THOUSANDS of snowdrops will form a lasting tribute to a town's lost children.

In years gone by, many bereaved families in Middlesbrough struggled to afford headstones, meaning hundreds of babies in Linthorpe Cemetery lie in unmarked graves.

Ten thousand snowdrops were planted in memory of those children and the many others buried in the cemetery on Wednesday.

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Fundraiser Mike Farrell donated the bulbs after receiving a £1,000 Teesside Hero award from the Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation for his charity work.

Using the money to buy the snowdrops, Mr Farrell worked with the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery (FLC) and Butterwick Hospice to create the poignant memorial site.

He said: “With a great many babies buried at the cemetery, the time has come to highlight this and remember them.

“The sight of 10,000 snowdrops pushing up through the frosty ground during the darkest and coldest days of winter will be spectacular and will be great testimony to the memories of the children we have lost.”

Situated in the cemetery’s baby memorial area, the snowdrop display is inspired by the cycle of the moon.

It was designed by the chair of FLC, Derek Lewis, who also penned a blessing in the babies’ honour.

It said: “To the babies of Linthorpe Cemetery who cherish the sun’s rays each day.

“They will stay forever in our memory, in God’s house, in its gardens where you play.

“The moon cycle can now guide you and shine on you throughout the night.

“Perpetual light forever shining through to ensure we can always unite.

“So, good night, sleep well, god bless.”

Mr Lewis added: “We could have had as many as 50,000 babies buried in the cemetery since the late 1800s.

“In those days, people could not easily afford anything to mark the graves so we don’t know exactly where they are.

“We now have a memorial wall for them and will have the snowdrops coming through first every year.”

Parents have been invited to sponsor a snowdrop or plant a bulb in their child’s memory, with proceeds going to support the work of the Butterwick Hospice.

Sarah Anderson, the hospice’s community fundraiser, said: “As well as being beautiful, the snowdrops can be used to raise money for a children’s hospice.”

To donate, find the Butterwick House Hospice Snowdrop Appeal on virginmoneygiving.com.