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Royal Victoria Country Park (also known as Royal Victoria Military Hospital)


The Royal Victoria Country Park is a late 20th-century country park overlooking Southampton Water. It was created from the grounds of a mid-19th-century military hospital and features areas of woodland, parkland and foreshore. A former hospital chapel houses an heritage and information centre.


The site occupies ground which rises to the north-east, being bounded by Southampton Water to the south-west.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

The grounds of what was, before it was demolished in 1966, the largest military hospital, opened in 1863 overlooking Southampton Water, incorporating a lunatic asylum set in its own grounds. The grounds were probably laid out by the Southampton landscape designer William Bridgwater Page.

The site lies at the south-east tip of greater Southampton, south-east of the village of Netley. The c 90ha site occupies ground which rises to the north-east, being bounded by Southampton Water to the south-west, by Netley to the north-west, Hamble village to the south-east, and by agricultural land to the north-east beyond the railway line linking Fareham with Southampton. The setting is partly rural, partly urban, and partly marine. Views extend from the south-west third of the site over Southampton Water towards Fawley Oil Refinery and Hythe, and south-east along the Water towards the Isle of Wight.

Entrances and Approaches

The main approach to the hospital enters the site c 750m north-west of the chapel, at Netley Cliff, giving access from Netley. A single-storey Italianate-style lodge (1861, listed grade II), built of red and yellow brick, stands to the east of the entrance which is flanked by C19 iron gate piers and gates, overlooking the water to the south-west. From here the main drive extends south-east, parallel with the water's edge, overlooking to the north-east a playing field edged with mature trees and with glimpses of the former officers' mess extending beyond this. At a point c 450m north-west of the chapel the drive curves north-east, close to the point where formerly stood a stone memorial to those who fell in the Crimea (demolished mid C20), before returning south-east again, to form part of the long straight drive which formerly ran along the south-west, entrance front of the former hospital building overlooking terraced lawns running down to the water-side. The drive arrives at the south-west front of the chapel, which formerly stood at the centre of the main hospital building, overlooking the Water to the south-west.

From the chapel the main drive continues south-east for a further 200m along the course of the former south-west front, turning north-east and then north-west to run along what was the back side of the building and site of the railway and station. Off this drive, which formerly encircled the building, lead several spurs, giving access to the former stable yard, which stood c 350m east of the chapel, the lunatic asylum (now, 2002, a police training centre) standing 450m north-east of the chapel, and beyond this the cemetery, lying c 700m east of the chapel. The spur to the cemetery, which extends east and north-east from the site of the east corner of the former main hospital building, crosses a steep-sided wooded valley, West Wood, carried by a high causeway. The causeway may have been constructed to assist the building works in the 1850s and was reused for access to the cemetery. A lodge (now gone) formerly stood in its own garden halfway along the cemetery spur drive on the south side, c 500m east-south-east of the chapel, at the point where a footpath enters the site. The garden enclosure remains.

A further drive enters 550m north of the chapel off Hound Road, the entrance marked by slender iron gate piers and gates and a single-storey brick lodge standing to the south-west of these. From here the north drive curves south-west, with spurs off providing access to the site of the former laundry and gas works, which stood 500m north of the chapel; the rear of the officers' mess, standing 400m north-north-west of the chapel; and a group of single-storey brick-built staff houses. The north drive joins the main drive 250m north-west of the chapel, at the site of the former north corner of the main building. A spur off the north drive extends north from a point 100m north-east of the officers' mess, probably having formerly been the main entrance to the site before the hospital was constructed.

The course of a former railway spur line which served the hospital enters the site close to the north entrance, curving south through a small cutting to arrive close to the site of the former main station, known as Piccadilly, 50m north-east of the chapel. The station was built in the late C19 and stood adjacent to the north-east side of the main building.

A further entrance, now (2002) disused, lies at the southern tip of the site, 300m south-east of the chapel, providing direct access from Hamble.

Principal Building

The chapel of the former Royal Victoria Military Hospital (E O Mennie 1856-8, listed grade II*) stands towards the southern tip of the site and is all that survives of the main hospital. It occupied an axial position at the heart of the hospital complex and now (2002) stands in isolation at the centre of level lawns laid out on the site of the rest of the building following its demolition in 1966. The chapel is in Classical style, in red brick with stone dressings, and is dominated by a massive tower standing at the south-west end which rises above the chapel roof in three stages topped by an octagonal domed cupola.

The hospital building faced south-west and was constructed along a 450m long corridor which overlooked the water to the south-west. The wards extended north-east off this. It was entered via a central block which projected to the south-west and led directly to the chapel to the north-east. To the north-east of the axial corridor/ward wing were service courts and buildings.

The officers' mess (c 1860, listed grade II) stands 350m north-north-west of the chapel; this was converted into flats c 1990. It is a long, two- and three-storey classical building, rendered and white-painted, entered via the main south-west front from which a central block projects. Service buildings stand in a yard adjacent to the north-east.

Victoria House, the former military lunatic asylum (1866-70, listed grade II), was constructed by the Royal Engineers. It stands 450m north-east of the chapel and is set in its own walled grounds. The one- and two-storey building is Italianate in style and has an approximately E-shaped plan andis built of red and yellow brick. Following its conversion to a training centre there have been substantial extensions. It is approached from the north lodge via a drive which leads south-east across the northern parkland directly to the north-east front.

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

The pleasure grounds include the formal terraced lawns to the south-west of the chapel and site of the former main building, the grounds of the officers' mess, and the grounds of the former lunatic asylum.

South-west of the chapel lies a lawn which runs north-west to south-east along the entire length of the former front of the hospital. The lawn slopes down to the water, with a formal grass terrace at its upper, north-east end which projects to the south-west at the centre, reflecting the outline of the projecting central block of the former hospital building. Mature holm oaks mark the outer corners of the projection. An axial path, aligned on the chapel and formerly on the main entrance to the hospital building, leads south-west from the centre of this projection, sloping down to the water. A granite seating area occupies the south-west end of the path adjacent to the water, being the remains of the point where formerly the pier at which patients were unloaded met dry land. The pier was demolished in the mid C20 but before this, two ornate shelters stood at its north-east end.

Two further paths flank the axial path, c 130m to either side, allowing further access from the site of the hospital building and the top terrace to the water-side. The paths are linked at their south-west ends by an extension of the main drive which continues south-east along the water-side to the southern tip of the site. Of the four panels of lawn thus formed, the south-east one is now (2002) given over to a sailing club and boats are parked on part of it, with a clubhouse at the water-side. The panel to the north-west of this contains the remains of a tennis court terraced into the lawn below the top terrace.

The paths were all formerly flanked by mature trees, including conifers and other evergreens, but many of these were lost in the storms of 1987 and 1990. A large number of the C19 deciduous trees were elms, but these died during the 1970s and some lines of trees along the paths have since been replaced with limes. This area enjoys views south-west across the water but is planted with trees which formerly provided shelter for the hospital building from the sea winds. Close to the former north corner of the hospital building, 220m north of the chapel, stands the Empire Building (K J Lindy 1939-40, listed grade II). This elaborate timber-framed building was erected as the YMCA building, the timber having been donated by members of the Timber Trade Federation to illustrate types from all over the British Empire; it is now (2002) offices and tea and function rooms. It overlooks the chapel and former site of the hospital building to the south.

The former officers' mess is set in its own 3.5ha grounds, with a terrace running along the south-west front of the building carrying the approach drive from the main entrance which enters the grounds at the west corner of the building. The mess overlooks lawns to the south-west which are enclosed by mature trees and flowering shrubs. A wooden rose pergola (rebuilt late C20) extends south-west from the south corner of the terrace. Formerly an observatory stood 150m south of the mess (OS 1909) but this has since gone. Some 100m west of the officers¿ mess stands the former Medical Officer's Quarter, now converted to several dwellings (late C20). It is approached via a spur drive from the main entrance to the north-west and stands in its own grounds, laid largely to lawn with mature trees screening it. The MO's Quarter is connected to the terrace to the south-west of the former main building by a drive running south-east lined with an avenue of trees.

The c 6ha former military asylum grounds lie towards the east corner of the site, surrounded almost entirely by a high brick wall to prevent patients from escaping. It is approached directly from the site of the main hospital via a drive curving north-eastwards which arrives at a gateway flanked by brick piers set in the wall at the west corner of the asylum grounds. The grounds were laid out at the same time as the building was erected, c 1870, and contain many mature trees, particularly to the south-west and south-east. The building stands at the north-east corner of the almost rectangular site, with lawns extending to the west and south-west and a car park to the north-west. To the south-east of the C19 building lies a substantial late C20 extension, and beyond this stands the former asylum Medical Officer's Quarter, Hollyleigh. This house stands in its own wooded garden, approached through the north-east perimeter wall via a drive from the north which is an extension of the main drive to the asylum site from the north lodge. Lawns and an informal path system surround the house, with wooded grounds falling away to the south and east towards West Wood.


The various areas of the pleasure grounds are connected by the park which consists of several discrete open areas and much woodland. An area of playing fields largely enclosed by a line of trees divides the main entrance from the former site of the hospital building. A large open area of parkland lies to the north-east of the site of the former hospital building, the site of the hutted wards during the World Wars. This area merges to the south-east into West Wood, running along the east and south-east boundaries, in which are located Victoria House, the cemetery, and the sites of the former stable yard and isolation hospital (now gone). Further woodland runs along the north-west boundary linking the main entrance and the north entrance.

Other Land

The hospital cemetery lies 700m east of the chapel, approached via the causewayed drive leading from the former east corner of the hospital building. The cemetery is bounded by agricultural land to the east (from which it separated by a belt of trees) and south, and to the west by West Wood, and is entered at the south-west corner from the causeway, flanked by iron gates and piers. From here the main path extends north along the west side of the cemetery, rising up towards a plateau occupying the highest land at the north end, which is also the highest land of the site. The cemetery is laid out in a grid pattern aligned on the cardinal compass points, centred axially on two parallel paths running north to south. The eastern of these two paths is reached via a spur off the main path from the south-west corner. The cemetery is planted with many mature trees, especially conifers and evergreens, and contains a mixture of military and civilian grave stones, with a war memorial at the northern end.


  • OS 6" to 1 mile: 1931 edition
  • OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition 1867/8; 2nd edition 1897; 3rd edition 1909; 1932-3 edition

Archival items

  • Hospitals files 100128-30 (NMR, Swindon)

Description written: January 2002

Edited: February 2004, February 2022

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The park is free and open every day but opening times are seasonal.

For more detailed visitor information and seasonal opening times visit the Hampshire County Council website.


The country park is situated just south-east of Netley and can be reached from junction 8 of the M27 or A27. For more information regarding directions visit the Hampshire County Council website.


Hampshire County Council

The Castle, Winchester, SO23 8ZB

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

19th Century

The large numbers of invalid soldiers returning from the Crimean War in the mid-1850s caused the War Department to begin in January 1856 to prepare plans for a huge general military hospital. A 109 acre (about 44 hectares) site forming part of Netley Grange Farm (which had formed part of the lands of the nearby Cistercian Netley Abbey before the Dissolution) was bought in the same year for the purpose from Thomas Chamberlayne. The Royal Victoria Military Hospital was designed by E. O. Mennie and the foundation stone laid by Queen Victoria on 19 May 1856.

The design, with its spinal corridor a quarter of a mile long, was soon heavily criticised for not having taken into account the lessons in construction which had been learned in the Crimea, in particular the new fashion for wards designed in separate pavilion form. Work was too far advanced however for major structural alterations to be carried out (The Builder, September 1856). The Southampton landscape designer, and owner of Old Spa Gardens seed and nursery business, William Bridgwater Page is thought to have laid out the grounds (Fairman 1984; Burroughs 1992), which consisted of formal terraces and lawns leading from the main building down to the waterfront, surrounded by informal parkland.

The hospital opened in March 1863 having cost £350,000. An officers' mess was constructed in its own grounds within the site, together with a military lunatic asylum set within walled grounds (around 1870) and a cemetery.

20th - 21st Century

During the First and Second World Wars the grounds to the north of the hospital building were used for temporary hutted hospital accommodation, but these buildings were taken down after each war enabling the land to be returned to parkland/recreation ground use. The additions brought the numbers of patients up to several thousand at a time.

In 1966 the main hospital building was demolished, leaving only the central chapel. The site was bought by Hampshire County Council in 1979 and opened as the Royal Victoria Country Park in 1980. The officers' mess was converted to domestic accommodation and the former lunatic asylum has become Victoria House Police Training Centre.

The site remains (2022) in public use.

The Royal Victoria Country Park is part of the Fields in Trust historic protection programme and have been protected since December 2018 under the Centenary Fields protection type.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD5063
  • Grade: II
Key Information





Principal Building

Parks, Gardens And Urban Spaces


Victorian (1837-1901)


Part: standing remains



Open to the public


Civil Parish