Manchester World: Buddy Bench unveiled in Stockport Park in memory of toddler Jude Drinkwater, who died from Rett Syndrome


A rainbow bench has been unveiled in a Stockport park to remember a brave little boy who died from a rare illness.

Last week would have been Jude Drinkwater’s fourth birthday. The little one died aged just 22 months on New Year’s Day in 2020.

The toddler suffered from a very rare neurological condition called Rett Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects brain development.

In girls, it can lead to severe disability. In boys, it is fatal. His father said Jude, born on 25 February, 2018, was a beautiful, brave little boy and his family miss him terribly.

This time last year, the Drinkwater family set about raising enough money, around £500, to install a ‘buddy bench’ in Manchester Road Park in Heaton Chapel, in memory of Jude and for the community to enjoy.

Almost 12 months later, a rainbow bench now sits in pride of place for locals to enjoy and the family to remember their little one.

Jude with his dad, Phil

Dad Phil Drinkwater, a self-proclaimed ‘cut-price Mancunian Froddo Baggins’, set off on a 12-hour, 40 mile walk from Stockport to Crosby Beach to help raise the funds.

At the time, Phil said: “The fact that Jude had been with us at all had defied all odds and expectations and we were so thankful that we’d had this time with him. We found both comfort and relief in finally knowing what it was that Jude had been living with.

“He was a fighter from the beginning until the very end. Although this story doesn’t have a happy ending for our precious baby boy, we want to do everything we can to help others.

“He was beautiful and so loved by everybody who met him. We are determined to share his story and make sure that we only have happy thoughts and memories.

“Manchester Road Park is an integral part of our local community. We wanted to put something positive into the local area for our neighbours that also worked as a place to come and remember Jude.”

Jude’s bench

The Drinkwaters assembled at the bench on Friday 25 February to mark Jude’s fourth birthday – introducing him to his brand new baby sister Marnie, who arrived into the world in January.

Phil said: “We knew the bench would be a beautiful thing, but we didn’t quite realise how important it would be for us, our friends and our family to have a place to go together to remember Jude and celebrate his life. We walk past it every day, and it helps us remain close to our son in a way that’s hard to describe.

“The other incredible thing has been the community response to the bench; almost every time we walk past, there are families or friends gathered there, reading the inscription or just hanging out. It seems to have become a focal point for our locals and neighbours, who send us messages all the time about how much they love it at the centre of the park.

“It’s just another way now that Jude lives on with us in our everyday lives, helping to raise awareness of Rett Syndrome and the charity Reverse Rett, and to keep our boy at the centre of our lives in a way that brings joy to the area.”

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