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Newborn Photographer in Fareham Looks at Awesome History of a Special Maternity Home

Newborn Photographer in Fareham Looks at History of a Special Maternity Home….

As this month is Local and Community History month 2021, I decided to do some research into the history of maternity centres within Fareham.

“All of May is the Local and Community History month across the UK!  The Historical Association, which is a charity registered and incorporated by the Royal Charter, supports education, enjoyment and the learning of history at all levels of teaching and adulthood.  Their mission is to ‘inspire, enable and encourage’ people across all walks of life to get involved with history, and the Local and Community History month is one of their ways to do it” – https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/local-and-community-history-month-2021/

One of my favourite TV programmes has to be Call the Midwife.  Not only because it shows the precious moments of gorgeous babies being born, but it also tells us about our British history.  I’m sure there weren’t any newborn photographers during those times.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_the_Midwife

While searching the internet, I came across Blackbrook House, a Georgian residence of John Barton around 1782.  There were lots of the Barton family around Fareham and some of them also lived in Cams Hall where I have my lovely newborn photography studio in Fareham.  In 1928, it was put up for sale at £14,000 with 97 acres – a bit of a bargain in today’s money!  The estate agent’s details included that one of the garages was used as a photography darkroom.  A lovely link to photography!

When I first started learning photography, I was taught using black and white film and producing images in the dark room.  Creating photographs in a dark room is just amazing, there’s truly something quite magical about a photograph coming to life in chemicals.  Photography has certainly changed with the introduction of digital cameras.

From 1950 to 2006, Blackbrook House became a maternity home.  From searching the internet, the first baby born there was Roger, son of Dorothy on the 9th April 1950.  Apparently, Blackbrook House was also a training school for midwives.  In 2000, it celebrated its 50th anniversary, but unfortunately it closed 10 months later due to financial issues.  It opened again in June 2002 but finally closed for the last time in 2006.

I wrote a post on a local FB group page ‘Stubbington Matters’, asking for people’s memories of this wonderful location, and have been overwhelmed by the replies I received to my post.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/700725326798770

Here are some of my favourite comments:

“I do, in fact 16/17 years later I still meet up with 4 of my friends and their (babies) that I met there during our stay in 2004 – fantastic place and very fond memories”

It’s so special to have fond memories.  In years to come, when I think back about my wonderful business at Cams, there will be many special memories for me; capturing so many newborn photographs of my gorgeous littlest visitors.

One person commented about how wonderful the maternity centre was, so I asked what was so fantastic…

 “the atmosphere of the building… walked into the hall and the large staircase all in stone went up to the first floor… I was in the very last room along the first-floor corridor… there were 4 in my room, all the babies went into the nursery at night and if you were breast feeding they come and get you to feed your baby… I remember the night they came for me, I walked into the feeding room, we all had a cup of tea waiting for us and the staff would help you and give you advice and it was so lovely because all the other mums were there we were all tired but all in the same boat, it was so comforting. And when we finished feeding, it was back to bed and the babies back in the nurseries, when I think back to that week it was the best.”

This feeling shared was so lovely to hear, and it reminds me so much of when my visiting parents come into the reception at the wonderful Cams Hall.  My guests always have a friendly welcome from the lovely reception girls at Cams.  Within Cams, I am also on the first floor too and almost the last room at the end of the corridor.  I’ve had comments before that it’s just like walking through a maternity ward.  It’s such a fantastic place to have my studio, just like Blackbrook House was an amazing place for a maternity centre.

“I had my baby in hospital then went there shortly after (around 4-6 hrs after birth).  Stayed for a week with the first one and two nights with the second.  I liked it – a gentle introduction to the routines ahead.”

With lockdown, the new mummies of 2020-2021 didn’t have the luxury of meeting with family to help with daily routines.  For many though, they were in their own little bubble and didn’t have the normal rush of visitors that they would have normally entertained.

“I stayed with two of mine, now 27 & 24.  One of the midwives put my oldest in the music room so I could eat my dinner, and I still have the note she left addressed from him “

“I think it was the room they put unsettled babies in, my son was a little unsettled whilst I went for my dinner in the dining room, I came back to an empty cot and a little note saying where he had gone, who put him there and she signed from my child.  I missed that place when I got home.  The staff were fab.  I got so much rest.”

When new mummies come to the studio, they often say that they aren’t prepared for the effect on them after birth.  I am always amazed at how most mums cope and especially after they have had a difficult birth.

 “I had my daughter on 27 April after 2 days of labour.  Had an episiotomy & ventouse delivery, and was sent to Blackbrook to recover.  I was 22, and a single parent living by myself so that may have had a bearing on being there for a week.

They put my daughter in nursery overnight so I could get some sleep.  I had my own room for most of my stay.  Most of the mums were in a ward.  The food was fabulous.”

I love the next comment, as it really sums up how special this place was for a lot of mummies.  What mums today would give to spend some quality time with their baby with the support of a fantastic midwife.

“It was an amazing place.  After the birth of my first child in 1987, I spent a week there.  The midwife would wake you in the night to feed baby; they brought you a lovely cup of tea and even changed baby’s nappy, so mum could get a bit more rest!  We learned how to bath baby, the best feeding techniques and generally gave you a gentle introduction to motherhood!  In Stubbington we had a brilliant community midwife too with proper ante natal classes!

Fabulous place.  Two of my children were born there and after the birth of my daughter I was transferred here from St. Mary’s Hospital.  It was like a 4* hotel.”

What new mummies and daddies would truly give for a good night’s sleep!

“I went there after both my daughter in 1984 & son in 1988.  The staff were so lovely and bottle fed the babies at night so we could get a good night’s sleep.  I didn’t want to leave!”

When my special guests arrive at my studio, they have a chance to sit and relax and enjoy a lovely cup of coffee or tea.  I’ve always offered biscuits, but it seems that being offered cakes at Blackbrook House was quite special.  So there are now going to cakes for my visitors to my lovely newborn photography studio at Cams Hall.

“Had both of mine (April 1994 and July 1997) in St Mary’s.  Transferred to Blackbrook and spent almost a week there with each.  Even had the same bed.  Lovely memories of the care we all received.  Cups of tea and my babies changed at night when I needed to feed.  So grateful to have been allowed that time, rather than sent home a few hours after birth.  Very special.”

“I went there for a couple of nights after having my 2 in St Mary’s (my daughter in 2001 and my son in 2004).  It was an amazing experience; being given a coffee and a slice of homemade cake on arrival, midwives taking babies in the night to help settle them (if required), the visiting GP waiting happily while I finished my bath!  It was the perfect start for new Mums – no pressure and so relaxing – I felt supported every step of the way.  It was a real shame and great loss to the community when it closed.”

My goodness, it’s funny how we remember the events of giving birth.  I remember back to when I was a child when we lost power.  Today, we’d be gutted if we lost power for even half an hour and had no internet!

“I had two of my daughters there.  One, in 1990, on such a windy/stormy night that all the power went off!  Thankfully they had a generator so I had light to give birth!  The week spent there, after each birth, was invaluable, especially if there were siblings at home.  The nursing staff were brilliant, understanding and extremely helpful – nothing was ever too much trouble.  Very fond memories indeed.”

It is lovely to hear the stories of how wonderful the training was at Blackbrook House too.

“I spent a week there 1985 as a 17-year-old NNEB student and the thing I remember most was another student and I stayed late one day as one of the mums allowed us to observe the birth of her 3rd child, something that stayed with me.”

I worked there in 1995/6 as a student midwife and delivered a breech baby there.  Also stayed there after my son was born in 1991 until they made me go home lol.  I could’ve stayed for months.  Fabulous place and care.”

I love the feeling of having my studio at Cams, it’s so relaxed and stress free.  I just get the sense that the same atmosphere was experienced at Blackbrook House.

“I had my daughter in the summer of 2003, a rather warm summer.  After what seemed like days in labour I had a C-section at St Mary’s and went to Blackbrook once we had got the all clear to leave hospital.  I remember walking in and feeling this great sense of calm and peace after the busy wards at QA.  I think everyone was greeted with warmth and a cup of tea and cake.  The midwifes were just so supportive.  I remember walking down the corridor at about 4 in the morning asking if I should wake baby for a feed, as she’d not been fed since about 10.30.  They told me I was very lucky and let sleeping baby sleep, and made me a cup of tea.”

Sounds just wonderful…

“Definitely a step back in time.  The babies slept in the nursery at night and were given their feeds by the staff.  They were brought to your bed in the morning.  Every morning after breakfast and feeding and bathing your baby, the babies were taken back to the nursery, the curtains drawn in the dormitory and all the mums had to have a rest before lunch.  The cook was outstanding, the highlight being her cakes for afternoon tea.  Very fond memories.”

I truly love finding out about local history and it’s been so lovely hearing all the comments on new mummies’ experiences at Blackbrook.  Thank you to everyone who responded to my post on the Stubbington Matter Facebook page…  “Bit of a long shot but does anyone have any memories of Blackbrook House maternity home?”  And 218 comments later….

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