The Dreadnought Seamen's hospital
|Housing the hospital|
First floating home
Between March and October of that year the vessel had undergone alterations and repairs at the nearby Deptford naval yard. The decks were cleared of their fittings and beds put in place to form wards.
Finally, a ship’s surgeon and a superintendent were appointed to work and live on board the new hospital ship. The surgeon, Dr David Arnott, was paid £150 a year, plus food. The superintendent, an ex-naval lieutenant named William Somerville, was paid £100.
Arrival of the 'Dreadnought'
Launched in 1801 the 99-gun warship had fought at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Charles Dickens was among a group of journalists who visited the vessel when it first opened. He described it as follows: 'The main deck is used as a chapel, with cabins for the surgeons, and hammocks for the convalescents, the middle deck is the surgical [ward], the lower the medical deck.'
The Dreadnought could house some 400 patients.
Problems of overcrowding
Fitting out the new ship cost the society £15,000, though £4,000 was paid to them for the old vessel when it was scrapped.
The 'Dreadnought' comes ashore
In 1870, after much debate, the hospital moved ashore and into the vacant infirmary building of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Originally built in 1763 by the architect James Stuart, the building provided small wards over two floors. It housed around 250 patients.
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