Skip to content

Birmingham Hospice Archive: Joining the modern hospice movement

9 November 2023

Our #BrumsHospiceArchive visit this #ThrowbackThursday is a deep dive into the pioneering history of our Selly Park site.  

As it was known back then, St Mary’s Hospice was the first in the Midlands to be founded under the modern hospice movement.  

Established by Monica Pearce in 1979, it became the first hospice to combine teaching and clinical research, and pain and symptom control, with compassionate care – what we now know as hospice care.  

“Even if a patient cannot be cured, they should be helped for free.”

Monica Pearce

Upon retiring from her NHS nursing career in 1974, Monica Pearce decided to use her knowledge to ‘enable anyone with a life-limiting illness to live their life to the full’. It was this determination to provide better pain relief and care that led to her idea of founding a hospice.  

St Mary’s Hospice would be the first independent hospice in the Midlands and only the seventh nationwide.  

The hospice in Selly Park was officially opened by Princess Alexandra after more than £350,000 was raised to convert a building on Raddlebarn Road into a hospice.  

Famously, Princess Diana visited the hospice in February 1984, meeting patients and generating more support for the charity.  

Later on, the need for day care became apparent and an appeal was launched by the Lord Mayor in 1985 for a Day Centre and Teaching Unit onsite. Monica Pearce laid the foundation stone for the new Day Centre on 20th November 1985 – her 70th birthday.  

On 5th June 1993, Monica Pearce died at the hospice after a long illness. A few years later in 1996, the Capital Development Appeal was launched to transform the site, raising £1.5 million.  

From then, the hospice has transformed and grown. The site has seen the development of its children’s bereavement support services in the early 2000s, with a children’s room and sensory room fitted.   In 2014, the Harry Moseley Family Centre was opened thanks to £100k funding from Help Harry Help Others. This space on the Inpatient Unit has proved invaluable for families with a loved one being cared for in the ward.  

Later on in 2017, the Archdiocese of Birmingham gifted the hospice the freehold of its premises. And it’s been onwards and upwards from there!  

Supporting patients, their families and loved ones, has been at the core of the hospice and its services since Monica Pearce welcomed the very first patient in March 1979.  

And we couldn’t do it without you – thank you!