A pottery tutor has turned her clay into cash after making angel candlestick holders and raising £500 for Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity’s Woodland House Appeal, to bring a new, standalone bereavement centre to the hospital for families experiencing pregnancy and baby loss.

72-year-old Carol Neilson, from Blandford Forum in Dorset, threw herself into fundraising at the very start of the pandemic, using her creative talents to create the angels to sell on and raise funds to support the NHS. When looking for her next cause, it was Carol’s daughter Samantha Butler who provided the inspiration. Samantha works as a Principal Clinical Scientist in genetics at Birmingham Women’s Hospital and explained about the hospital’s current charity campaign, the Woodland House Appeal.

Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity launched the appeal two years ago and is now just £1million away from its target. When complete, Woodland House will be a safe-haven, away from the hustle and bustle of the maternity wards, where families who lost a baby can grieve in private and get the support they need.

The appeal instantly struck a chord with Carol, who had experienced the heartache of a pregnancy loss first-hand, when she miscarried at 16 weeks. She said: “As soon as I heard about the appeal, my mind flew straight back to the 80s when I experienced a miscarriage myself. Back in those days it just wasn’t something people talked about and there was next-to-no support available for me or my husband, who of course it affected too. We were just expected to get on with it.”

Carol, who is also a church minister, has carried out many services in memory of babies sadly gone too soon and can always relate to their parents. She continued: “Talking about loss is such an important part of grieving and in this day and age, it really shouldn’t be a taboo subject, so having somewhere like Woodland House, where parents can openly talk about their baby will really help to break the silence.

“When I started making my angels, I thought I’d sell a few to friends and family, but before long, the message had spread. With the help of my neighbour’s daughters, Emma and Sarah Graham, I made 60 angels in total and I’m so proud to be able to use the money to support other bereaved families.”

Miranda Williams, Head of Fundraising at Birmingham Women’s Hospital Charity, said: “As well as setting a new standard of care for our bereaved families by creating a calm and safe dedicated space for them to spend time together away from the hustle and bustle of the main hospital, we hope that Woodland House will help shatter the stigma that still surrounds pregnancy and baby loss.

“By speaking out about her own experiences, Carol is helping us do just that, and the money she’s raised with her angels has brought us another step closer to making Woodland House a reality.”