The first stone for the foundations of the new Acorns children's hospice was laid on Friday.

The hospice rolled out the red carpet to welcome its founder patron, the Earl of Lichfield, who had the privilege of laying the stone.

Malvern-based contractors Speller-Metcalfe Ltd will now begin construction of the £4 million hospice, which is due to be handed over to Acorns in December this year. Families will be welcomed early in 2005.

The new hospice will have ten bedrooms, a multi-sensory room, a specially-designed playroom and family accommodation, as well as a dedicated unit for teenagers and an acre of landscaped gardens.

Families will be given the opportunity to stay at the hospice together or leave their child for respite care, offering them a break.

Teenagers will be given as much independence as possible and the chance to meet other young people in similar circumstances.

Acorns' team of community workers will also continue to offer support at home to the families of children acriss the Three Counties. The charity has now raised £3.25 million of the £4 million needed to build and equip the hospice.