Royal Victoria Country Park's transformation

Jun 3 2016

Royal Victoria Military Hospital
I’m Paul Del-A-More and this is the first of my monthly blogs. I’m the Senior Project Manager for the restoration and conservation of the Chapel  -  all that is left of the former Military Hospital in the grounds of our beautiful Royal Victoria Country Park. It was once the world’s largest hospital building, with links to Florence Nightingale and a personal project for Queen Victoria who laid its foundation stone.

But many visitors to Royal Victoria Country Park in Netley are unaware of the historical importance of the site and the vast building which once dominated the shoreline on the edge of Southampton Water. 
Built with 30 million red bricks and opened in 1863, only the Chapel remains from Royal Victoria Military Hospital which could care for up to 1,000 troops from across the British Empire on its 138 wards linked by quarter-of-a-mile long corridors. The hospital became a leading institution in the treatment of tropical diseases, including the discovery of a vaccine for typhoid.

But after the Second World War the hospital fell into decline and was demolished after a major fire in 1963 destroyed large parts of the building. The site was later bought by Hampshire County Council and re-opened in 1980 as Royal Victoria Country Park.

As a local boy who grew up in Hamble from the age of five, and with relatives who worked in the hospital before it’s demolition, I feel immensely honoured to be in this position as project manager. 

The Chapel conservation project is funded through a Heritage Lottery Fund grant and Hampshire County Council funding worth a total of £2.68 million.

So you might be asking what’s happening. I don’t want to give everything away at the moment - it will ruin the end surprise! But there are some things I can share as follows.

We will be: 

  • putting in installations that will tell the story of the Military Hospital and demonstrate how long the corridor was (don’t forget this was at one time the longest building in the world)
  • conserving the interior of the chapel to closely resemble how it would have looked when it was built – this has been done through analysing paint scrapings dating back to the 1860s
  • having a free to enter interactive exhibition, telling the story of the people who worked at the hospital or were treated at the hospital as a patient. If you’re a local person, you’ll find out things you never knew! For example, did you know in World War I several groups of Japanese doctors and nurses worked at the hospital.

  • Other improvements include better directional signs around the park, a covered area outside the Empire Rooms so that you can sit outside in the wet weather or find refuge from the sun on our hot days (when we get them). We’ll also be improving the Empire Room Hall with £40,000 of investment to bring it back to its beauty. The small children’s play area will also be improved.

    I look forward to sharing with you updates and photographs as we go along – and of course I’m happy to answer your questions or listen to your suggestions