A SPECIAL plaque has been unveiled to commemorate the 80th anniversary of a Second World War emergency maternity hospital in Danbury.

A coach-load of expectant mothers arrived in the village after being evacuated from the East End of London in 1939.

No-one was expecting them, but the owner of Danbury Palace took them in, turning her sitting room into a sleeping ward, and ultimately Danbury Park into an emergency maternity hospital.

About 2,000 babies were born there during the war.

Danbury Park Babies Society was later set up for those born at the hospital.

On Saturday, members celebrated its 80th anniversary and unveiled a blue memorial plaque.

Norman Viney, who was born at the hospital, said: “It was an excellent but very very emotional day for us all.

“Chelmsford Museum committee member Marie Polley had asked her sister who was a nurse at the palace about the history before her sister passed away.

“She started to research the history and asked people to get in touch with her, and a lot was unveiled about the work that the Red Cross nurses did, and everything started piecing together.”

Marie died in 2017 but the society has continued to grow.

Mr Viney said: “We’ve reached out to people and set up a website in the hope of finding out more about the hospital’s history, and now more than 500 people have been found who were born there.

“It has become a lovely story and so much has been uncovered by it, so we were trying to get someone to recognise the palace for what it did though the war years.”

A plaque set in Cornwall granite has now been put up in the park opposite Danbury Palace, which is now apartments.

It was unveiled by Christine Care, the third baby born there, and Sue Littlewood, who was the last.

The unveiling was attended by about 70 people who have connections to the maternity hospital.

Mr Viney added: “I’ve been working on this project for nearly a year to try and get things together and now we have the plaque.

“There has been so much interest in the hospital’s history. People have been phoning and emailing to ask about the story behind it, and it’s just nice to acknowledge the work everyone did at the hospital.

“I didn’t know how the unveiling was going to go but there were so many people who came along and it was an emotional day.

“I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped out with this including the park rangers who have renovated the area around the plaque.

“It is something that we wanted to achieve in Marie’s memory too, and she would have absolutely loved it.”