The History of the Hospice

Introduction

Photograph courtesy of Janet Jones Photography

Sylvia Graucob first came to live in Overgate, the family home of her husband Find, when they got married. On the same plot as Overgate stood another house, Hazeldene, with magnificent rose gardens surrounding both.

It was not long before Sylvia fell in love with the house. Many years of happy marriage passed within its walls, and she always found it a peaceful place to be. It was only when Find became ill that the couple decided to move to Jersey. The houses were at this time owned by the company, Nu–Swift, which Find had founded and successfully built up in Elland. Two years later, Find unfortunately died.

When Sylvia returned to the house she spent many hours wandering through its emptiness, and it was at one of these times that she had the idea to do something with the house so it would not be sold and converted to smaller houses, which was the fate of the large property next door.

Sylvia looked into buying the house and gardens from Nu-Swift and was successful in purchasing them. Her first idea was to perhaps have it as an elderly people’s home. While she was thinking about the possibilities it was made known to her that two doctors in the area were looking to purchase a large property in which to create the first ever Hospice for Calderdale.

Dr Quinn

Finally in 1979, Sylvia met with Dr Quinn, one of the founders, who inspired her with his vision of what a hospice could provide for the community. In those days there were only 60 hospices in the whole country so barely anybody knew much about them. Sylvia recalled her mother saying "you can’t call it a 'hospice'" not realising they were a rare, but already established, institution in the UK.

Sylvia believed that Dr Quinn and the committee behind him would be able to put her beloved Overgate to good use, and so it was handed over shortly afterwards. Sylvia and Find had once brought a large rusty coloured key home from a Palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice, and with the Halifax Courier present to record the occasion, the key was symbolically handed over. Dr Quinn suggested the name ‘Graucob House’ but it was thought that might cause many spelling mistakes! Sylvia suggested Overgate instead, thus in-keeping with the old name.

From its beginnings Overgate relied heavily on volunteers to help establish it. In the first ten years Sylvia came once a month overseeing the renovations and there were three particularly committed volunteers Mrs Stephanie Rourke, Mr Philip Taylor and Mr Douglas Calvert, who did a great deal for the hospice.  To this day, Overgate relies very much on the goodwill of the community and volunteers who carry out a variety of roles from serving tea to fundraising.

In 1981 the first part of the building to open was the upper floor, which had been the family bedrooms, as an inpatient hospice. At the same time the first Palliative Care nurse post in Calderdale was introduced and it made sense for the nurse to be based at the Hospice. The links between what became known as the MacMillan nursing service and the hospice were forged in those early days. Later, when the MacMillan service became much larger, it moved to the Cancer Unit opened at Calderdale Royal Hospital though both services still work closely together.

Growth

The demand for the hospice grew and in 1994, following a major fundraising appeal, a new purpose built inpatient unit with 12 beds was opened by the Duchess of Norfolk. Overgate Hospice is the leading provider of palliative care in Calderdale along with its partnership organisations.

A Day Hospice was opened in 1995 on the first floor of the house. The aim was to provide supportive palliative care to those with life threatening illness such as cancer, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis, prior to the need for inpatient care.

The Day Hospice has also considerably expanded; with its own purpose built space opening in 2005. In 2008 it opened five days a week offering a warm, friendly and caring environment to help patients and carers adjust to the physical and psychological demands of their illness, offering emotional and social support. In 2011 a further extension was built to offer patients more space and better facilities. Day Hospice patients have access to medical and nursing professionals experience in palliative care.

The Day Hospice can be a joyful place. Patients enjoy meeting each other in a place where they can be open and frank about their illness and experiences of treatment. The staff are caring, wanting to provide the best possible experience for the guests in what are very difficult circumstances dealing with life threatening illness. It is a very personalised service.

Thank You

The Hospice is pleased to honour those who were prime movers in the creation of the Hospice and who gave their time and efforts in the early years. In particular Dr Quinn, Ms Stephanie Rourke, Mr Philip Taylor and Mr Robert Ranson (former Chief Executive of the Group Hospitals in and around Calderdale) who promoted the survival of the Hospice at a time when government funding was being refused.

For all those who have made contributions, we say Thank You. We also say thank you to all those who have made donations over the years and for the all the support received from the community.

Hospice

A ‘Hospice’, was originally a place people came to rest on a journey. For some it is a final resting place and for others an exposure to death which will change their lives forever. For all it is a place of contemplation, a place of transforming identities and reassessing values. It is a place where the deepest desires of one’s heart are, for some, finally revealed, and a place where the love of those close to you becomes all important.  It is a bridge between the material and the spiritual worlds – A hospice is therefore a very special place for all those who come to it.