Chapel conservation work begins

Find out about the programme

Aug 3 2016

For those of you that visit our beautiful park, you’ll have noticed some changes as our conservation programme starts on the chapel – the only remaining part of the former military hospital which was once the biggest in the world.

We’re now fortunate that we have our full complement of staff in place for this Heritage Lottery Funded project.

Our chapel manager has been appointed – Abi Morris. Abi will be working towards developing strategies for the chapel opening and business plans. Along with this she’ll be supported by two members of the chapel team.

Ursula Pearce is our learning and participation officer dealing with educational and participation events – more about this in a later blog.

Jo Basham is our volunteer coordinator. Jo has the mammoth task of recruiting 150 volunteers in a variety of roles, and we would love it if you would consider helping us. If you want to know more about volunteering opportunities, or register an interest for the future, send Jo an email at 

If you see any of us around the park, feel free to ask us a question!

You may have noticed that contractors started on site in the past few days, and within a few weeks the chapel will be surrounded by hoarding and fencing. The driveway to the chapel will also be fenced off, restricting access along the gravel drive that runs up to the chapel. Close to the chapel, you will find an access point that will allow you to cross this part of the park. Obviously, we need to make sure we make the site as safe as possible, so apologies in advance if this affects anybody.

By the middle of August one side of the chapel will have hoardings that will tell part of the story of the former military hospital, including some photos of the time the hospital was in use and some poetry created by students of Brookfield School on one of our educational projects.

So, whilst the chapel will be surrounded by fencing and hoarding there’ll be some interesting things to look at and an opportunity to possibly find out things you didn’t know about the hospital until now! Don’t forget also to pop into the café, where you will now see a range of old photographs of the hospital, patients and other bits that we have put on the wall. You will also find lots of interesting information on different table top cards that will tell you more about the history – along with some interesting facts.

Whilst I’m talking about the history of the park at the start of our restoration works, I thought you might like to see the original architects’ plans for the site from 1855.

Architects plan of Royal Victoria Hospital

The architect was a man called E O Mennie – apparently not everybody was happy with his designs. Lord Palmerston wrote: “It seems to me that at Netley all consideration of what would best tend to the comfort and recovery of the patients has been sacrificed to the vanity of the [government surveyor and] architect [EO Mennie], whose sole object has been to make a building which should cut a dash when looked at from Southampton River. Pray, therefore, stop all progress in the work!”

Well as you know, work didn’t stop on building the hospital and many thousands of patients were treated. I guess, that most of us would think if the building was here now it would be beautiful (but maybe we would agree not ideal for a hospital!)  

So here we are now, over 150 years later with the chapel closed – being prepared for the next chapter of its history. The chapel is now empty – and I thought I’d share a few shots of the inside of the chapel as it is now with you,  so we can look back in a year’s time and see what we’ve achieved. 


Lastly, I’ve had quite a fun month – I’ve been interviewed with Queen Victoria on the radio! You can listen to both Queen Vic and myself on Wave 105’s website. (not really Queen Vic but  local parish councillor and park volunteer Maureen Queen can often been seen around the park dressed as Queen Victoria to greet visitors). We’ve also been filming a video blog, so watch this space for an update – you’ll get to meet both me and HM Queen Victoria – and an insight into what we are doing.

So to close – thanks to those of you that have been in contact. We are really keen to hear from anybody who has family who worked here or were treated here, or with any interesting stories or snippets of information about the hospital. Here’s some info that was shared with us this month.

  • We found out this month that relatives of the infamous Kray twins, the London gangsters, were treated here. Read on at the Time Detectives blog
  • Julie Green is a member of our Heritage Group who helped me with historical info and photos amongst many other things
  • Take a look at some old video footage of the hospital site, taken in the 1960s – it shows just how big the hospital was (and how beautiful the buildings were).