MOTHERS and people who were born at Winchester maternity unit 40 years ago are invited to a celebration next week.

Midwives and staff at Royal Hampshire County Hospital are seeking them to help mark the anniversary.

Florence Portal House, which contains the maternity, gynaecology and breast services, is celebrating its 40th anniversary on January 10 with current and former staff hosting a tea party.

They would be keen to hear from people who were born in Florence Portal House in January 1974, women who gave birth there that month and women or their partners who were born in January 1974 who are expecting a baby and plan to give birth there.

Florence Portal House, on Queens Road, cost £1m to build and was officially opened on January 11 1974 by the Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Falkner Allison.

Caroline Brunt, Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust Associate Director of Midwifery and Women’s Health, said: “We are delighted to be able to mark the 40th birthday of Florence Portal House. Approximately 2,800 babies are born in Winchester each year – in the hospital or at home - and there has been considerable investment and developments in both facilities and staff over the years, the most recent being our beautiful new birthing rooms which really are like a home from home environment.

“One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the dedication of the staff to work with women to provide choices and excellent care throughout pregnancy, birth and beyond.”

Anyone who would like to attend the tea party should contact Consultant Midwife Clara Haken by email:

The new birthing rooms are due to be officially opened by local MP Steve Brine on January 17.

Lady Florence Portal was the resident Commandant of the Laverstoke Voluntary Aid Detachment (VADs) of the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance Brigade at the hospital in World War One, between 1917 and 1919. She gave money for three hut wards to be built on the hospital site – Bluebell, Burrell and Blighty – staffed by volunteers and used for military patients.

She was also instrumental in raising the money for the hospital’s maternity wards, which is presumably why Florence Portal House was named after her when the maternity wards were moved to their dedicated home in 1974.