THE fight to save a piece of Havant’s heritage is gathering momentum.
People from across Havant, including the area’s heritage champion, have spoken of their desire for the antique tiles in the War Memorial Hospital to be saved.
David Guest, the council’s deputy leader and heritage champion, has said he would not want to see the 1930s building pulled down.
It comes as Havant and Bedhampton Community Board, made up of community leaders and local residents’ associations, has voted unanimously for the tiles to be saved.
As previously reported, NHS Hampshire is set to close the building in Cross Way next month and sell it to developers to pay for the new Oak Park Community Clinic, which is set to open next year.
But the Royal Doulton tiles in the old children’s ward, which depict nursery rhymes and are thought to be unique, could cost between £10,000 and £20,000 to remove intact.
Community leaders say the tiles should be removed and installed in Havant’s museum.
Ann Griffiths, who sits on the board, said: ‘They are of great historical value and probably a unique design for Havant.
‘The children’s ward was built for King George V’s Silver Jubilee.’
The board has now written to Cllr Guest, who has asked the board to come up with a ‘heritage justification’ – namely to definitively prove the tiles are of historic interest.
Mrs Griffiths, a member of conservation group Bosmere Hundred Society, says the tiles were designed by William Rowe, who worked for Doulton from 1883 to 1939 and was one of their principal artists.
Examples of his work can be found in the Victoria and Albert museum in London.
Cllr Guest said one simple way of safeguarding the tiles would be not to bulldoze the building.
He said it could be possible for a developer to modernise the building and the children’s ward could be turned into a nursery school.
He said: ‘From a heritage point of view, I would like to see the building retained.
‘I would not like to see it demolished. But the NHS must get the best price it can to help with the cost of Oak Park. I’d like to see it stay as it is as it’s very much part of Havant’s heritage.’
He said the council could not offer any money, but could offer its political weight by backing any bid to save the tiles.
NHS Hampshire is currently getting a specialist valuer to put a price on the tiles.
As reported previously, Colin Farren, from Emsworth, who runs Jago Developments in Chichester, has offered to help cover the cost of removing the tiles as a goodwill gesture. NHS Hampshire is in talks with the company to see if this is feasible.