A MATERNITY ward will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year.

The Thomas Kemp Tower at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Eastern Road, Brighton, opened its maternity ward on October 4, 1970, replacing the Sussex Maternity Hospital in Buckingham Road.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries hospitals could be dangerous places for women giving birth, as many succumbed to postpartum infections known as “childbed fever”.

The history of Brighton’s maternity hospitals is detailed in Brighton Born, Sussex Bred: The Story of Brighton’s Maternity Hospitals 1830-2007, written by former senior hospital administrator Harry Gaston.

He describes how the original Sussex Maternity Hospital did not actually admit women and midwives would instead travel to deliver babies in their own homes.

But hospitals gradually became the preferred choice for many pregnant women, while a home birth service remained an option. Since 1970 thousands of babies have been born on the 13th floor of the Thomas Kemp Tower at the Royal Sussex and celebrations are taking place this year to commemorate half a century of services.

In October, supporters of the Friends of Brighton and Hove Hospitals charity will abseil down the i360 on Brighton seafront to mark the maternity ward’s 50th year.

Fundraiser Katy Wells was born in the maternity ward during its opening year. She said: “We thought we would go from one tower to another, so we are abseiling down the i360 to raise money for Friends of Brighton and Hove Hospitals. We’ve got some people doing it who were born on the ward in 1970 and other supporters and trustees at the charity.

“We’re appealing to anyone who was a baby born on the ward or a parent or child of one, anyone who might want to do it because they are turning 50 this year – or anyone who is just up for the challenge.”

The charity provides funding to NHS trusts working in Brighton and Hove and Newhaven and seeks to improve the experience of all patients by raising money for extra equipment and services.

Katy, who lives in Hove, said some of the funds raised from the i360 abseil will also go towards the Small Acts Of Friendship programme. This helps improve elderly patients’ social activity and wellbeing while in hospital, with things such as art therapy, poetry and sing-along sessions.

The Royal Sussex is currently undergoing a major £485 million redevelopment that will transform the front of the building and improve facilities.

The Barry Building, which was the original Sussex County Hospital and General Sea Bathing Infirmary, will be replaced.

Named after architect Charles Barry, who designed St Peter’s Church in York Place and played a part in rebuilding the Palace of Westminster, the hospital was finished in 1828 and is the oldest inpatient ward block in England.

Charles Barry invented the 19th century Palazzo style of architecture which gave Britain many of its monumental buildings, including banks, art galleries and other public buildings.

The 3Ts redevelopment programme, set to be completed in 2024, will mean two further levels added to the Thomas Kemp Tower above the maternity ward and a heliport on its roof.

To take part in the abseil on October 3, contact Katy Wells at the charity’s office on 01273 664936. Donations to the charity can be made at www.justgiving.com/fbhh.

If you have memories of the past 50 years at the maternity ward at the Royal Sussex we would love to hear from you. Get in touch at news@theargus.co.uk or call 01273 021386.