The Royal Victoria Country Park Chapel, also known as Netley Hospital Chapel, lies on 200 acres (809,371m^2) of Victoria Country Park, in Netley, Hampshire.

The Chapel hosts a variety of different events (on Sunday 26th November, they hosted a concert with Wessex Sinfonietta.) Visitors are allowed to climb the 150ft tower. The climb has 166 steps and has a spectacular view of the Southampton waters, the Isle of Wight, the New Forest, and the South Downs. The prices vary from £3.75 (adult) to free (children under 5, carers including foster carers) and all funds go towards supporting the cost of running the chapel.

The History

The Crimean War broke out in 1854 and ended in 1856. The war was between the British, French, Sardinia-Piedmont (joined the war in 1855), and Turkish (Ottoman Empire) soldiers against the Russian army. The British army had a total of 22,185 casualties: 17850 died of disease and infection (approximately 80%) while 2,755 died of combat.

On 19th May 1856, Queen Victoria signed her approval for the Royal Victoria Hospital and laid the foundation stone – a 2-tonne block of Welsh granite – over a Victoria Cross, Crimea medal, and a set of coins in a box.

The hospital was first open to patients in 1863, having cost £350,000, and 2-months later Queen Victoria visited the site; her first public engagement since the death of Prince Albert in 1861. At this time, the hospital was the longest building in Europe (a quarter of a mile long) and was able to accommodate over 1000 patients across 138 wards

In 1866, the War Office proposed the hospital to provide ‘a Public Hospital for Insane Military Officers and Soldiers’ with accommodation in a separate building for 60 patients.

 Between 1856 and 1900, Victoria visited the hospital 20 times.

The Army Nursing Service was established in 1881. Nurses would be trained at Netley and then sent to work in military hospitals in the UK, Malta, and Gibraltar.

The Second Boer War took place from 1899-1902 and resulted in an influx of wounded soldiers in the hospital, it was the first time it had been full to its capacity. Due to the huge number of casualties, the British Red Cross set up tents which acted as a temporary hospital at the back of the main hospital. At the request of the Japanese Government, the Japan Red Cross Society sent 3 groups of nurses and doctors to Europe – one group went to each of Japan’s allies at the time (Britain, France, and Russia). 22 doctors and 22 nurses worked at Netley War Hospital for a year after arriving in 1915.

During the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the British army had 420,000 casualties, the most serious were evacuated by hospital ship and ambulance train to the nearest hospitals for treatment including Netley.

The hospital saw a rapid increase in patients from the start of the war in 1939 and trained army medical staff were being sent abroad to the major site of warfare like France. In 1944, the control over the Royal Victoria Hospital had transferred to the American army as a part of the Allied Forces Lend-Lease agreement (this act set up a system that would allow the US to lend/lease equipment to any nation ‘vital to the defence of the United States’ – UK, Soviet Union, France, China received food and oil because they were essential to the defence of the USA). The hospital stayed under American control until 1945.

In 1958, the hospital’s main building closed and its building remained empty for several years. The high costs of maintaining the building, along with all its impracticalities as a hospital, meant that it was considered more cost-effective for the Army to move its medical services elsewhere. Only D Block remained open, becoming the main Navy Psychiatric Hospital and training centre for Registered Mental Nurses from all three services. The hospital was demolished in 1966, following a fire in 1963, and a special ceremony was held to lift the foundation stone placed by Victoria and to open the copper box placed in 1856. Block D remained open until 1978.


The site was bought by Hampshire County Council in 1979 and opened as the Royal Victoria Country Park in 1980. In 2018, the chapel underwent a £3.5 million restoration allowing ‘improved access and an exciting new exhibition telling the story of the hospital and the people who worked and were treated there.’ Currently, it’s a grade 2 listed building, meaning ‘it is of special interest, warranting every effort to preserve it’.


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