Wardown maternity home plan axed

Wardown House 1921

[The Luton News: Thursday, May 22nd, 1919]

The question of establishing the proposed Maternity Home in Wardown Mansion was once again brought before the Town Council on Tuesday evening, and probably for the last time for the responsible committee have found public hostility to the proposal too great for them, and formally rescinded their resolution to embark on such a scheme in the Park.

The Maternity and Child Welfare Committee reported: “The Committee again fully discussed the question of utilising Wardown House for a maternity home, and resolved to recommend (four members voting for and none against) that, having regard to the hostility to the proposal to use Wardown House as a maternity home and infants' hospital, the Council abandon the proposal and rescind their resolution of January 21st last.”

With reference to anny alternative proposal to acquire St Dominic's School, it was stated that vacant possession of these premises could be given by the middle of September, and that any offer the Council were prepared to make would be put forward by Messrs Cumberland & Sons; but the Committee were unable to recommend the Council further consider the offer of this building, as they were of the opinion that it was unsuitable for their purpose.

“No doubt a good few will be able to breathe freely when they read this,” said Councillor Primett in reference to Wardown. It was a disappointment to the Committee that they had no place in which to carry on this beneficial work, which everyone must admit was necessary, but the report must not be taken as meaning that the whole thing was abandoned.

The Committee had received no offers in reply to their advertisement, but they would still try to find suitable premises. The children they hoped to cater for at Wardown, it was probably, would later be dealt with by another institution, and so the scheme would be split up.

It was impossible to find a place as suitable s Wardown, which would have enabled the work to be commenced at very little cost to the Corporation. That the proposal could not be proceeded with was a disappointment to some members of the Committee, and to him personally, because it was a tentative measure and they would have been able to take over the mansion already equipped as a hospital, and could have vacated it immediately they found another suitable place. Now the whole work was knocked on the head for the time being.

A small town like Hitchin, with not a fifth of Luton's population, had a splendid maternity home, but Luton, with a vast and growing industrial population, had to be without it, which was a great pity.

Councillor Primett complimented the ladies of the hospital on their hard work to transform a “stuffy, dirty, greasy place,” such as the ground floor of the mansion was in pre-war days, into a hospital equal to any in the country, and said that while there must be some facilities for the provision of refreshment at the Park, it was a pity that the whole of the place could not be put to some better use than previous to the war.

“We are not to have it,” continued Councillor Primett. “I was told I was riding for a fall. I would rather fall for a good cause like this than for some things.”

If the Council were now to decide unanimously that the place should be used for a maternity home it would be no use, he added. In a scheme of that description they must carry the public with them, and the hostility that had been aroused about Wardown Mansion and maternity made it impossible for them to hope to get mothers down there.

Some of them would remember the trouble the Council had to get patients to go to Spittlesea in the early days. It would be worse than that with Wardown. It would be like trying to drive people into a haunted house.

Councillor Barford, saying he was the first to oppose the use of Wardown House for this purpose, stated that the opposition was not to the proposal to establish a maternity home, but only to the use of Wardown for this purpose. Many of the Council and a large proportion of the public felt that Wardown was the one place which should not be associated with sorrow and suffering, for people went to it to get away from those things, and to take them there would have spoiled the park for its original use.

The Mayor expressed the opinion that the Committee were taking a step in the best interests of the public in abandoning their proposal to go to Wardown.

The Committee's recommendation was approved.