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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 THE ROYAL NAVAL HOSPITAL PLYMOUTH

 

September 15th 1744.    The Nayy Board presented a Memorial to His Majesty King George 11 in Council, proposing the construction of Naval Hospitals at Portsmouth Plymouth and Chatham. 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 Plymouth until lessons had been learnt from the one being built at Haslar.

March 13th 1756.   A piece of land on the southern side of Stonehouse Creek called No Place Field was purchased by the Commissioners for the Sick and Wounded Seamen. This land proved to be too small for the building of a hospital and remained baron land until it was put to use as a Naval Cemetery in 1824.

June 14th 1758.   The Commissioners of the Navy purchased a further five fields in the Stonehouse area of Plymouth between No Place Field and the Creek, it was on this land that building commenced.

1758.   The building of the hospital began. It 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 There were to be eleven large separate buildings interspersed with four small ones all built in the form of a square.

1760.   A small part of the hospital was opened to sick and wounded seamen who had previously been housed in a building in George Street, Stonehouse.

November 20th 1762.   The hospital was fully opened when the Hospital Ship Canterbury, stationed in Plymouth Dock, was paid off and the patients transferred to the new hospital buildings.

1765.   The Terrace was built on the west side of the main square.

1794.   The hospital had been fully operational for thirty-two years. During those years, despite the evident professional ability of the medical staff, it appears that the administration of the hospital by doctors was a disastrous failure. These circumstances were highlighted by an official inspection, by the Physician of the Fleet, of both Plymouth and Haslar Hospitals. There followed an Official Board of Enquiry which strongly recommended that a Governor should be appointed in the rank of a Naval Captain who, with the assistance of a Naval Lieutenant, would have full charge of the hospital.

1795.   Captain Richard Creyke RN was appointed as the first Governor of Plymouth Hospital. ‘He brought order to the establishment and served as Governor for thirty-one years’.

1806.   The Surgeon Rear Admiral’s house was built on the north side of the Square and to the west of it was the Chaplain’s Residence. The building to the south of the Square housed the Surgeons Mess and the Residence of the Fleet Surgeon. It was damaged during the Second World War and was extensively renovated in 1966.

1868.   A Mortuary Chapel was built alongside the octagonal water tower.

1883.   The Church of The Good Shepherd was built on the eastern side of the hospital grounds.

1884.   For the first time professionally trained civilian Nursing Sisters were employed by the navy to work on the wards at both Plymouth and Haslar Hospitals. They were employed to raise the standard of care on the wards and train the newly formed branch of Sick Birth Attendant.

1900.   Four small buildings which made up the Zymotic Block were used to accommodate up to fifty patients with infectious diseases, particularly those with tuberculosis.

1900-1901.   The Pharmacy, The Sisters Mess and Sick Officers Block were built.

1900-1906.   The ten three-story ward blocks were modernized to include steel emergency stairs and washroom facilities.

1912-1913.   Electric lifts were installed within the ward blocks.

1914-1918 (WW1).   The hospital was busy with the injured from that conflict. Large numbers of reserve medical and nursing staff, which included VADS, were brought in to meet the needs of the many injured men admitted to the hospital for treatment.

1919-1920.   Due to the advent of motor transport, patients were no longer brought to the hospital by boat and the landing jetty and the North Gate were closed.

1926.   Staff Quarters were built to the south of The Church of the Good Shepherd.

1939-1945 (WW2).   The hospital was badly damaged by enemy air raids.

Between 1941-1942 E block was completely destroyed and I and J blocks severely damaged. None of these three blocks were ever rebuilt. Luckily, despite the damage to the hospital, there were few injuries to the patients and staff.

1954-1956.   A new Operating Theatre Block was built.

1960.   Training of QARNNS Ratings as State Registered and State Enrolled Nurses commenced. State Registered training was discontinued at RNH Plymouth in 1977 and State Enrolled Training in 1983.

1960s.   In the late 1960s, in addition to naval and military personnel, the hospital began taking a limited number of civilian patients for the NHS.

March 31st 1995.    After 233 years of service, The Royal Naval Hospital Stonehouse, Plymouth closed its doors for the final time and was later sold for housing. The naval medical and nursing staff were amalgamated with the staff of Derriford NHS Hospital, Plymouth.

 

With acknowledgement to the History of The Royal Naval Hospital Plymouth by Surgeon Captain P D Gordon Pugh OBE RN 1972

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.

 

Graham Evans


 

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.

 

Joe Roulstone









 

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