Tag Archives: Southampton Water

The Solent Area and Beyond ~ A Virtual Tour no 5 ~ The Royal Victoria Park Netley

Solent map googleRVPark

In walking distance heading north west along Southampton Water from Hamble we reach The Royal Victoria Park, an open space of an acre or so of grass sloping down to the river, which you can glimpse through the gaps in the tree-line. It is surrounded by woodland, through which there are many paths and tracks, but the Park it can be reached by road through Netley.

I had often seen the lonely building of the chapel in the centre of the park, but in all my years of staying with family in Woolston as a child I do not ever remember visiting it and certainly had not realise that this chapel, standing in isolation on the expanse of lawn, was once part of a truly magnificent monument to our greatness as a nation.The Royal Victoria Hospital came alive for me on my visit when I was camping in Hamble and from then on I could easily imagine some of my characters either working or being taken there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI apologise that my only photo of the chapel

was when it was being restored in 2009. I must go back and take some more photos!

This chapel is certainly a landmark as you sail along Southampton Water to the Isle of Wight or beyond, but The Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley must have been an astonishing sight to behold, on entering Southampton Water from the Solent, in the days of Queen Victoria. She was the hospital’s patron  and I can imagine an extremely proud queen visiting the hospital on her return from holidays in her residence on the Isle of Wight, feeling satisfied as she alighted at the hospital’s own small wooden pier, gratified that a place had been created in her name to serve her Empire well.

It was the largest hospital in the world in its day, with corridors of a quarter of a mile long, so long that ‘American GI’s drove Jeeps along them in WW2.’ Guide books describe the unexpected and somewhat off-putting main entrance to this place of healing, with an elephant skeleton facing you and display cabinets of skulls and skeletons along endless corridors. The hospital itself was almost self contained for the lives of the huge community who worked there. There were nissan huts stretching as far out the back as the vast quarter of a mile long facade, seen impressively from the front. The hospital was served by its own branch line in between, but it also had its own wooden jetty, jutting out into the river, so that injured servicemen from all over the world could arrive as speedily as possible.

Florence Nightingale was said to not have been very impressed with the building because leading off those long corridors, bathed in light with fantastic views across Southampton Water, were row upon row of wards. Since these wards were at the back of the building, they never saw the light of day and were dark and dreary places. These were not so welcoming to the thousands of patients who were treated there, returning wounded in body and soul from the Crimean War, WW1 and later WW2.

Today you can still enjoy visiting the chapel and visitors centre, or go one of the many planned walks in the area, which are steeped in interesting history. Alternatively you can picnic or enjoy ball games on the grass and just enjoy the views in the sunshine. The Prince Consort is near the entrance to the park, where you can enjoy a drink or have a pleasant meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leave a comment

Filed under Historical Fiction, Southampton, The Great War, Virtual Tour of the Solent and Beyond, WW1

Spike Island by Philip Hoare ~ a personal book review

The Royal Victoria Hospital Netley

Thanks to ‘Spike Island’ by Philip Hoare, The Royal Victoria Hospital came alive for me and I could easily imagine some of my characters going there. I will not say in what fashion though.

The Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley must have been an astonishing sight to behold on entering Southampton Water from the Solent, with its corridors so long that ‘American GI’s drove Jeeps along them in WW2.’ Philip Hoare writes about the hospital, the largest in the world at that time, in a novel like prose, rather than in text book style. He describes the unexpected and somewhat off-putting main entrance, with its skeletons in endless display; the almost self contained life of the huge community who worked there, far more than just the nurses and patients; the nissan huts stretching as far the the back as the vast quarter of a mile long facade, seen impressively from the front.

I imagine an extremely proud queen, visiting the hospital on her return from holidays in her residence on the Isle of Wight, feeling satisfied as she alighted at the hospital’s own small wooden pier, gratified that a place had been created in her name to serve her Empire well.

Like with any research, only a fraction of Spike Island was relevant for Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home, up to 1920 but, because it was written as a personal journey of discovery, it was fascinating throughout.

I had often seen the lonely building of the chapel, in the centre of the grounds of what is now known as The Royal Victoria Park, but in all my years of visiting family in Woolston as a child I do not ever remember visiting it and certainly had not realise that this chapel, standing in isolation, was once part of a truly magnificent monument to our greatness as a nation.

Today you can still enjoy visiting the chapel and visitors centre, or go one of the many planned walks in the area, which are steeped in interesting history, but without Philip Hoare’s insight, it would be impossible to imagine a fraction of what it might have been like to have been there.

Florence Nightingale was said to not have been very impressed with the building because, leading off those long corridors bathed in light with fantastic views across Southampton Water, were row upon row of wards. Since these wards were at the back of the building, they never saw the light of day and were dark and dreary places, not so welcoming to the thousands of patients who were treated there, returning wounded in body and soul from the Crimean War, WW1 and later WW2.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book reviews, Research, Southampton

Schneider Trophy Victory – 80th Anniversary Celebration 13,14 Sept 2011

I am excited to highlight a special event which hopefully, weather permitting, will take place near Southampton and Portsmouth this week to celebrate:

80th Anniversary of the Schneider Trophy Victory

over the Solent in 1931

On 13th September 1931 the Supermarine  S.6 B  the S1595 made history as pilot Flt Lt Boothman won the Schneider Trophy in the circuit between Calshot, Ryde IOW and Gilkicker. The most prized trophy for amphibean aircraft was finally won outright for Britain.

The full programme is on The Lee Flying Association website.

I will be announcing a photo competition on Thursday so watch this space!

The fly past in honour of the brave pilots from early in the last century has been postponed until Wednesday 14th September 2011 when flying boats and sea planes will fly over Calshot, some even landing on the famous spit, if is is safe to do so.

postscript:  I was quoting ‘Schneider Trophy to Spitfire’ by John Shelton when I named the plane the S.6B but it has been pointed out to me that this should read the S6b

4 Comments

Filed under Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Schneider Trophy, Southampton, Supermarine, Weston Shore