25 years after it first opened its doors, a look back at the amazing community effort which got Florence Nightingale Hospice built

Top: Laying of the foundation stone. Barbara Lucas is pictured second in from right.''Centre: Children from Weston Turville Prospect Nursery raised �30 for the hospice.''Bottom: Official opening of the hospice by Duchess of Kent
Top: Laying of the foundation stone. Barbara Lucas is pictured second in from right.''Centre: Children from Weston Turville Prospect Nursery raised �30 for the hospice.''Bottom: Official opening of the hospice by Duchess of Kent

A sponsored swim saw the fundraising campaign to build Florence Nightingale Hospice start with a splash 28 years ago.

Barbara Lucas swam 100 metres at Champneys Health Resort on New Year’s Day 1986 to kick start her dream of providing Aylesbury with it’s very own hospice.

BH Archive - Re - Florence Nightingale Hospice 25th anniversay - Children from Weston Turville Prospect Nursery Class raised �30.67 for the hospice

BH Archive - Re - Florence Nightingale Hospice 25th anniversay - Children from Weston Turville Prospect Nursery Class raised �30.67 for the hospice

And her lead was quickly followed by plenty of wild and wacky fundraisers.

Half a dozen estate agents pushed a bed 30 miles up and down hills; and a gorilla-suited stranger handed out bananas at a sponsored knit-in.

They all supported the vision that Aylesbury needed the specialist care a hospice offers to patients and their families when facing life limiting illness.

The original target of £500,000 was generously exceeded over three years of fundraising.

BH Archive - Re - Florence Nightingale Hospice 25th anniversay - Official opening of the Florence Nightingale House Hospice in December 1989 by the Duchess of Kent - pictured is the Duchess meeting wellwishers before she leaves

BH Archive - Re - Florence Nightingale Hospice 25th anniversay - Official opening of the Florence Nightingale House Hospice in December 1989 by the Duchess of Kent - pictured is the Duchess meeting wellwishers before she leaves

And this month the Florence Nightingale Hospice is celebrating its silver anniversary.

Twenty people who were part of the original fund raising team, including Mrs Lucas, were last week presented with boxed pin badges during a reception at the Occulus in the district council offices.

Executive director Sue Jenkins said: “We are thrilled to gather together the founder members who set up the capital campaign 28 years ago, to celebrate their hugh achievement and dedication in starting this wonderful hospice.”

In January 1988 the first brick was laid to start the building on the site of Stoke Mandeville Hospital and it opened nine months later.

Then on December 7 1989 it was offically opened by the Duchess of Kent.

Miss Jenkins said: “It is a great asset to Aylesbury to have a hospice, and we benefit from the fact it is long established and well respected.

“It is a local hospice for local people who are motivated to help raise funds.”

Local involvement has been evident from the start.

Mrs Lucas is a member of the family who founded Aylesbury business Lucas World of Furniture.

Even the name of the hospice was chosen to honour local history. Florence Nightingale had strong links with the area and regularly stayed at Claydon House.

The design and building of the Royal Bucks Hospital followed the recommendations she set out in ‘Notes on Hospitals’.

The 12-bed hospice is part funded by the NHS but many of the services are fully reliant on fundraising. These include the day hospice, the lymphoedemo clinic and Florrie’s Children’s Team.

Pallative care is offered to patients and their families who are facing any life limiting illness, and more than 3,000 have been helped since the hospice opened.

The average length of stay is seven days, and patients are also cared for in their own homes.

Fundraising events are ongoing but in the 25th anniversary year they are bigger and better than ever.

Strictly Florence on October 6 at the Waterside is one of the highest profile and most eagerly anticipated events. A VIP panel of judges headed by Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood and including Waterside panto star Anita Dobson and professional dancer Scott Cole will vote on 12 dancing couples from across the Vale.

The Aylesbury Superhero Run takes place on October 13, giving a chance to all ages to run, walk, jog or crawl on a 5k route.

Aylesbury Beer Festival on October 18 and 19 at the Bucks CC Sport and Social Club in Stoke Mandeville offers 25 beers, ciders, perry, hot and cold food and live music.

More events are planned and will include open gardens, quiz nights, a visit to Speakers House, a gala concert and a flower festival.

The anniversary year will end with a service of thanksgiving in October next year at St Mary’s Church in Aylesbury.

Miss Jenkins said:“I feel privileged to build on the legacy we inherited, and hope that we can continue to raise the funds to deliver the hospice services.”