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A history of the hospice

It was in 1991 that the hospice welcomed its first patient through the doors, but the story of how the charity was formed can be traced right back to the 1970s and 80s.

Establishing the hospice

The history of the hospice begins as early as the 1970s and 80s. Discussions were happening between health care professionals, community leaders, carers, patients and many more regarding the creation of a hospice in Carlisle to serve the surrounding area.

But it was a woman called Gill Melrose who really got the project underway after the death of a friend. She saw that Carlisle and the surrounding communities needed a place where people could go “to die with dignity and respect” – and so a campaign was launched to provide just that.

This culminated in 1986 with a letter to 76 local GPs, asking them to support Gill’s campaign. She had 75 replies, unanimously agreeing that such a facility was sorely needed.

Local support rallied around the campaign, with an article in The Cumberland News requesting support and Tom Crellin, president of one of the local rotary clubs, getting involved. Shortly after this a public meeting was held in the Swallow Hilltop Hotel in Carlisle, where a £1 million fundraising appeal was launched. With help from broadcaster Martyn Lewis, the meeting was a great success, with the whole community uniting to make the dream of a hospice for north Cumbria a reality.

In 1990, land formerly used as a brickworks site on Durdar Road was donated by Laing builders and construction of the hospice was soon underway.

The hospice building being built pre-1991

First patients admitted

By October 1991, Eden Valley Hospice was completed and the first patients were admitted into the adult day care unit and the first in-patient (an 11 month old baby) the year after.

By this time the hospice had eight in-patient beds and could take up to 15 people in day care. By spring 1994, a further four beds had been added, completing the initial 12 bed plan.

The hospice in its early days

Opening of children's hospice

Four years later, in 1998, the charity opened its children’s hospice extension, providing day care for children in our community with life-limiting illnesses.

As a result, in 2005 the Jigsaw Appeal is launched with the aim of raising £1,000,000 to construct a four-bed children’s facility. Again the community came together with an awesome response to the appeal, reaching the target by summer 2007.

Eden House Children’s Hospice officially opened in November of that year.

Three nurses from Eden House Children's Hospice

Further developments

Developments in other areas of the hospice proceeded apace, with an extension built for the family support services. Funded by the Department of Health, this £550,000 extension houses our family support team as well as counselling and outpatient rooms. It was completed in 2011 and opened by Andrew Lansley, the then Secretary of State for Health.

Shortly after this, a new coffee lounge area was built thanks to a local benefactor. It provides a much needed informal environment for families and visitors to the hospice, with tea and coffee making facilities and large windows overlooking our pond.

The hospice in its early days

Eden House becomes Jigsaw

2014 was another big year for our children’s hospice. It was renamed and rebranded from Eden House Children’s Hospice to Jigsaw, Cumbria’s Children’s Hospice. Jigsaw was also picked as BBC Radio Cumbria’s first ever Charity of the Year, raising money throughout 2014 to go towards important new developments for the children’s hospice.

Child and nurse in Jigsaw