Royal Naval Hospital
A Royal Naval Hospital (RNH) was a hospital operated by the British Royal Navy for the care and treatment of sick and injured naval personnel. No Royal Naval Hospitals survive in operation, although some have become civilian hospitals.
Individual surgeons had been appointed to naval vessels since Tudor times. During the seventeenth century, the pressures on practitioners grew, as crews began to be exposed to unfamiliar illnesses on increasingly long sea-voyages. One response, as proposed in 1664, was the provision of hospital ships to accompany the fleet on more distant expeditions. Another was the provision of temporary shore-based hospitals, such as those briefly set up during the Anglo-Dutch Wars in such locations as Ipswich, Rochester, Harwich and Plymouth (the latter being established on a more permanent footing in 1689). By the turn of the century, permanent hospital provision was being contemplated for overseas bases; one was set up in Jamaica by Admiral John Benbow in 1701. More were to follow, both at home and abroad.
Royal Naval Hospitals included:
- Royal Naval Hospital Haslar, Gosport; opened 1753, changed to civilian hospital (1990s) and renamed Royal Hospital Haslar, closed 2009.
- Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse, Plymouth; opened 1760, closed 1995, converted into flats.
- Royal Naval Hospital Great Yarmouth; opened 1793 to serve ships anchoring in Yarmouth Roads, relocated 1815, specialised in psychiatric cases from 1863; transferred to NHS 1958, closed and converted to residential flats 1993.
- Royal Naval Hospital Deal, Kent; opened 1800 to serve Naval vessels anchored in The Downs, converted into Royal Marine Barracks in 1863 and occupied by the Royal Naval (later Royal Marine) School of Music from 1930-1996.
- Royal Naval Hospital Paignton; opened 1800 to serve the Naval anchorage of Tor Bay, closed 1816.
- Melville Hospital, Chatham; opened 1828, replaced by RNH Chatham in 1905, converted into RM barracks extension, demolished c.1960.
- Royal Naval Hospital, Haulbowline, Ireland; began as a temporary hospital (1820), established on a permanent footing in 1862. Transferred with the rest of the Naval Dockyard to the Irish Government in 1923.
- Royal Naval Hospital, Portland, Dorset; opened 1901, closed 1957.
- Butlaw Naval Hospital, South Queensferry; small hospital opened c.1910 to serve the new Royal Dockyard at Rosyth, expanded during World War I, closed 1928. Hospital reopened on Port Edgar barracks site during World War II.
Hospitals were established close to several of the overseas Naval Yards, including:
- Royal Naval Hospital, Port Mahon, Menorca (1711) ceded to Spain 1782 but remained in use thereafter until c.1960
- Royal Naval Hospital, Port Royal, Jamaica (1743) rebuilt 1755 and 1818, closed 1905.
- Old Naval Hospital, Gibraltar (1741) closed in 1922; buildings survive having been converted into housing.
- Royal Naval Hospital Gibraltar (1963) (established as a Military Hospital in 1903), closed in 2008
- Royal Naval Hospital, Madras (1745), closed in 1790, new hospital opened 1808, closed 1831 (became a gun-carriage factory).
- Royal Naval Hospital, English Harbour, Antigua (1763) destroyed by a hurricane and rebuilt 1783, closed 1825.
- Royal Naval Hospital, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (1782) rebuilt 1863, closed 1911 (taken over by the Royal Naval College of Canada).
- Royal Naval Hospital, Simon's Town, Cape of Good Hope (1813), rebuilt on higher ground in 1899 (an aerial ropeway provided access from 1904-1934), closed 1957. Buildings currently used by South African Navy Band.
- Royal Naval Hospital, Bermuda (1818), closed in 1957
- Royal Naval Hospital, Georgetown, Ascension Island (1831) remains in use as a civilian hospital.
- Royal Naval Hospital, Bighi, Malta (1832), closed 1970
- Royal Naval Hospital, Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada (1855) rebuilt 1887-91, closed 1922.
- Royal Naval Hospital, Trincomalee Garrison, Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) (1871)
- Royal Naval Hospital, Wanchai, Hong Kong (1873), destroyed 1941 (site became Ruttonjee Hospital)
- New naval hospital (War Memorial Hospital) Hong Kong (1949), closed 1959 (site taken over by the nearby Matilda Hospital)
Other naval hospitals were established in other overseas locations, usually in the vicinity of other small naval establishments (e.g. coaling or supply yards) including on Long Island, New York (1779), Newfoundland, St Lucia (1783), Barbados (1815), Fernando Po, Yokohama (1876), Mauritius.
Greenwich Hospital, which predated all the above, was established on somewhat different grounds, as it cared for retired seamen rather than those on active service:
- The Royal Hospital for Seamen in Greenwich; a home for pensioners, established 1692, closed 1869 but exists as a charity.
- "British Naval History article".
- Coad, Jonathan (2013). Support for the Fleet: Architecture and engineering of the Royal Navy's bases, 1700-1914. Swindon: English Heritage. p. 24.
- "Naval documents database".
- The Madras Tercentenary Commemorative Volume. Chennai, India: Asian Education Services. 1994.
- "Navy Band website".
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