Page last updated at 18:05 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 19:05 UK

War babies meet at castle party

Hazel Hewitt, 69, from Norfolk, shows of her birth certificate during a garden party at Hazlewood Castle Hotel
Hazel Hewitt, from Norfolk, was among those born at Hazlewood Castle

Hundreds of people born in a castle which was converted into a maternity hospital at the start of World War II have been reunited for the first time.

More than 2,500 babies were born at Hazlewood Castle, near York, after it was requisitioned by the Ministry of Health for 14 years from 1939.

About 300 of those who were born there gathered at the castle, which is now a hotel, for a garden party.

Guests flew from as far as Australia for the event.

The garden party was organised to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the war.

Hazel Hewitt, 69, from Norfolk, was the first baby to be born at the newly-opened hospital on 15 September 1939.

'Three princesses'

She said: "As I was the first one to be born here I was named after the castle by my mother.

"She never mentioned it when I was growing up and it was not until much later on that I found out.

"It has been a really lovely day, very special. My husband passed away two years ago and he would have loved it.

"It is lovely to think I was named after the place where I was born."

Gillian Dunk, 62, was born at the hospital, as were her two sisters, Susan Eklof, 58, and Ann Bath, 61.

Annie and Stuart Hebden
Annie and Stuart Hebden were born at the castle and then later married

Their father Jack Prince, 83, attended the garden party to tour the grounds and visit the ward where the girls were born.

Mrs Dunk said: "We were the three princesses born in a castle. It is a fantastic place to be born but has changed somewhat from when I was born here.

"My dad was visiting the ward one day when a cow turned up and made its way up the steps and on to the ward. I think a lot has changed since then."

Annie and Stuart Hebden were born at the castle eight months apart, but never knew each other until they met by chance in Selby, North Yorkshire, in 1999.

The couple, who live in nearby Tadcaster, fell in love and were married four years later.

Mr Hebden, 66, said: "It is not the sort of thing you mention when you first meet but it is great as it is another link that ties us together."

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Wartime babies meet at birthplace



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