Monday, 18 January 2016

On Shooters Hill at the hospital in 1905

The Royal Herbert Hospital on Shooters Hill was one of those places I took for granted and treated as just part of the landscape.

You passed it on the bus going to Woolwich and it was just a big stone building set in its own grounds surrounded by trees.

This is pretty much how I left it till mum spent some time there in the early 1970s and even then I knew nothing of its history other than that some people referred to it as the military hospital, which of course was what it had been.

And so it is only now that I have chosen to delve into its past and realized just how significant the place was.

It had been built for the nearby Woolwich garrison and was opened in 1865 with 650 beds and was the first specially designed military hospital in the country.

And it was also the first to use the pavilion design advocated by Florence Nightingale which consisted of six parallel ward blocks connected by a central corridor.  

Nor is this the only connection to Ms Nightingale because some of its first patients were soldiers who had fought in the Crimean War and who no doubt took full advantage of the 19 acres of parkland which surrounded the hospital.

But just like I took the place for granted its closure in 1977 passed me by and I only vaguely remember looking at its boarded up windows and over grown areas on visits home and wondering its fate.

It could have gone the way of many such buildings, admired, but neglected till nature, and the vandals did enough damage that its demolition was assured.

In fact it was bought by a developer in 1990 and was converted into a block of apartments.

Picture; The Herbert Hospital, 1905, from the series Woolwich Town and City, issued by Tuck & Sons, courtesy of TuckDB http://tuckdb.org/history

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