A FORMER cottage hospital built as a memorial to those killed in the First World War is set to be demolished to make way for apartments.

Memorial House in Knutsford was built in 1922, and is to be knocked down to allow McCarthy and Stone to create a Retirement Living development.

The development will feature 46 one and two-bed apartments for people aged 60 and above, or 55 for any dependent or partner.

The apartment building is to be created off Northwich Road after the scheme received planning approval on December 23.

The scheme was approved subject to a series of conditions and a Section 106 agreement relating to affordable housing and local amenity contributions.

Knutsford Guardian:

A remembrance cross in the rose garden at Memorial House

The development will include a memorial garden to reflect the history of the site, and the apartments cannot be occupied until a 46-space car park has been created on the site.

Before Memorial House is demolished details of how the remaining war memorials will be incorporated in the memorial garden or relocated elsewhere must be submitted to and approved by Cheshire East Council.

Knutsford Town Council had objected to the scheme, and called for historical artefacts from the site to be preserved should the plans be approved.

It also called for Section 106 money obtained from the development to provide a significant sum towards improving health services.

Cheshire East received 103 comments on the plans, 98 of which objected, stating the hospital belonged to the people of Knutsford, the building was of historic value and should be retained for use of the community.

They said the building was paid for by the people of Knutsford after the Great War, and the site was not needed for development as enough houses were being built elsewhere.

Knutsford Guardian:

An aerial view of Memorial House. Google Maps

A petition calling on Cheshire East Council to protect Memorial House attracted 4,248 signatures.

Charlotte Peters Rocks has been a long-standing and vociferous opponent of the plans to demolish Memorial House.

She said: “The Memorial Hall of Knutsford and District War Memorial should not be destroyed in removal, but repositioned, complete, at some other ‘suitable site to remembrance’, either within the town or parishes to whose residents it belongs.

“There is a memorial rose garden surrounding the abandoned plinth of the Haron Baronian statue, and each shrub rose had its own tag, stating who supplied it, but those tags seem to have been removed since 2018.

“There should be a list in existence of those individuals or groups whose funding had been used for each rose, and before removal and demolition of our communities’ War Memorial that list should be obtained by the town council and firm arrangements made to inform the giftees and to replant where possible the roses.”

She has also asked the town council what plans it had in respect of the plinth.

Town council clerk Adam Keppel-Green said: “Since permission was given in principle in 2019 the town council has worked with McCarthy and Stone to put in place plans to ensure as much of the heritage of the former hospital is retained.

“The two rolls of honour will be installed in the council offices to ensure they remain on public display. McCarthy and Stone will attempt to remove the cartouches above the fireplace and incorporate these into the new building.

“The standards will be laid up by the Royal British Legion. Any local heritage items, such as the dedication plaque from when the building opened as the Red Cross HQ, will be offered to Knutsford Heritage Centre for archiving or display.

“McCarthy and Stone will be creating a memorial garden on site; this will incorporate bricks from the hospital in the gate piers and the plinth from the Haron Baronian statue.

“The marble dedication plaque will be displayed in the new memorial garden along with an interpretation board telling the history of the site.”

McCarthy and Stone bought Memorial House off the British Red Cross in 2017. About 20 Red Cross staff work at Memorial House, and will be moving to Parkgate Industrial Estate. 

John Morris, British Red Cross director for Health and Social Care and Crisis Response for the North of England, said the roses in the garden around the plinth were planted in memory of loved ones by ex-Red Cross staff and volunteers, as well as family members.

He said tags for the roses had been kept, but it was impossible to say which tags belonged to which roses.

He said: "We’ve considered the roses for some time, as many were also planted by British Red Cross staff in memory, over the years. 

"A staff member, for example, planted two roses a few years ago in memory of his wife when she passed.

"The staff at Memorial House were concerned that when the builders move in the roses might be simply cleared away with the rubble, so agreed to form a work party this Saturday to remove the roses and put them in pots.

"Some staff may take one with them as a memento, and the remainder will be placed in pots for the time being until we know where they’ll be placed. We have already purchased 50 pots and compost for the purpose.

"I’m guessing there may be too many for the memorial garden, and we’ll inform McCarthy and Stone accordingly, but in the meantime they will be retained safely, awaiting any decisions."