First hostile response to Luton Town Council's planned use of Wardown Mansion as a maternity home came in the Beds & Herts Saturday Telegraph of February 1st, 1919, under the heading 'Hands off Wardown'. It read:
If there is one question upon which the Press of the country is in complete unanimity, it is that the welfare of the child is of paramount importance. Maternity and child welfare are correlative to the fullest degree, and in the remarks herein offered we desire to make it quite clear that whatever steps are taken to improve the conditions of motherhood and to preserve and create healthy child life, we cordially endorse. It may be, however, that while our aims are one, our methods of achievement differ.
The Luton Town Council have decided to appropriate Wardown Mansion as a maternity home for a period not exceeding three years, but, of course, it will be optional to retain it for that purpose when the fist time expires. We are strongly of opinion that this step undoubtedly taken in good faith, is not in the best interests of the town.
The use of Wardown as a V.A.D. Hospital is one of those sacrifices the town rightly made during the war, but that purpose is now completed and the institution should revert to its proper use as a centre of recreation and amusement for the town. Wardown is the principal 'lung of Luton,' appreciated by the people and fulfilling a worthy object.
The sequestration of the mansion, which is practically the only place on the estate providing refreshment and shelter, even for so excellent a purpose as a maternity home, will deprive the townspeople and visitors to the park of one of our principal assets.
To argue that no other suitable place could be found rather belittles the imagination of our Council. We are perfectly aware of the paucity of suitable establishments, but a little more effort and speculation might have discovered some other possibility.
We are inclined to the view that Wardown is chosen rather because of the ease with which the place may be converted from its present use into a maternity home. The sanction of the Local Government Board must be obtained before the place can be appropriated, and we trust that some effort will be made to acquire other premises in lieu before the Government Department is asked to deprive the public of one of the principal features of our public park.
Coincidentally, we are hearing a good deal about a war memorial and, with their innate pride in the town, the Sworder family are exhibiting that public spirit which makes them a credit and an asset to Luton.
The subject is one of some delicacy, but we are bold enough to hope that the famile, in that sympathetic spirit which characterises their interest in the public welfare, will forgive us for mentioning it.
The suggestion we have to make is not out own idea, but one which has more than once been whispered to us. It is that no more suitable memorial of the great war and of the peace which we are looking forward to celebrate could be devised in Luton than, with the generous concurrence of the Sworder family, the acquisition of Holly Lodge and its beautiful grounds, extending from Castle Street to Chapel Street, as another 'lung' for the town.
The grounds could be made a central ornamental garden for Luton, in which could be erected a replica of the adopted memorial to the fallen on the battlefields of France – a simple granite memorial with the names of Luton's sons who have made the supreme sacrifice inscribed on brass tablets around the base.
We have not heard any suggestion as to the use to which the residence might be put, but here, could it be acquired, we imagine would be quite as suitable accommodation for a permanent maternity centre as the most enthusiastic could hope to secure, with the added advantage that it is central and more conveniently situated for the great body of mothers in the town who would wish to consult the authorities on questions of their children's welfare.
We do not know is Mrs Sworder and her family would be willing to negotiate with the Corporation, but considering their past record we have no reason to think that they would not. Under any circumstances the town has nothing to lose by addressing the family on the matter.
Meantime, immediate steps should be taken to secure some less pretentious place than Wardown Mansion to make a start with the Maternity Home and Children's Welfare Centre.
Hands off Wardown Mansion, please. Wardown was purchased for the pleasure of the public, and for the pleasure of the public it must now revert.
Surely the Council can find an alternative. One hundred pounds a year ought to secure a residence giving ample accommodation for the time being until some more permanent scheme is devised, but supposing it cost the Council £250 a year to find an alternative to Wardown? WHAT IS IT? LESS THAN A FARTHING RATE!
And for this miserable amount the public are to sacrifice just those little pleasures which helped to put the finishing touches to the delights of out public park.
It won't do! Hands off Wardown, please!