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Baby Memorial Offers New Comfort For Parents

18th Mar 2024
        Baby Memorial Offers New Comfort For Parents
A striking granite and limestone memorial, designed to offer a focal point of remembrance for parents of dozens of babies who died before, during or immediately after birth in a Durham Hospital, will be unveiled in a city churchyard in mid April.

The ambitious £100,000 project – incorporating the unique memorial, flanked by limestone benches and accessed via a network of upgraded access footpaths and handrails - was mooted by two churchwardens from the city parish of St Cuthbert with St Aidan to provide “solace and support to any family who lost a child.”

A working group was established in the summer of 2021 and fundraising has so far raised £50,000.

Durham City Freemen’s Charitable Trust was one of the latest organisations to pledge support - with a £1,000 gift to help towards the costs of foundations on which the memorial stands.

Historically, in the 1950s, 60s and into the 70s, stillborn babies and those who died very soon after birth, at what was then the nearby Dryburn Hospital, were buried in unmarked plots in the churchyard.

Over many years an annual service has been conducted by the University Hospital of North Durham’s chaplaincy in St Cuthbert’s church. More recently “a small but growing number” of relatives have been contacting the church to ask where individual graves are sited.

A church spokesperson said: “The whole issue of baby loss is very current and topical and there is clearly a need for a place of focus for relatives of the babies to visit, reflect and remember. We believe the memorial will impact positively on those seeking solace for the loss of a child for generations to come.”

Artist Impression

The ornate screen, nearly a metre high and some one and a half metres long, will be sited on the south side of St Cuthbert’s. The design, dominated by snowdrops and doves, is the creation of Lara Sparey, a Greater London-based artist and designer who has run her own workshop and studio for 25years.

Artist Impression

“As a bereaved parent myself, the memorial will remain one of the most poignant commissions I have undertaken. Thank you too, to the Freemen, for your contribution to this very special piece,” said Lara.

Significant funding to underpin the project was pledged by both the county and city parish councils. Fees to cover the cost of engaging a consultant heritage arc architect were met by a grant county’s Area Action Partnership.

Further donations have come from the Diocese of Durham, the Benefact Trust, the Sir James Knott Trust, the Rank Foundation, the Barbour Foundation, Bellway Homes. and Direct Giving. Parishioners have also contributed to the fund.

Eric Bulmer, chairman of the freeman’s charitable trust said: “It is a privilege to provide a donation to a memorial which will provide comfort and support to families whose lives have been impacted by the loss of a baby.”