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In 1984 founder members of the Hospice, Reverend Nick Gosswin, Mrs Margaret Berry, Mrs Clarissa Kavanagh and Lord Cavendish came up with the idea of a Hospice for the South Cumbria area. With the invaluable help of the community, by 1988 £600,000 had been raised and this marked the beginning of St Mary’s.

The home of the Hospice, a large Victorian house on the outskirts of Ulverston, which St Mary’s still occupies, was handed over to the founders by Mr Bob Wright, a prominent Ulverston shop keeper. Mr Wright played a major role in the establishment of St Mary’s and continued to support the charity when he left much needed funds for service development in his Will.


For the first five years, St Mary’s offered 6 inpatient beds in the converted house. 35 day hospice patients could also be accommodated over 5 days and there was space for relatives to stay overnight.

After opening its doors St Mary’s built a reputation as a centre of excellence where treatment and care was unsurpassed. Joan Pollit, Matron at that time, commented that the Hospice was created so that patients could see what is important in their lives.

“Our team encourages patients to live for the moment and helps them to come to term with things. Finding hidden talents is always a particular joy.” 


Staff, like Joan, knew in those early days that St Mary’s was going to be something special and that South Cumbria deserved a place of its calibre.

St Mary’s became its own best advertisement giving hope and purpose to sufferers of life threatening illness from Grasmere to Grange, Bowness to Barrow. Since its opening, greater understanding and acceptance of palliative care dramatically increased demand. By October 1995, the hospice had given the best possible care to 1,498 patients. Demand continued to rise and it was obvious that six beds were no longer going to be enough.

Construction of a purpose-built inpatient unit was made possible by the generosity of the community who rallied together in a fundraising frenzy. The work was formally launched when Chairman, Lord Cavendish of Furness, cut the first turf. Messages of support along with other memorabilia were placed in a time capsule in the foundations of the new building. The purpose built 9 bedroom inpatient unit was completed in 1997.

Today St Mary’s is one of the largest local charities and continues to be funded mainly by the generosity of the community for the benefit of the community. To maintain current services costs around £2.8 million a year, of which we have to raise approx. £2 million from our supporters.

The inpatient unit serves an established need and will continue to do so in the future. Increasingly, however, the focus of service provision is on looking after people for whom the home is the preferred place of care.

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