Specialist care for adults in Dorset with a life limiting illness

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Weldmar Hospicecare

Weldmar’s Story and Timeline

In 1994, we opened the doors to our Inpatient Unit in Dorchester for the very first time. Since then, we have grown our services across Dorset, to ensure those who need our specialist care – both those with a life limiting illness and their loved ones – have access to the support they need.

Back to '30 Years of Weldmar Hospicecare'

As we mark our 30th anniversary, we take a delve into the archives and discover a brief history of the three charities that eventually became Weldmar Hospicecare, providing care at our Inpatient Unit, in the community, and in patients’ own homes.

Look for multiple photos that you can scroll through below – look out for the arrows on either side!


The Dorset Health Trust identified a need for specialist palliative care in Dorset, and a fledgling charity was formed in June 1990 – the Dorset Respite and Hospice Trust.

A local fundraising drive was launched so that the hospice could be built, with a target of five million pounds.

The very first donation from a member of the public was a £1 coin sellotaped to a piece of paper with a handwritten note.

Caroline Nickinson was one of three founders of the Trust – read her account of the origins of the charity here.


Weldmar Hospicecare


Having secured a site for the hospice in Herringston Road in Dorchester, a ceremony to mark the start of construction took place on 1st May 1992.

Sir Joseph Weld had the honour of cutting the first turf.

On 19th May 1992, the former HRH The Prince of Wales visits the site of the future ‘Joseph Weld House’, inspecting some of the early work and the drawings.

The future King also attends the first AGM of the ‘Dorset Respite and Hospice Trust’, chaired by Major John Greener.




To help with the fundraising drive, Weldmar’s first charity shop opened in June 1993, some seven months before the opening of the hospice.

On its own, this shop has raised almost six million pounds! To be precise, £5,971,572 up to 31st March 2023, thanks to the support of the local community who donate pre-loved items and shop there.

There are now 23 retail sites across Dorset raising money for Weldmar, as well as an eBay store.

Meanwhile, work continued at the site in Herringston Road, as construction of the hospice building gathered pace. Lord Digby, the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, laid the foundation stone.



It was the moment everybody had waited for – the doors of the hospice opened on 19th January, 1994, and the first patient was welcomed in.

Sister Chris Barrett is just one of two remaining members of staff, and remembers that the whole nursing team was there to welcome that first patient, and how excited everyone was that they were finally open and ready to provide care.

One thing that isn’t missed is the early uniform! As former Senior Sister Sally Anne Baverstock recalls, “Polyester skirts, which were jade green in colour, and they had an elasticated waist.  A matching blouse had no pockets, which wasn’t very practical – pockets are very useful for a nurse!”

On 8th March 1994, the John Greener Day Care Centre was opened at the hospice. Still ‘The John Greener Room’, it is now home to Wellbeing Support Sessions (a new day care model introduced in 2022).

In April 1994, HRH Charles, the former Prince of Wales, became Patron of the charity.

Although the doors opened in January, the hospice wasn’t formally opened until 31st May, 1994, when Anne, Duchess of Norfolk CBE, paid a visit for the ceremony.

The duchess would also go on to officially open Trimar Hospice a couple of years later.

Anne founded the Help the Hospices charity (now Hospice UK) in 1984.



It was 27th February, 1996, when Trimar Christian Day Hospice first opened its doors in Weymouth in the building that had been the Eye Infirmary since the 1930s, and had been used as a hospital during the First World War.

Weldmar Hospicecare

The name Trimar was created to commemorate three people who had died in hospital – whose names had all included ‘mar’ (Martin, Marjorie and Mark) – hence ‘Trimar’.

A committee, and a charitable trust in that name, was formed in 1985 by the loved ones of the three ‘mars’, with the intention of creating a small care facility providing dignified and compassionate care for patients with a terminal illness.

Trimar Hospice was used for day care until 2019.

One of the things we look forward to every year at Weldmar is our Summer Fete and the first one took place on 27th July, 1996, in our meadow behind the Inpatient Unit.

TV star Martin Clunes has been a long term supporter of the charity, and often visits the fete. These photos show his first appearance in 2000 (we love the shirt!).

2012 was quite a year in the history of the Weldmar Summer Fete. Torrential rain in July meant it was put back to September (where it has remained ever since), and a week beforehand there was an arson attack on the container holding all the goods for the fete. The community rallied, and it ended up being one of the most successful fetes, raising £37,000!

Weldmar Hospicecare

Another lasting legacy from 1996 was the Tree of Life. This was a service of remembrance held at the hospice on 17th December, in memory of those who had passed away during the year.

Around 500 people attended that service, which was to become Light up a Life. Still a very important part of our calendar, annual services now also take place in Bridport, Blandford, Wareham, Gillingham, Sherborne, and Weymouth, as well as an online service for those unable to attend in person.

With donations for dedicating lights in the memory of loved ones, it is also very important from a fundraising point of view for the charity, raising thousands of pounds every year.


The early 2000s saw some organisational changes and developments...


Joseph Weld Hospice and Trimar Hospice merge


Joseph Weld and Trimar Hospice merge with CancerCare Dorset


The organisation is renamed to Weldmar Hospicecare

Believe it or not, the official charity name before ‘Weldmar Hospicecare’ had been ‘Joseph Weld and Trimar Hospice and CancerCare Dorset’ for a short time – quite a mouthful!

The merger of the three charities brought all the services together:

Inpatient Care: There was more sustained care for whoever needed it at the hospice (many people still think of our charity as just this building, but as 83% of our care takes place in the community we now refer to it as the Inpatient Unit, not Joseph Weld Hospice to indicate it is just part of what we offer).

Care at home: The CancerCare Dorset team became ‘Weldmar Community Nurses’. It wasn’t just cancer patients they were visiting at home, care homes, and community hospitals – it was a range of life limiting illnesses such as Motor Neurone Disease, heart disease, and more. A misconception we still encounter is that people think some services are provided by Macmillan. In fact, the partnership between the local palliative care community service and Macmillan ended in 1998. If you were to receive end of life care in south, west, or north Dorset, it would be from Weldmar Hospicecare, and our own community nurses and hospice at home team.

Day care: We continued to provide Day Services, which became Wellbeing Support Sessions in 2021.



Mass participation fundraising events were growing in popularity, and Weldmar’s very first Midnight Walk took place on 24th August, 2007, with 500 participants.

This was a ladies only event always beginning at midnight and taking in a number of different routes and distances around Weymouth. The final Midnight Walk was the silver themed event in 2019 to mark Weldmar’s 25th anniversary, and over the years it raised more than £750,000.

Later, we introduced the Colour Run and Bubble Rush events, which ran from 2015 to 2019.


Weldmar Hospicecare


Another fundraising initiative that was growing was overseas challenges, where supporters raise sponsorship to take on a demanding trek in another part of the world.

Our first Overseas Challenge was to the Sahara Desert from 17th – 22nd October 2013, with 23 Weldmar supporters. Since then we’ve taken on challenges in Nepal, the Great Wall of China, Mont Blanc, the Canadian Rockies, Iceland, and more, raising more than £500,000.

To mark our 30th anniversary, we’re running our most epic adventures yet, to Madagascar and Macchu Pichu.

Strictly Ballroom - Katie and Lloyd

Weldmar’s very own inaugural Strictly Ballroom was held at Freshwater Beach Holiday Park on 23rd October 2013, featuring sixteen local people (with no dance experience) who would be taught a routine by Eileen Spracklen School of Dance to perform on the night! Katie and Lloyd were crown our first champions.

Raising more than £100,000 since then, we have held five in total, and two Junior Strictly Ballroom events.

Taking inspiration from television shows was a theme for a while in fundraising, as we also held Dorset’s Got Talent competitions, and even our own version of Take Me Out!


24 Hour Advice Line


Although Weldmar’s services had been consistent for a number of years, we were still looking for ways to improve, and on 1st November 2018 we introduced our 24 Hour Advice Line. This was a phone number given to patients and their loved ones, which they could call any time they needed help or advice from our team of specialists. It meant fewer people called 111 or 999, potentially ending up in hospital.

Another breakthrough in communication was in 2020, as Weldmar Hospicecare became the first hospice in the UK to roll out an app for patients to record their symptoms on a regular basis. This was certainly a huge help during the pandemic, allowing our team of community nurses to monitor patients remotely and identify when extra support was needed.


Weldmar Hospicecare


It was described at the time as ‘one of the most exciting expansions to our service in some time’. According to their advance care plans, many patients were choosing to spend their final days in the familiar surroundings and comfort of their own home. On 19th July 2021, following a successful appeal, we introduced Weldmar at Home.

Weldmar Hospicecare

This service provides hands on care for patients at home, in the same way they would receive this care at our Inpatient Unit. Our team also provide help, support, and advice for loved ones at what is a very difficult time.

We spoke to Angie, when she was receiving care from Weldmar at Home. She told us, “I want to shout about this service, and how good it is. They’ve been informative, and any questions they can’t answer they will find someone who can. Weldmar has helped me feel secure. I can talk about my feelings, and my fears. I know that I can talk to any of the team, at any time, which is so helpful. It’s not just me, it’s my family too. They are there for all of us.”


Weldmar Hospicecare


We revolutionised our day care model in November 2022, when Day Services, as it was known, was replaced with Wellbeing Support Sessions. Whereas Day Services had been just for patients, the new sessions also welcomed their carers, and those experiencing bereavement. This is more in keeping with Weldmar’s mantra of treating every person as an individual, and providing the best care appropriate to them rather than focusing on the stage of their journey.

Weldmar Hospicecare

Instead of a weekly session with a range of activities, the new model introduced themed sessions such as a choir, gardening club, relax and pamper, board games, arts and crafts, coffee morning, and more. Those attending can choose the session they feel would be more appropriate to them, and not only benefit from the guidance of our team but also the mutual support of those who are experiencing a similar journey.

We also introduced more focused support for carers of patients, with the role of Carer Support Coordinator being added to our Patient and Family Support Services team. The help provided is both practical and emotional, continuing throughout the time the carer needs that support.


2024 and beyond

Marking a milestone in the charity’s existence provides us with the opportunity to pause, reflect and be proud of how our services have developed over the last 30 years from being delivered in the hospice building only, to now where we are in the centre of our local communities and in the comfort of patients’ own homes.

As well as looking back at the milestones and developments in care over the last three decades, we also have to look ahead to what the next thirty years will look like for hospice care in Dorset, which we already know will bring significant challenges.

Right now, the cost of delivering our services is far exceeding the amount of money that we are able to raise. And we are not alone. It is estimated that the 220 hospices across the UK are planning a shortfall of £100 million in funding next year alone. The demand for our services has never been higher either, and people in our care have more complex needs. More people are looking to Weldmar Hospicecare, not just for vital clinical support, but emotional and practical help too.

We would not be able to deliver any of our services if it wasn’t for our Weldmar community. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – you are such a key part of our family. Whether we have cared for someone close to you, or you have decided that Weldmar is one of your personal chosen charities to support for other reasons – from the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

On behalf of every single one of 24,122 patients that we have cared for since 19th January 1994, for your support in the past and the future, an enormous thank you.

We will be sharing more memories throughout 2024, our 30th anniversary year, and we’d love to hear from you if you have a story to share, or perhaps even old photos or video.

Share your memories here


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