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Our History

Chestnut Tree House is the children’s hospice for East and West Sussex and South East Hampshire, first opened in 2003. On this page you can read the full history of the hospice, from our formative years, right through to the present day.


Our story

In October 1997, the Chestnut Tree Trust was established. Its aim was to help the families of children with life-shortening conditions and it was set up to fund and support the Palliative Care Network.

The Palliative Care Network was made up of professionals working in all areas of palliative care, while the Chestnut Tree Trust was a multi-professional group consisting of people working with children in the community.

Local paediatrician Dr Sue Coldwell conducted a needs study as part of the Palliative Care Network to ascertain the need for palliative care for children. At this time, the Trustees of St Barnabas House were looking at ways to extend care and to take the St Barnabas organisation forward. This was an ideal opportunity for both.

In April 1998, the Trustees of St Barnabas House and the Chestnut Tree Trust formally agreed to work together to provide a children’s hospice in Sussex. The Trustees decided to absorb the Chestnut Tree Trust into St Barnabas and thus Chestnut Tree House was born.

Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra visits Chestnut Tree HouseThe Community Team was launched in September 2001, before the hospice opened, and continues to care for families in their own homes now that the hospice is fully operational.

The first Chestnut Tree House charity shop was opened on River Road, Arundel in February 2002. We now operate ten shops located across East and West Sussex and South East Hampshire.

Chestnut Tree House was officially opened on Tuesday 11 November 2003 by Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra.

The site on which the hospice is built is situated off Dover Lane near Angmering and was donated free of charge by the former president of St Barnabas Hospices, Lady Sarah Clutton, who sadly passed away in June 2015.

Lady Sarah Clutton with Hugh Lowson at Chestnut Tree House Woodland WalkThe land is on a 125 year lease with the rent specified as a dozen mixed lilies (no white ones) and a £1 coin on Lady Sarah’s birthday each year.

It was chosen due to its size, layout and location, allowing families easy access to the countryside and local wildlife, a luxury that, owing to equipment, they very rarely get to enjoy.

Since opening in 2003, we have expanded all of our services to meet the demand for our specialist care, and now have almost 30 staff in the Community Team providing care across Sussex in families’ own homes.

In 2010 we launched our oncology service, helping children with cancer, and in 2011 we launched a neonatal care service, caring for very young babies and their families. When we first opened our doors, we were caring for just 30 children. Now, we are caring for over 300 children across East and West Sussex and South East Hampshire.

Tommy Walsh opens Chestnut Tree House Meadow GardenOn Friday 26 September 2008 our Meadow Gardens were opened by Tommy Walsh and on Thursday 19 June 2014 our magical and interactive wheelchair accessible Woodland Walk was opened.

The project was financed by a Department of Health grant and other specific donations. Both gardens were designed and constructed by Greenfingers, a charity dedicated to creating children’s hospice gardens across the UK.

Due to an increasing demand for specialist care services for children with life-shortening conditions in East Sussex, we opened an office in Eastbourne for our Community Nursing Team and Fundraising Team in September 2013. The East Sussex Office was relocated to Pacific House in Sovereign Harbour, Eastbourne, in February 2016.

To read the history of our adult hospice,  visit our St Barnabas House website.