WORK is due to begin on land previously owned by the Good Shepherd Church, Five Ashes, near Mayfield, Sussex, to build what is believed to be the first “cottage hospice” in the UK.
The actual church building — a First World War officers’ Nissen hut from an airfield in Eastbourne — will be moved to a new site.
Over the past few years, the Good Shepherd, the “daughter” of St Dunstan’s, Mayfield, needed substantial repairs, and its congregation was diminishing. A parishioner, Adrian Hope, saw an advertisement by the Kent-based Hospice in the Weald, which was searching for land to build a cottage hospice.
Fund-raising was already under way towards a £3.5-million target to build the hospice, which would include a chapel.
The Vicar of Mayfield, the Revd Nigel Prior, saw the opportunity to sell the Five Ashes land and maintain a place of worship. “We had a small but faithful congregation at the Church of the Good Shepherd, and they saw the sense of it. They knew it was time to move on, and with the cottage hospice came the idea of a chapel in the new build. We’d be able to have a little say in its design, and the hospice would pay for it.”
Public consultations were held, where, Fr Prior said, “Some people objected on such grounds as increased traffic and that kind of thing.” Now, however, the church has sold the land, and work is about to begin on a ten-bedroom cottage hospice.
The quality and effectiveness director at Hospice in the Weald, Jo Yardley, who is a Baptist deacon, said: “The cottage hospice will be an alternative place to home, where home cannot facilitate end-of-life care, and it will be as much like someone’s home as it can be. It will be volunteer-led with far fewer clinical staff than we have at Hospice in the Weald.”
The hospice is expected be ready by the end of next year. Besides the new chapel, it will have a café, which, it is hoped, will be used by members of the community as well as members of the community.
“The font from the old church and two beautiful old stained-glass windows have been restored, and will be included in the new design,” Fr Prior said. “I’ve been assured that children from the local primary schools will be welcome in the chapel for occasions such as Harvest, and I think they will add a great deal to the hospice. It will break down many barriers.”
The money from the sale of the land will go to a Church of England charity, the Nicholson Trust, which promotes the Church in Five Ashes, Mayfield, and Hadlow Down.
The Good Shepherd building has been donated to the Etchingham Military and Aviation Preservation Group, which is dedicated to preserving wartime history. It will rebuild the wooden hut at its site in Etchingham, and use it as a First World War museum.
Fr Prior will continue to be responsible for Sunday worship at what will be known as the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, although the hospice also has a full-time chaplain. “I think we’ve done a great job,” he said. “We’ve worked very closely with the hospice, and it’s turned out to be a lovely story: that positive change can be transformative — and it will be.”