Wartime Evacuee Babies Reunite at Historic Hospital

Wartime evacuee babies at Ashridge House

The historic Ashridge House hosted a heartwarming and memorable garden party to reunite the ‘Ashridge babies’ – the individuals born in the temporary maternity ward at Ashridge House during World War II. This unique event brought together a generation of nearly 100 wartime babies to share stories and preserve their shared legacy.

During WWII, Ashridge House, once home to King Henry VIII, served as a temporary maternity hospital. It operated as an extension of the emergency wing of Charing Cross Road Hospital and University Hospital London, providing a safe haven for expectant mothers evacuated from the air raids in London. From 1939, Ashridge House welcomed 2,700 babies into the world. Ashridge House was also one of the first to receive D-Day casualties and treated over 20,000 patients.

The garden party, held on Sunday 23 June, provided a nostalgic setting for the Ashridge babies and their families. The celebration included live music, a delightful lunch featuring tea, sandwiches and scones, and the opportunity to explore the magnificent House and its beautiful grounds. The venue’s blend of romantic gothic and Italian architecture, original chandeliers, marble fireplaces, and opulent gold-leaf adorned painted ceilings provided a stunning backdrop for the day’s festivities.

David Evans, Managing Director of Ashridge House, and resident historian Nigel Bradshaw, gave heartfelt speeches highlighting some exceptional stories of the Ashridge babies:

  • Rosamund Ford and her 100-year-old mother, Margaret Wilkins, who recalled the comfortable and tranquil experience of giving birth at Ashridge House.
  • Identical twins Pauline Hall and Patricia Nicolson (born 02/08/44), twins Derek and Ronald Palmer (born 22/10/42), and others born on the same day, including Judy Barr and Roy Martin (09/08/44) and Eleanor Ruth Clark and David Christopher Willis (22/03/1943).
  • Couples both born at Ashridge House, such as Derek and Jennifer Palmer, Brian and Maureen Prior, and Carol Jones and her husband.
  • Siblings including Gilly Fisher and Jacqui Grimsdell, and Eleanor Clark and Robin James.

Rosamund Ford shared: ‘We live locally and often visit Ashridge House, especially around my birthday time. It’s a meaningful place to me and my family, and today has been especially magical. We’ve really enjoyed coming together with so many other babies, bonding over our shared history. Today, I’ve even met someone who was born in the same week as me! I wonder if our mothers met back then.’

Margaret Wilkins added: ‘The memories of this beautiful place lift my spirits.’

The event successfully celebrated the legacy of Ashridge House and its vital role during the war, offering a poignant reminder of the resilience and unity of those who were born and cared for in this historic setting.