History and heritage

History and heritage

A jewel in the crown of Hampshire’s history

Royal Victoria Country Park is a site steeped in local history. With a strong military past and a point of interest for many historians due to its royal connections and architectural conservation, pay a visit today to learn more about its fascinating origins.

Royal Victoria Military Hospital

The Royal Victoria Military Hospital was commissioned by Queen Victoria, who laid the foundation stone in a ceremony at Netley in May 1856. The hospital opened to patients in 1863 and closed in 1958, before the demolition of the main building in 1966. The separate psychiatric hospital opened in 1870 and remained in use until 1978.

During this 115-year history, thousands of sick and wounded servicemen from across the British Empire and other conflicts (including both World Wars) came to Netley for treatment and recuperation.

All that remains today of the main hospital building is the Chapel, which houses a fascinating exhibition telling the story of the hospital and the lives of the many hundreds of people who worked and were treated there.

View the Royal Victoria Military hospital timeline

Netley Military Cemetery

Netley Military Cemetery is a permanent military cemetery, the property of the Ministry of Defence and managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Find out more about Netley Military Cemetery

Royal Victoria Country Park

Hampshire County Council purchased the former hospital site and opened it as the Royal Victoria Country Park in May 1980.

The 200-acre site now has extensive areas of shingle shoreline, parkland and mature woodland, as well as wildflower areas and a community orchard, making it a varied and inspiring site to visit.

Discover the country park today

Conservation projects

In 2015, the Heritage Lottery Fund granted £3.1m to Hampshire County Council for a project called Royal Victoria: Uncovering the stories of Netley Military Hospital. This aimed to conserve the Grade II* listed chapel, which is all that remains of the former military hospital, improve the landscape around the Chapel and provide additional exterior interpretation for visitors, connecting them with the history of the site.

During 2018 and 2019, Hampshire County Council allocated funding to develop the catering and visitor facilities at Royal Victoria Country Park as part of a wider transformation project. This was to create a new café space in the under-used function room (previously called the Empire Room) and develop a new catering offer for the park in support of it becoming operationally self-financing.

Building work was significantly delayed due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic from March 2020, but the new facilities opened to the public in the late spring of 2022.

Take a look at our conservation projects