'Beautiful' proposals for garden of remembrance and blue plaque to honour legacy of St Clare's Hospice

Proposals for a blue plaque and “garden of remembrance” are being explored to help pay tribute to the legacy of a former South Tyneside hospice.

St Clare’s Hospice closed in 2019 after the charity running it collapsed into insolvency, leaving the borough without a dedicated inpatient palliative service.

Health chiefs have since brought forward enhanced home and community care and in recent months, a new hospice-style facility at Haven Court on the South Tyneside District Hospital site.

However the plans have previously faced criticism, with campaigners calling for palliative care services to return to the St Clare’s Hospice building at Primrose Hill, Jarrow.

The former St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.

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At a meeting of South Tyneside Council on June 30, 2022, it was revealed independent councillors for Primrose ward had submitted a bid to install a commemorative blue plaque adjacent to the St Clare’s hospice building.

This aimed to “recognise the importance of the communal value of the building”, which provided care services for decades, with an opposition motion asking all elected members to support the blue plaque nomination.

Although the proposals were backed by borough councillors, council chiefs stressed that a final decision on the blue plaque nomination would be subject to a separate process.

The former St Clare's Hospice, Jarrow.

An amendment to the motion from the council’s ruling Labour Group for a “garden of remembrance” also won backing across the council chamber.

This called for the local authority to hold discussions with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, as landowner, to commemorate the former St Clare’s Hospice site.

Labour councillor Geraldine Kilgour said discussions would centre around involving the community to establish permanent memorials for the hospice and its origins, including a blue plaque scheme and a garden of remembrance.

Cllr Kilgour told the meeting: “From the very outset, certainly Jarrow Constituency Labour Party did discuss the ability to have some form of permanent remembrance.

“It isn’t just for our loved ones who have passed away, it’s for their families and for anyone who has cared for our loved ones as well, it’s very much something we would like the community to get involved in.

“It’s no coincidence that this has happened at this time but I have taken it to the chief executive of the trust and he finds it timely that those discussions begin, given the launch of the Cedar Unit at Haven Court.”

Councillor David Francis, leader of the Green Group, also welcomed the support for the amended motion.

“I know sometimes in this chamber we agree to disagree, sometimes we disagree to disagree as well,” he said.

“But I think this is a good example, the last line of the amended text, this would include the blue plaque and the garden of remembrance.”

He added: “There’s no need for compromise there and it’s a proper win-win and I think that should be applauded.”

Councillor John Robertson, independent representative for Primrose ward, welcomed the Labour Group’s proposal for the memorial garden at St Clare’s and said it was a “beautiful idea”.

The independent councillor added an application had been submitted to the council to have the St Clare’s building and land registered as a community asset.

Cllr Robertson went on to say: “The NHS foundation trust need to get the message they’re not going to demolish the St Clare’s building, it’s not happening.”

After being put to the vote the amended motion, including proposals for the blue plaque and garden of remembrance, was approved.

Councillor Tracey Dixon, leader of the council, and councillor Joan Atkinson, deputy leader, abstained from the vote due to their involvement in the blue plaque application process.

South Tyneside Council launched a formal blue plaque scheme in 2017 which allows members of the public to nominate a person or building they feel is important to the heritage and history of the borough.

The scheme only raises up to three plaques each year and a final decision on the St Clare’s site nomination is expected at a later date.