WHEN midwives, mums and their offspring gathered to celebrate the anniversary of a Hampshire maternity unit they didn’t quite expect it to be such a joyous occasion.

While some munched on cake and chit-chatted about the good old days, one Hampshire woman was about to give birth.

Vicky Butler, 39, from Bursledon Road in Hedge End, started having contractions in the early hours of the morning but still found the energy to visit the ward in which she herself was born nearly 40 years ago at the 40th anniversary of Florence Portal House.

Mrs Butler was joined by her husband Jonathan, 41, their first-born Isabel, 2, and her parents, Peter, 68, and Teresa Taylor, 63, who live at Hoveton Grove in Chandler’s Ford.

“I’ve been awake since 3.30am so I’m quite tired I’m afraid but I’m looking forward to introducing my daughter to her soon-to-be brother,” she said.

Some 40 people gathered with toddlers in tow, regaling each other with the memories of years gone by.

Maureen Chisnell, 66, from Edward Road in St Cross, was invited by staff to cut the cake along with her daughter Rosie Bowerman, who was born at the hospital 40 years ago to the day and her granddaughter, Aimee, 2, who is the youngest of four Bowermans to be born at the ward.

Mrs Chisnell’s two other children, Catherine and Adrian, were also born there as were her daughter’s other three children.

Mrs Bowerman, of Western Road in Fulflood, Winchester, said: “When I was here with my four, even though two of them were a little tricky, I was made to feel very comfortable. Aimee was a little troublesome but we managed to fish her out in the end.”

Val Robinson, 73, a support worker for the ward since 1971, said: “There’s been lots of changes over the years. It’s a lovely unit to work on, I wouldn’t still be working here if it wasn’t. I’ve stayed in contact with many of the mums over the years. We’re like one big family really.”

The event was organised by Clara Haken, consultant midwife for the ward, who was born the year it was opened when her mother, Winnie worked on the ward also as a midwife.

Lady Florence Portal was the resident Commandant of the Laverstoke Voluntary Aid Detachment (VADs) of the Red Cross and St John Ambulance Brigade at the hospital in the First World War, between 1917 and 1919.

She gave money for three hut wards to be built on the hospital site – Bluebell, Burrell and Blighty – staffed by volunteers and used for military patients.

Lady Portal was also instrumental in raising the money for the hospital’s maternity wards, which is thought why Florence Portal House was named after her when the maternity wards were moved to their dedicated home in 1974.