Hampshire Now - your County Council magazine

Funding boost to conserve iconic Chapel at Royal Victoria Country Park

Monday, 13 January 2014

Plans to bring the history of Hampshire County Council's Royal Victoria Country Park alive, have received a boost thanks to a development grant of £102,000 secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The funding will enable the County Council to work with the local community and partner organisations to form detailed plans to uncover the site's hidden heritage.

From 1863 until 1966, the site of Royal Victoria Country Park was home to the Royal Victoria Hospital. It was more than a quarter of a mile long and the British Army's first purpose-built hospital which devoted more than 100 years of service to caring for sick and wounded soldiers from across the world. Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone herself on 19 May 1856 and visited the site over 20 times in her lifetime.

The Army demolished most of the building in 1966 except the former Chapel to the hospital.

The site was acquired by Hampshire County Council and in 1980 Royal Victoria Country Park was opened to the public.

The project aims to uncover the stories of the former military hospital at Netley as well as restore the iconic chapel. The Chapel will become the focal point of activities and interpretation of the history of the park, enabling visitors to discover the hidden heritage of Royal Victoria Country Park. The aim is to bridge the gap between today and the area's past to create a new sustainable future for a significant and much-loved local landmark.

In June this year Royal Victoria Country Park marked the 150th anniversary of the site's former military hospital admitting its first patients.

Councillor Keith Chapman, Hampshire County Council's Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, said: "We are hugely grateful for this funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This project forms a significant part of the Transforming our Country Parks programme which aims to transform them to meet the needs of a new generation of visitors and ensure their long term sustainable future. The Chapel project at Royal Victoria Country Park will encourage new visitors to come and experience the Park and learn about the role that the military hospital played in the First World War and other conflicts. There will also be greater opportunities for volunteers, schools and community involvement in the Park as a result of the project."

The development phase is likely to last a year and work with organisations such as the Friends of Royal Victoria Country Park and the Commonwealth Graves Commission, leading to a final application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. If successful the project will invest over £1.5 million into the park and is likely to start in March 2015 and finish in 2018 to mark the anniversary of the end of WWI.

On Saturday January 18 at 1.30pm Royal Victoria County Park is hosting a talk and slide show by the well-loved author and historian, Philip Hoare, in the Heritage Centre. Philip Hoare penned Spike Island: Memory of a Military Hospital a detailed history of the military hospital that once stood on the site.

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