Saint Francis Hospice 36 years old this year

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 August 2020

Gina Suchley with balloons to celebrate the hospice's 36th birthday this year. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Gina Suchley with balloons to celebrate the hospice's 36th birthday this year. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice


Although the hospice opened its doors to the public in July 1984, the story begins much earlier: in July 1975.

For some time, Havering Council had been holding forums for health care needs in the community. Little did anyone know that one meeting on an ordinary Monday would spark imaginations that would touch the lives of thousands of people for the next 36 years and beyond.

In attendance was Eddie Doran from Romford, who raised his hand and asked: “What about care for the dying? Are we giving them the care they need at the end of their lives? Isn’t it time that we had a hospice?”

Eddie’s questions struck a chord. Discontent had been building across the country. The distress of losing a loved one to a life-limiting illness was being amplified by suffering, indignity, isolation, and a lack of support.

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Dreams of a hospice in Havering began. In May 1978, an imposing Victorian mansion that had stood unoccupied for some time in Havering-atte-Bower caught the eye of one of Saint Francis Hospice’s volunteer fundraisers. Thanks to loans from trustees, a bid for £108,000 was placed and verbally accepted by the Heap family.

The euphoria surrounding the hospice’s beautiful new home was growing, before a devastating turn of events. It was a challenge that, at first sight, couldn’t be overcome. A consortium wanting to turn the mansion into a country club put in a bid of £200,000. “We couldn’t raise our offer,” recalled one of the hospice’s founders, Joan Matthews. “There was no earthly reason why Mrs Heap should have accepted our substantially lower offer. Amazingly, bless her, she did.”

As spring warmed into summer, the hospice had officially acquired The Hall.

n Every week, someone will win £1,000 on the hospice’s Lottery. The rollover can reach £25,000.

If you’d like to be in with a chance of hitting the jackpot while doing something incredible for local people, visit

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