ANYONE born at the much-loved former Helme Chase maternity hospital in Kendal in 1968 will celebrate a special milestone this year.

Most people born in the South Lakeland area that year are likely to have been delivered by midwives working at Helme Chase - and each of those people will mark their 50th birthday in 2018.

One of them is Simon Rigg, who was born at the now-closed hospital on April 1, 1968 – the day the one-way system began in Kendal.

Mr Rigg’s late father George owned a bakery in town, on the corner of Highgate and Lowther Street.

“My father went to work at the bakery at around four in the morning, and was one of the first people to use the one-way system,” he said. “When I was born he had to travel the one-way system to come to Helme Chase to see me.”

Mr Rigg went to school at Holme Park Primary, and then Kendal Grammar School at the age of 11.

After training as a journalist and completing his work experience at the Gazette in 1984 and 1985, he moved to work as a press officer and then for the NHS in Louth.

Now he works as a communications and engagement manager with the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

“The job was an ideal opportunity to ‘come home’ and help the NHS, where I was born and my parents lived,” said Mr Rigg.

The old Helme Chase maternity hospital was closed for financial reasons on December 12,1993, and the service was moved to a new maternity unit at Westmorland General Hospital on the same day.

Prior to the closure thousands of people added their signatures to a petition by campaigners, who fought for more than four months to keep the hospital open and retain jobs for its domestic and kitchen staff.

In 1995, the hospital was bought by the James Cochrane practice, and the building was converted into a doctor’s surgery.

“I love the fact that the name lives on in the Helme Chase unit at the hospital – and that my GP surgery is where I was born!” said Mr Rigg. “And it’s great that in The Westmorland Gazette’s 200th year and the NHS’s 70th year I can celebrate my 50th year living and working near a fantastic building with so many memories within it.”

l Were you born at Helme Chase Maternity Hospital in 1968? Do you want to join the Helme Chase at 50 Club? Send a photograph of yourself as a baby and as you are now to Please include some details of your life (schools, jobs and so on) and any comments about the former maternity hospital.