Havant hospital nursery rhyme tiles get a bit of TLC after 75 years

CAREFUL The tiles from Havant War Memorial Hospital being restored in Shropshire
CAREFUL The tiles from Havant War Memorial Hospital being restored in Shropshire
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THE tiles have lasted remarkably well considering they are 75 years old.

But a bit of tender loving care has made these historic nursery rhyme tiles look no older than the day they were mounted at Havant’s War Memorial Hospital.

The 10 panels, which depict nursery rhymes such as Little Boy Blue and Little Miss Muffett, are being lovingly restored at a specialist firm in Shropshire.

They were removed from the hospital – which closed last year – in March.

Since then, they have been cleaned and smartened up and will be put in frames, ready to be returned to Havant for a public exhibition.

The Royal Doulton tiles were the subject of a spirited campaign to save them as the hospital being sold left their future in doubt.

A total of £25,000 was finally secured to save them using cash from the NHS Hampshire’s charitable fund and the sale of the building to a care provider.

Director of Heritage Tile Conservation Ltd Jeremy Southorn said: ‘As panels go, they are of very good quality.

‘We have probably restored more than 500 panels from hospitals and local authorities over the years.

‘It’s quite a nice thing to be able to do and every job is slightly different.’

By coincidence, Mr Southorn has his own connection with the tiles, having lived in Havant as a young child before his family moved to Shropshire.

He said: ‘I have been doing this for 30 years. We were first contacted about this 12 years ago. Some of these jobs get put on the backburner and never come to fruition.

‘We hope to get them back to Havant in October.’

It is hoped to have an exhibition in the new year at The Spring.

The tiles will be looked after by Hampshire’s museum service.

Kate Turner, chairwoman of Havant and Bedhampton Community Network, which led the tiles campaign, said: ‘I am so excited by it. There was so much support for these being saved. They are a legacy for the people of Havant.’

Mrs Turner is applying for lottery funding and is working on ideas to ensure people of all ages can see the tiles.

Due to lack of space, The Spring will be unable to exhibit them permanently.

Mrs Turner added: ‘I would like a fancy dress parade when they come back to Havant where kids dress up as nursery rhyme characters.’