West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
 
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Pontefract Local History

THE PRINCE OF WALES HOSPICE
IN PONTEFRACT


PART ONE - LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS


by OLIVER WALKER

The Prince of Wales Hospice provides both day-care and residential care for people who are suffering from a life threatening illness. It currently employs 100 members of staff and has the support of 300 volunteers in both the hospice itself and its shops. In November of this year the hospice will have been in operation for sixteen years. However, the history of the Hospice stretches back much further than that.

The plans for the hospice originated in 1982, seven years before it opened its doors to patients for the first time. At that time, Dr. Bas Ikoku of the Normanton Rotary Club proposed that the five towns district should have its own hospice separate to the existing one at Wakefield. This led to the creation of the "Five Towns Plus" Hospice Fund which would aim to generate funds to make the dream of the hospice become a reality. It was decided that Pontefract was the most suitable location due to its size and centralisation within the ‘Five Towns’ district. The idea was put forward to the Community Health Council who were very enthusiastic about the plans.

Throughout 1983 and 1984, a total of fourteen support groups were formed with the intention of raising the required capital. The groups organised various events from lunches and dinners to fun runs. These events proved to be successful, and indeed during such an event in 1986 one of the most important moments in the history of the hospice took place. In that year a half marathon was organised in which famous television personality Sir Jimmy Saville ran and was introduced to the plans for the hospice. Later, when Saville met The Prince of Wales, he informed him of these plans and asked him if he would like to be involved. The Prince was so enthusiastic that he made an informal visit to the support groups to encourage and support their fund raising efforts. In addition to this, His Royal Highness would annually play in a charity polo match, the proceeds of which went to the hospice fund.

From that time onwards, the hospice began to take shape. A free plot of land was donated on Halfpenny Lane, Pontefract by the Wakefield District Council. In order to help pay for construction costs, members of the local community bought a brick at 25p each. Finally in November 1989, the building process was completed and the hospice was opened for the very first time. Each room was named after one of the support groups who had worked so tirelessly to set it up.

Initially, the hospice was only able to function for one day per week, and its first year running costs were a modest £374,000.

Further change occurred in 1990. Until March of that year, the hospice was simply called the "5 Towns Plus" Hospice. This changed when Her Majesty, The Queen gave permission for the Hospice to use The Prince of Wales’ name in its title.

During 1990 also, the Hospice was able to extend its opening to three days per week and by the end of the year, was able to admit patients for 24-hour care for the first time in the newly furnished bedded area.

Oliver Walker


Other articles about the Pontefract Hospice by Oliver Walker

Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract Part Two - Support Groups
Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract Part Three - Moments in History
Prince of Wales Hospice in Pontefract Part Four - Flower Funds and Gardens


 

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