From 1810 to 1828 Sick Sailors were looked after on ex warships that were turned into floating Hospitals on the River Medway.The prevelent illnesses were Cholera,Thyphoid and Smallpox.
In 1828 Melville Hospital (Naval) was opened,overlooking the main Chatham Dockyard gates.It had eighteen wards,divided into three sections and held 252 patients.
By the 20th Century a bigger hospistal was needed due to the increase in Naval personnel.Plans were drawn up for a new hospital between Windmill Hill (now Road) and the Great Lines.The hospital was designed by J.T.C. Murray and erected under the direction of Sir Henry Pilkington,it cost £800,000 to build.
In 1905 Melville Hospital closed and was turned into additional Barrack buildings for the Royal Marines.
The new Royal Naval Hospital was opened on July 26th 1905 by King Edward XII,with much pomp and ceremony.A long letter was read to the King inviting him to give a Royal opening of the Hospital.Then after a short service in Saint Lukes Church(which used to stand in the centre of the hospital grounds) the King was presented with a specially made key,which the King placed in a lock,turned it and declared the hospital open.
1905 Map of the Hospital.
The old Church at the hospital was dedicated to Saint Luke the Physician for obvious reasons.The Domed building centre right was the old Administration block.
When the hospital was opened it had 9 medical officers,1 Head Wardmaster,7 Sisters and 70 Sickberth Attenddants.The Hospital itself had a main corridore that was nearly 1000 feet in length,this connected Blocks A,B,C,D,E and F.Also there was an Isolation Hospital at the rear which was used for patients with transmitted diseases.Around the outside of the Hospital grounds are residences which were originally:
1. Butlers Quarters.
3. Store Forman.
4. and 5. Police Quarters.
6 .Assistant Dispencer.
6.a. Head Wardmaster.
7. Store Keeper.
8. Inspector General.
9. First Fleet Surgeon.
10. Second Fleet Surgeon.
11. Deputy Inspector General.
12. Surgeons Quarters.
13. Nursing sisters.
16. Stores Matron.
18. Sisters Quarters (Infectious Division)
Some of the Residence's today.
The tall Clock Tower,inside on the walls are plaques up to the top in memory of those who died in the hospital.
One of the original ends of one of the blocks.
The Water Tower.
Underground at the hospital
Apart from the service tunnels for pipes and drains etc..there are also rumours of a tunnel from either the Dockyard or the former Royal Naval Barracks HMS Pemboke,which i personally think are just local myths and maybe confused with the "seperate" tunnels that actually do exist in those areas.
Plans were drawn up in 1939 for an underground operating theatre at the hospital. It was to be connected to the main building by a sloping corridore between Blocks A and B,with a series of rooms and an Operating Theatre under part of where is now the central car park. "It is unclear if any of this was actually built though"
In the Windmill Road/York Avenue corner of the Hospital grounds used to be a small cemetary.some of the patients who died in the Isolation hospital were buried here.Today no signs of the graves remain.
Porters Lodge by the main gate was the old police station for the hospital,manned 24 hours a day by the Royal Marines Police untill 1950,then the MOD Police took over untill 1961.
The Hospital security used to be very strict and prior to the change over to the NHS visitors had to ring the bell on the gate,then the security had to phone the Ward concerned to see if they had permission,if permission was granted the visitor was escorted to the ward.
In 1961 the hospital was handed over to Medway Health Authority. After buildings and facilities were modernised the hospital opened again in 1965 as "Medway Hospital".
Since then notable events at the hospital have been:
The creation of a new orthopaedic block and accident and emergency centre in 1970.
A new extension for elderly and mental health services (A Block) in 1990.
A new £60 million development which saw the hospital double in size in 1999 when services provided at neighbouring hospitals in Rochester (St Bartholomew's) and Chatham (All Saints') were brought under the umbrella of Medway Hospital.
The hospital changed its name in 1999 to it's new name "Medway Maritime Hospital" which reflects the hospital's proud naval tradition.
The main entrance to the Hospital grounds as it looks today.
One of the new buildings,this is part of the Antenatal Block.
View from New Brompton College playing field showing part of the huge more recent building work.In the centre on top is the Helepad for the Air Ambulance.
I would like to dedicate this section to Robin Estick R.I.P. who i didn't know personally,but who's booklet about the history of the Hospital i got much information from.