RNH Bighi

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Royal Naval Hospital Bighi
Malta - Kalkara - Triq Marina - Bighi Hospital (MSTHC) 01 ies.jpg
Bighi Hospital as seen from the Grand Harbour
Location Kalkara, Malta
Coordinates 35°53′35″N 14°31′28″E / 35.893083°N 14.524495°E / 35.893083; 14.524495
Founded 1832
Closed 1970
Lists Hospitals in Malta

RNH Bighi, also known as Bighi Hospital, was a major naval hospital located in the small town of Kalkara on the island of Malta. It served the eastern Mediterranean in the 19th and 20th centuries and, in conjunction with the RN Memorial Hospital at Imtarfa, contributed to the nursing and medical care of casualties whenever hostilities occurred in the Mediterranean. The building is now known as Villa Bighi and it houses a restoration unit.


The lift at Bighi hospital

The design of Bighi Hospital is generally attributed to Colonel (later Major General) Sir George Whitmore (1775–1862) who headed the Royal Engineers between 1811 and 1829. The foundation stone was laid by Vice Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm on 23 March 1830. The works were completed on 24 September 1832, at a total cost of £20,000. The West and East Wings' architecture is in the modern Doric style and built with high floors.

The Surgical (also known as the General Hospital Block) and the Zymotic Blocks were built in 1901 and 1903 respectively.


Bighi Hospital in 1875
Bighi Hospital in the 1960s

Bighi Hospital contributed to the nursing and medical care of casualties whenever hostilities occurred in the Mediterranean, making Malta "the nurse of the Mediterranean".

The hospital's first director (1827-1844) was Dr John Liddell. He was later appointed director-general of the Royal Navy's Medical Department, and during his office Bighi nursed casualties from the Crimean War.

During the First World War, RNH Bighi accommodated a very large number of casualties from the Daradanelles. During the Second World War, the Hospital was well within the target area of the heavy bombing since it was surrounded by military establishments. A number of its buildings were damaged or destroyed, including the x-ray theatre, the East and West Wings, the Villa and the Cot Lift from the Bighi Jetty to the Hospital. Among several Doctors and nurses of renown to serve here were Doris Beale DBE.

Closure and Subsequent Site Usage[edit]

In 1967, during the second rundown of the British services and their employees in Malta, Bighi Hospital was on the brink of closing down. On 17 September 1970 Bighi was closed down indefinitely.

In 1977 parts of the building were occupied by the former Senglea Trade School while other sections accommodated a secondary school.

Since 2010 the site has housed the head office of Heritage Malta; the national agency for museums, conservation practice and cultural heritage.[1]

See also[edit]