Plymouth Archaeology Society

Search the PDAS site


Leader: Geoffrey Sloggett

Monday 1st September 2008

Despite the damp weather, thirty-five members attended the last of our summer meetings at the Royal Naval Hospital. Geoffrey Sloggett met us at the Governor’s house and gave us an interesting and informative talk about the history of the building and the dedication and immaculate book-keeping of the first Governor. He ran the hospital for over thirty years and extracts from his diaries were read to us.

The hospital was to be one of three new Naval hospitals ordered to be built by George II. The design was a new concept consisting of eleven separate buildings joined by colonnades in an attempt to keep disease at bay and give the sick sailors fresh air. When built in 1756 a high wall was constructed around it and guards were always on duty at the gate to prevent the sailors escaping – some of the pressed men had gained entry on false pretences to do just that!! An important French architect was sent to England in 1787 to view the three new hospitals - particularly the one at Plymouth – to see the innovative design. Four new hospitals were subsequently built, using this open plan style, in France. The symmetrical buildings around a central garden, with a large building opposite the gateway surmounted by a cupola, were a sight to behold even in the fading light. Through an archway to the east of the entrance evidence of the original jetty could be seen. Here the sick and injured sailors were brought by boat along the creek which used to lead up to it and flowed along the back of the hospital.

Views towards Devonport High School for Boys can be seen from here.  The colonnade is one of the longest in Europe! It was built a few years after the Naval hospital, for the Military! Windows on this side of the hospital could be seen with slanting slits on each stone vertical. These were to accommodate lengths of slate or glass to give fresh air to the sick sailors at all times.

The evening finished with a visit to the hospital chapel built in the high Gothic style of the 19th century. Although slightly damaged in WWII, it is now used by Plymouth College Prep which has taken over some of the buildings on the site. Nearby were several small isolation wards now tastefully modernised into private homes.

This was a truly fascinating visit to an historical building of quite significant importance that is only a stone’s throw a way from the city centre – a hidden gem!

Ros Bate

Field Trip