Hi, my name’s Phil Halliwell and I’m the Business Manager for Royal Victoria Country Park. May is a particularly special month in the history of Hampshire County Council’s Royal Victoria Country Park, and we wanted to highlight this in this blog post so that you can join our celebratory mood.
Not only does it mark 200 years since the birth of the country park’s namesake, Queen Victoria (24 May 1819), but it’s also the time of year when the famous British Monarch laid the Netley Military Hospital’s foundation stone (19 May 1856).
Under the stone was a copper box, containing the plans of the hospital, coins, a Crimean War Medal, and the first Victoria Cross.
Documents reveal that the Military Hospital was a personal project for the Queen, and its construction was a formidable task. Here are a few fascinating facts on its creation:
- 30 million red bricks
- Three storeys high
- 138 wards
- Corridors over a quarter of a mile long
- Cared for over 1,000 soldiers from wars across the globe
- Had its own gasworks, bakery, reservoir and prison
Image above - A wood engraving of Netley Military Hospital. Wellcome Collection.
Historical records reveal that the Queen visited numerous times during her long reign.
Image above - Queen Victoria visiting wounded soldiers from the Soudan at Netley, May 16, 1885. Wellcome Collection.
Image above - Queen Victoria visiting a hospital ward at Netley. Wellcome Collection.
Following World War Two, the grand main building fell into disuse and decline. Eventually, a large fire in 1963 damaged the main building beyond repair and in 1966 those parts of the building still standing were demolished leaving just the chapel.
The site was later bought by Hampshire County Council and re-opened in 1980 as Royal Victoria Country Park.
In that time, it has been enjoyed by thousands of visitors from across Hampshire, the UK and the world.
In 2016, the County Council began a £3.5m conservation and restoration project of the Grade II listed chapel with the Heritage Lottery Fund. Work involved the conservation of the original Victorian interiors, the creation of a new exhibition, installation of a new lift enabling visitors to visit the tower, visitor facilities and outdoor information points.
Image - The Chapel's renovated ceiling
HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO formally opened the chapel in November 2018 (pictured below), marking the latest stage in its history. HRH signed a scroll which was placed in a time capsule (also pictured) and buried under the original foundation stone of the hospital. This moment was a special acknowledgement of Queen Victoria laying that foundation stone 162 years before.
The chapel’s popularity continues with more than 2,500 visitors exploring the historic landmark in the first five days of it reopening.
Why not plan your visit to soak up the spectacular history and views on offer.