THE fight is on to save a set of ornate tiles in Havant’s doomed War Memorial Hospital.
Campaigners believe the unusual nursery rhyme tiles in the old children’s ward are of great historical interest – and could be worth many thousands of pounds.
But NHS Hampshire, which is set to close the building in Cross Way next month and sell it to developers, has said it could cost up to £20,000 just to remove the tiles from the walls intact.
Community leaders are now worried the Royal Doulton tiles could fall into the hands of developers and Havant’s history could be lost.
Pete Walden, chairman of Havant Over-50s forum, said: ‘We are not happy with it. We say those tiles are worth a lot of money and they could be taken off the wall with care.
‘The people of Havant paid for those tiles – my mother and father paid for that hospital. If we don’t look into this, those developers are going to make a lot of money.’
Mr Walden said money from the sale of the tiles could be poured back into local good causes.
Ann Griffiths, from conservation group Bosmere Hundred Society, said: ‘The 10 nursery rhyme tile panels in the Warblington Ward, though fragile and costly to remove, are of historic interest.
‘One panel was installed above each of the cots in the children’s ward, which opened in July 1936. The artist for the tiles was William Rowe, who worked for Doulton from 1883 to 1939 and was one of their principal artists.
‘Rowe had already designed the tiles for St Thomas’ Hospital’s paediatric unit London, on which the Havant children’s ward was modelled.
‘Examples of Rowe’s work can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum.’
Inger Hebden, director of capital planning for NHS Hampshire, said: ‘We had a local historian look at them and the view was although they are attractive, they are not valuable.
‘We are getting specialist valuers, auctioneer people to have a look.
‘We know it will cost between £10,000 and £20,000 to remove them intact. If they do have value, then obviously it has to cover the cost of removal.’
She said they may remove one panel and install it in the new nursing centre planned for the Oak Park site in Havant.
Mrs Hebden added: ‘If we were going to sell the property, we would sell it intact unless there was a good reason to remove the tiles.’
The hospital is being sold to help fund the new Oak Park Community Clinic in Havant, which is set to open next autumn.