were gradually transferred to Shrodells Hospital in Vicarage Road. The Peace Memorial Hospital closed in 1985 marking the end of a significant era in Watford’s health services. The windows were boarded up, services were cut-off; vandals broke windows and homeless people moved in. As a final blow, the historic clock dating from its installation in 1931 was stolen in March 1988 during demolition of some of the building.
In the early 1990s, there was a public outcry about the state of the Hospital. In 1991, the South West Hertfordshire Hospice charity was founded and an appeal launched to raise funds for a new hospice. The two campaigns gradually came together, with enthusiastic backing from the Watford Observer, and in 1992 the Health Authority agreed to a Hospice on the Peace Memorial Site.
The Trust Board members felt there couldn’t really be a better site for the Hospice than the old Peace Memorial Hospital, as one recalled: “It was the place of the Peace in the history of the locality and its place in the hearts of the local community. The Peace was always wider than the building itself, but the building was symbolic of that – an iconic building in a way”.
This post is part of information gathered during Peace Hospice Care’s oral histories project 2014-16. The project captured 25 years of Peace Hospice Care and explored the legacy of the Peace Memorial Hospital. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Foundation.
Find out more about Peace Hospice Care by visiting www.peacehospicecare.org.uk or the online project archive http://ourview.peacehospicecare.org.uk/ Oral histories from the project will be deposited with Hertfordshire Archive and Local Studies by end 2016.