PortCities London

The Dreadnought Seamen's hospital

Funding the good works
Dreadnought Hospital Greenwich.
View full size imageDreadnought Hospital, Greenwich, massage and electrical department. © NMM

The hospital's costs

Running the Seamen’s Hospital was an expensive business. For example, in 1892 total expenditure for the year amounted to £15,215.

That cost was made up of, among other things, nearly £5,000 for food and drink, just over £1,000 for medical materials, £2,300 for wages, and nearly £2,000 that was spent on the society’s other branches. 

Sources of income

These costs were balanced by income that came from a variety of sources: subscriptions, collections, legacies, investments, and also fees from student nurses and some payments made by patients.

This charity-based funding continued until the hospital became a part of the National Health Service in 1948.

Funds for the Hospital were donated by many people and institutions. These ranged from the kings, queens and governments of foreign countries to ordinary people living within the local community.

Subscriptions and donations

Here are just a few of the many subscriptions and donations noted in the Society’s Annual Reports:

  • £105   Queen Victoria
  • £130   The Government of China
  • £20     The Government of Finland
  • £50      Blackheath Dramatic Club
  • £100    British India Steam Navigation Company
  • £10 10s (£10.50)   The Co-operative Society

Individuals were encouraged to complete the form shown here to provide the Hospital with regular funds based on subscriptions. The annual subscription fee was set at one guinea (21s/£1.05)

Fundraising events

Admiral Lord Howe. 'While we shed a tear of feeling'.
View full size image'While we shed a tear of feeling', title page of a ballad written especially for the benefit of the floating hospital. © NMM
Additional funding was raised through special events.

In 1831 two ‘Fancy Sales’ or bazaars were held, one in the Painted Hall at Greenwich and one in Hanover Square, London. They jointly raised over £3,200. Both were rather upper class events organised under the patronage of Queen Adelaide.

But people from all classes of society undertook special activities to aid the hospital. For example, the New Cross Tradesmen’s Ball contributed £12 14s (£12.70) to the hospital's funds.

On another occasion £44 was raised by an ‘Entertainment at the Albert Music Hall, Canning Town’ in 1891.

Flag days

An important source of funds for the hospital was money collected during flag days.

Boys from the nearby Greenwich training ships, together with nurses from the hospital, often made street collections during flag days.

The society also had a number of collecting tins, like the one shown here, fixed in prominent sites around the country.

In the London area collecting tins were located at several places, including the Hare & Billet public house on Blackheath, at the Yacht Tavern, and at St Peter's Church in Greenwich.

   Back to Famous Thames ships