Our history

Our visitors are always fascinated to know about the history of our hospice. How long have we been here? Why do we still have two donkeys? Here, you can see a timeline of the key events in our development.

1951 - Donkey sanctuary

Our hospice donkeys, Dudley and Dylan, are a celebration of our heritage. Believe it or not, the development of our St Peter & St James Hospice began when a man met a donkey!

Jim Dinnage, a farmer in Wivelsfied, spotted a very sorry looking donkey on Wivelsfield Green in the pouring rain one day and the sight touched his heart. That evening, after six pints in The Cock Inn, Jim surprised his wife, Susan, by coming home with the donkey and a trap, bought for £5. Jim named the donkey Billy and soon decided  buy him a friend. That decision was a huge stroke of luck for 13 donkeys destined for the slaughterhouse. Instead of just one, Jim bought them all and saved their lives, setting up a donkey sanctuary.

1954 - Family care

Whilst the donkey sanctuary was very successful and brought great joy to the couple, Jim and Susan were dealing with their own personal struggle. In 1952, they received the devastating news that their son, Peter, had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was a fatal disease at the time. From the proceeds of local donkey derbies, Jim and Susan paid for a nurse to care for Peter. Sadly, he died two years later in 1954.

1963 - St Peter's

Keen to help other families going through what her family had been through, Susan, with Jim’s support, started St Peter’s in Lancing, a seaside house where disabled or ill children could come and stay with their families. The home helped over 800 families. Sadly, Jim Dinnage died in 1963.

1977 - St Peter & St James Holiday Home for the Disabled

Following Jim’s death, Susan’s work returned to the original Wivelsfield site, where our current hospice now stands. The seaside home in Lancing was closed and a new home, the St Peter & St James Holiday Home for the Disabled, was built and opened in 1975. It cost £180,000 and much of this was generously donated by the public. Over the first couple of years, the home grew and evolved and it was registered as a nursing home in 1977. In 1980, the first ever hospice patients were admitted and in the years to follow, hospice care became its sole purpose.

2007 - Upgrading hospice facilities

In 2007, the hospice’s facilities were upgraded so that better care could be provided to hospice patients and their families. Ward bedrooms were made bigger and fitted with specialist equipment, the family rooms and lounges were introduced, and the layout of the hospice was changed to ensure that doctors and nurses could respond quickly to anyone in need.

2018 - Where we are now and our future

Over the past decade, we’ve made constant improvements to our hospice environment and the services we offer. In 2014, our Beacon View Wellbeing Centre opened, providing a safe, welcoming setting for a range of new services including courses and classes, complementary therapies, counselling, spiritual support and welfare advice.

Looking to the future, we’re actively developing plans to increase both our retail and fundraising income, whilst reviewing other commercial income streams to sustain and over time grow the services that we provide. We’re incredibly passionate about what we do and strive to continually improve our care standards and ensure local families receive the best possible care.

As our hospice grows and develops, the reminder of how it all begun stays the same. If you head out to the paddock opposite our hospice reception, you’ll find Dudley and Dylan, our lovely hospice donkeys. The boys are a great source of comfort (and entertainment!) to our patients and their families.