THE BOOTH HALL BABIES
The story of the Booth Hall babies and Calderstones role in protecting the most vulnerable members of society, especially during the early years of the Second World War, was revealed during the research of the Cemetery. Apart from the burial records at the Hospital very little information had been retained and even the 99 year old Elizabeth Thompson, since deceased, our oldest and perhaps best informed contributor, was unable to assist with details. Much more detailed records were available in the Reference Section of the Manchester Central Library. The assistance and guidance provided by Library staff is appreciated.
The planned evacuation of Booth Hall Hospital and the transfer of all its patients medical staff and equipment to Calderstones in a single day was a massive and complex task, which we have only recently discovered was achieved via two ambulance trains. These were very sick and vulnerable babies and young children whose parents and carers were facing the uncertainties of the anticipated aerial bombardment of Manchester.
Finding adequate space and resources within an already over-crowded institution must have been very difficult, even after the transfer of many patients to the nearby but already full Brockhall Hospital.
Those babies and children that were to die in the Hospital, were either returned to the Manchester area for burial, or were buried in the most prominent part of the Calderstones Hospital cemetery.
Later research resolved the mystery of the Kirkman/ Whitelegg burial, and also discovered a little of the interesting history of Anthony Irving, another evacuee from Manchester.
But perhaps the biggest surprise was the discovery that during the Second World War, despite being full with its own occupants, Calderstones managed to provide short-term accommodation and shelter for a further 2014 men, women and children, most of whom were evacuees from Manchester hospitals or evacuees from Danger Zones, including London Blitz survivors.
The details of the babies
Please note Anthony Irving who was another evacuee from an institution in Manchester - Park House
Whalley Remembrance Day document
This contemporaneous description of the Booth Hall babies' arrival at Calderstones was only recently discovered. It had been assumed that the transfer had been achieved via road transport, but this brief description perfectly reflects the grim reality of that transfer. At this time it is not known if the two ambulance trains proceeded into the Hospital's own station and sidings or discharged their patients and passengers at Whalley station over half a mile away from the nearest Ward.
Early photo of the Booth Hall babies' graves
An early photo of the Booth Hall babies' graves looking north. The 8 graves in the C of E section are in the foreground, the 6 RC burials are in the distance
The 1977/78 photo
Still clearly visible on this snowy day, it is noticeable that the graves of the children are in perhaps the most prominent site within the cemetery. They would be the first graves which any visitor would see.