The Royal Victoria Hospital

The Royal Victoria Hospital, or Netley Hospital was a large military hospital in Netley, near Southampton, Hampshire, England. Construction started in 1856 at the suggestion of Queen Victoria but its design caused some controversy, chiefly from Florence Nightingale. Often visited by Queen Victoria, the hospital was extensively used during the First World War. It became the 28th US General Hospital from 1944 to 1945 during the Invasion of Europe. The main building – the world’s longest building when it was completed – was entirely demolished in 1966,[1] except for the chapel and former YMCA building which still survive. The extensive outbuildings, which once occupied a vast acreage of land to the rear of the main building, finally succumbed in 1978. The site of the hospital can be seen and explored in Royal Victoria Country Park.

The hospital was situated within the larger area of land bounded by the River Itchen and River Hamble, particularly around Sholing that had become known locally as Spike Island. That term was subsequently used by wounded soldiers and prisoners of war to describe the location of the hospital.

After the war, the hospital continued to care for some casualties returning from overseas service. It also accommodated some Hungarian refugees in 1956, but due to its high cost of maintenance, it gradually fell into disuse, and the main site closed in 1958.

In 1963, a large fire damaged much of the building, and it was demolished in 1966, with only the chapel retained. A ceremony uncovered Queen Victoria’s time capsule beneath the foundation stone on 7 December 1966.

At the rear of the site, D Block (Victoria House) and E Block (Albert House) formed the psychiatric hospital. D Block was opened in 1870 as the army’s first purpose-built military asylum. These buildings were also used from the 1950s to 1978 to treat Army (and from 1960, Navy) personnel who suffered from VD, drug and alcohol problems, and later the Joint Armed Services Psychiatric Unit. The unit moved to the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital, Woolwich in mid-1978.

Today, only the hospital chapel remains of the main building. The chapel was originally scheduled for demolition, but was saved at the last moment as a monument to the hospital. The site is now open as the Royal Victoria Country Park. The chapel is open as a visitor centre, presenting history of the hospital, and the tower provides views of the surrounding area.

Some buildings at the rear of the site, including the former asylum, are used as the Hampshire Constabulary Police Training Headquarters. The Officers’ Mess, just to the west of the former main building, has now been converted into private flats. To the east of the park and accessed by a roadway closed to traffic is a military cemetery.

Other Information

Built:  1856
Demolished:  1978

Contact

  • Netley, Southampton, Hampshire, UK

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