Our History

The history and growth of the modern hospice movement is founded on the pioneering work of Dame Cicely Saunders at St Christopher’s Hospice in south London, which she opened in 1967.

More than anyone else, Dame Cicely was responsible for establishing the practice and culture of 'holistic' hospice care. Her concept of ‘total pain’ went beyond the physical to include emotional, spiritual and psychological aspects of suffering. She insisted that dying people needed dignity, compassion and respect, and she regarded every person as an individual to the end.

Following a visit to St Christopher’s Hospice in 1972, a group of District Nurses based in Somerstown started to campaign and fundraise for a hospice to serve the people of Portsmouth. In 1984, Lord Mayor John Marshall launched an appeal for the ‘Portsmouth Area Hospice’.

The history of Rowans Hospice began in 1991. Squire Robin Thistlethwayte donated 3.2 acres of land as the site for the hospice and the foundation stone was laid in 1994. On the 25th October of that year, the hospice opened with 10 beds, with an official opening by HRH Princess Alexandra taking place on 1st November.

The In-Patient unit was expanded to accommodate 19 patients in 2003 and a new physiotherapy suite was also added. Further developments, including a new hospice Chapel and the Heath Centre to support newly diagnosed people with life-limiting illnesses, followed, and in 2007, with funds from Children in Need, a project worker was recruited to the Rowans Meerkat Service to work specifically with children and young people experiencing loss and bereavement.

The services offered by the Hospice have continued to grow, including a Hospice at Home service, the Living Well Centre which opened in November 2016. Rowans Hospice celebrated their 20th Anniversary in 2014 and are celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2019.

Our Name

The Rowan tree is small yet incredibly bold. Its leaves, blossoms and berries make exceptionally colourful statements on the face of the land. The legends associated with the Rowan are also bold and dramatic, making it a tree you cannot ignore.

In Scotland the magical and protective qualities of the Rowan tree were recognised and utilized by Highlanders. The cross beams of chimneys were often made from Rowan and on Equinox and Solstice days Rowan sticks were laid across the lintels to reinforce beneficial influences. In Devonshire and Worcestershire Rowan was brought into the house on Holy Rood Day (3rd May) to utilize its protective qualities.