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Sally Fogden MBE

“We ought to have a hospice here!”

From its inception, Sally Fogden MBE has been dedicated to St Nicholas Hospice Care.

It all started when she and the Late Rev Canon Richard Norburn encountered patients in the neighbouring villages who were nearing the end of their lives and were unable to be placed in hospices due to their conditions as well as there being a lack of a hospice in the area to begin with.

After treating and helping these people, they both had an epiphany: “We ought to have a hospice here!”

While we know that it was the Late Canon Richard Norburn who had spearheaded the idea of setting up a hospice that would serve the communities in Bury St Edmunds and the surrounding regions, he also had the help and support of certain exemplary members within the community.

Sally was one of them.

A qualified physiotherapist and one of the first female priests in East Anglia, Canon Sally Fogden has devoted her life to serving the rural farming community and the wider neighbourhood in this region. She was awarded an MBE by the Late Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II in 2014 in recognition for her services in Rural Affairs in East Anglia.

A committee is formed

“I had a conversation with the District Community Physician, who I had to work with at the time I was a physiotherapist,” recalls Sally, “and he suggested that I speak to Dr Barrington Ward and his nurse June Storey because they were thinking on the same lines.” They were also thinking of setting up a hospice in Bury St Edmunds, along with John Melleney, who organised medical services for the council and was very, very supportive.”

“So, we had a meeting on a very, very wet night in the surgery and I knew all the right people who were hanging around there at the time and we discussed on what to do. June had just completed a course in palliative care and wanted to be working with it to serve the community.  We then decided to form a committee who can look into this project.”

Sally went to St Christopher’s Hospice in London to seek guidance with the chaplaincy and medical teams there, “which was very interesting,” she recalls, “it was one of the very early ones in this country. Dame Cecily Saunders set it up. An amazing lady who was a qualified nurse and physician and knew a thing or two.” Meanwhile Rev Canon Norburn and his wife, Joyce, went to a hospice in Bristol for inspiration.

“We managed to hire our first batch of nurses through various grants, sources and kind people.”

We grouped together to discuss ideas and we realised that it would take a little bit of time to get a building and what we needed was to get nurses out into the community…trained nurses in palliative care. We managed to hire our first batch of nurses through various grants, sources and [funds raised from] kind people. Our first nurse to go out was June Storey and she did the most fantastic job of running it. We hadn’t really got a proper office…we had a small office on Northgate Street. And we then moved on big time to Guildhall Street. There was a jeweller there who gave us an office.

With a bigger office space secured, it was time for the steering committee to hire more trained nurses, but, of course, more funds were needed. “We had a terrible crisis in the country with unemployment and no money to pay people. The Manpower Services Commission was set up and they would give money to employ someone. With that money, we were able to take on Joy Blake, an absolutely brilliant lady, who was retiring from a very high-powered job and came in as our first administrator and fundraiser.”

“Suddenly Turret Close at Bury St Edmunds, which was falling apart, was offered to us!”

With more trained staff on board, at around the same time, the property on Turret Close in Bury St Edmunds was offered to the steering committee. Sally remembers this to be “falling apart and it was offered to us for a very reasonable amount of money and we managed to buy it and in that we were able to set up a day care centre after its renovation, which was overseen by Tony Redburn.”

From then, things had started to look up and come together.

“It was quite exciting with the daycare centre because by then, we had three trained nurses, with June in charge of steering it. We had the office from where we were doing our fundraising and our very lovely treasurer based there, so we were all together. We had volunteers coming in to help too,” Sally recalls.

Actually, the great thing was that we were experimenting. There was no sort of division as to who did what. So, with the daycare centre, you’d go in thinking you were going to sign some papers, and you would end up cooking the lunch! And because I was a physiotherapist, I could do the physio for anyone.

“I’m very pleased that Lady Miriam Hubbard came in as our Chairman, because I’d invented her!”

Sally had brought Lady Miriam Hubbard into the picture as they worked together on the Riding for the Disabled programme. Lady Hubbard was finishing off her time there and Sally thought she would be well suited to help with the day care centre at Turret Close.

Sally cheerfully recalls, “I’m very pleased that Lady Miriam came in as our Chairman, because I’d invented her! Miriam would be lost if she didn’t have something to do. I mean, she’s such a busy person. So, I came up with this very cunning plan that she could become Chairman and I could step back because I was about to take up full-time parish work and it all fitted in rather well. With Miriam’s help, we were able to sell the land behind Turret Close for a vast amount of money and with that money we were able to be at the property where we’re currently at.”

Sally has only praise for Lady Miriam: “She did a brilliant job. She was a very high-profile person, and she just didn’t take no for an answer. I am very fond of Miriam. I would ask her: ‘You are going to help, aren’t you?’ and she would say: ‘But of course!’ It was Miriam who could persuade people to do things so brilliantly.”

Setting the foundation of the Hospice was “a great privilege.”

Their relationship with the Hospice runs very deep, literally to its core foundation.

Richard Norburn, Lady Miriam and me in what seemed like a woodland at the time, which is probably the middle of the Hospice now, going to cut the first sod with the builders and we were all standing in this woodland wearing hard hats! We actually cut out the sod and then Richard said prayers. We all had coffee afterwards because we were frozen by that time.

Sally recounts this whole experience in setting up the Hospice as “a great privilege. I mean the wonderful thing is, it’s always much more exciting when you’re setting it up. Yes, we’ve got all the barriers and all the correct procedures and all these things that you have to do, which you do have to do.”

Well, it certainly has been all worth it.

“It was very, very nice to have the Royal Family present.”

The Hospice has had the privilege of receiving support from the Royal Family over the years. Late Lady Diana had come to visit it when it was launched as did Prince Charles and Princess Consort Camilla a few years ago.

When Prince Charles had visited the Hospice, Sally recalls him saying to her that he remembers meeting her before in other projects that she has been working in the East of England region. She was rather impressed. “He was very delightful and so was Her Majesty,” whom Sally had met when Her Majesty was presenting her with the MBE award.

“Bereavement care was there gently from the beginning, but then it became much more part of it all which is really good.”

One of the key focus areas at St Nic’s is on providing bereavement care to the families who are grieving and suffering the loss of their loved ones. Sally says this has always been there from the beginning, but it has become much more part of the Hospice’s overall purpose. “Helping the children, I think, that’s really important. We did have the most marvellous social worker who took that on. She was just so good with the youngsters because it’s a horrible time for children. And so often because a parent is often trying to cope with the situation and having to go to the Hospice, etc. It’s hard for the children because they’re grieving too. Our Nicky’s Way programme, I think, has done a brilliant job. I think we need to do more of this and the other work we have got going on currently.”

“We will share this time with you. We’re here to make it a little bit easier.”

Sally sums up the overarching message of St Nicholas Hospice Care beautifully. She says: “Our staff work with such care and compassion and kindness. We’re here to share this time with you and to make it a little bit easier. The Hospice is like a three-legged stool. One leg is for caring in the community; one leg for in-patient hospice care and the other leg is caring for the bereaved. We wanted all these legs to be firmly grounded otherwise it’ll all fall over. I still think it’s the same.”

“The Hospice is there to show (but without pushing it) the love of God for all people and to bring comfort and hope at a time of great difficulty.”

Sally now spends her time working with various rural community projects, such as Riding for the Disabled and the Rural Coffee Caravan to keep the community spirit alive in Suffolk.

Do you have a story about your connection with St Nicholas Hospice Care?


In our 40th year celebration, we want to highlight the many contributions in our Hospice’s history.

We’re aiming to proudly feature 40 faces across the year, could you be someone who has a story to share?

If you are someone who has a fond memory to share, you can do so here.