ROYAL NAVAL HOSPITAL PLYMOUTH
Our gratitude extends to the Archive and the RNH Stonehouse Blog for allowing us to use some of their materials and to all those who have passed through the gates of this historic site.
A SHORT HISTORY OF ROYAL NAVAL HOSPITAL PLYMOUTH
On September 15th 1744, the Navy Board presented a Memorial to His Majesty King George II in Council, proposing the construction of Naval hospitals at Chatham, Portsmouth and Plymouth. Agreement was given and work began on Haslar, Portsmouth in 1746, and by 1753 the hospital was receiving patients.
Matters progressed a little slower in Plymouth. It seems that it was Navy Board policy to delay the start of work on a hospital in the South West until lessons had been learnt from the one at Haslar.
It was on June 14th 1758 that the Commissioners of the Navy purchased land in the Stonehouse area from the Edgecombe family for £2,239 17s 6d. It was on this land that the hospital was built.
The hospital was built on the block system, the earliest specimen of such a hospital in this country, with a limited number of patients in each block. A small part of the hospital opened to sick and wounded seamen in 1760 but it was not until November 1762 that it fully opened, when the hospital ship ‘Canterbury, stationed at Plymouth Dock, was paid off and the patients transferred to the new hospital buildings.
In 1765 the terrace was built on the west side of the main square, followed in 1806 by the Surgeon Rear Admirals House on the north side of the square and the Surgeons Mess on the south side.
From 1762 to 1794 the hospital was poorly managed with the patients poorly cared for by women who had no sort of training at all and were grossly underpaid.
In 1794 Thomas Trotter the Physician of the Fleet visited both Haslar and Plymouth hospitals. He was so incensed by the deficiencies he saw at these hospitals an official Board of Enquiry was appointed, whose most important recommendation was the appointment of a Governor who should be of the rank of Naval Captain, ‘who with the assistance of a Naval Lieutenant should have inspection and superintendence of the whole’.
The first Governor of Plymouth Hospital was Captain Richard Creyke RN who brought order to the establishment. He served as Governor for thirty one years.
The Church of the Good Shepard was built in 1983.
In 1884 the first trained Nursing Sisters employed by the Navy joined RNH Plymouth. They were Head Sister Miss Story and Sisters Miss Cripps, Miss Jacobs and Miss Barnes.
The four small buildings which made up the Zymotics Block used for treatment of infectious diseases were built in the north east end of the hospital in 1900.
Between 1900 and 1906 the ten three story ward blocks were reconstructed to add emergency stairs and wash room facilities.
Electric lifts were installed within the ward blocks in 1912-13.
In 1926 Staff Quarters were built in front of the Church of the Good Shepard.
During the Second World War, one block, E block was destroyed and both I and J blocks severely damaged by bombs in 1941and 1942. None of these blocks were re built.
An Operating Theatre Block was built between 1954 -1956
In 1960 Naval Nurse Training began with both SRN and SEN training. SRN training discontinued in 1977 and SEN Training in 1983.
On June 29th 1962 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Carrington, unveiled a plaque to commemorate the Hospitals bi-centenary.
In the late sixties the hospital began taking civilian patients for the NHS as well as naval and military personnel.
RNH Plymouth closed on March 31st 1995 after 233 years in service. The naval medical and nursing staff amalgamated with the NHS Hospital at Derriford.
With acknowledgement to the History of The Royal Naval Hospital Plymouth by Surg. Capt. P.D. Gordon Pugh OBE RN.
THOUGHTS FROM THOSE WHO WORKED THERE - TAKEN FROM THE RNH STONEHOUSE BLOG
The Royal Naval Hospital at Stonehouse in Plymouth occupies a unique position in the memories of all who have ever worked or been treated there. Its high grey walls originally designed to keep patients in, now guard against the encroachment of urbanisation. The central buildings of the hospital have changed very little since its completion in 1762, and the grounds have a quiet, almost rural charm that combine to provide it with an air of grace.
Two hundred and thirty five years ago in 1760, the first patients were moved in from the malt houses and warehouses along the shoreline to occupy a hospital whose design was so far advanced as to make it the finest in Europe. Social conditions at the time however, were primitive, and expertise in the fields of medicine, surgery and nursing was in its infancy. It took another century for these disciplines to innovate themselves to begin to achieve the high standards we now take for granted.
The gentlemen surgeons who paraded in high collars down the colonnade, the ladies from every calling who rolled up their sleeves to nurse the dying; and the VAD's and Sick Berth Attendants who took their professionalism all over the world, are the products of the Royal Naval Hospital for the reception of sick and hurt seamen and marines' at Stonehouse in Plymouth, Devon.
On 31st March 1995, RNH Plymouth ( Stonehouse ) built for the reception of sick and hurt seamen and marines, closed its gates, 235 years after admitting it's first patient.
We lucky few, who served and lived there will remember the old girl with much fondness, the like of which, will never be seen again.