PortCities London

The Dreadnought Seamen's hospital


Dreadnought Hospital.
View full size imageThe Dreadnought Hospital building today. © NMM

Sailors and the people of the ports they lived in and visited have always had health and welfare needs.

The Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital was founded in the early 19th century to provide a health and welfare service for sailors on ships visiting the River Thames.

Greenwich Hospital, the 'Dreadnought' being towed to its moorings.
View full size imageGreenwich Hospital, the Dreadnought being towed to its moorings. © NMM
The hospital’s first home was the Grampus, an old navy warship, or hulk, moored near Greenwich. But in 1830 the Royal Navy presented the ex-warship HMS Dreadnought to the society that ran the hospital. From that point onwards it would always be known by the name 'Dreadnought'.


Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital, Greenwich.
View full size imageThe ambulance of the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital, Greenwich. © NMM

In 1870 the Dreadnought moved ashore and so became an even more important part of the local port community. The hospital generously dealt with urgent medical cases from the local population of Greenwich, Blackheath and Deptford during the later 19th and the early 20th centuries.

Seamen used the ‘Dreadnought’ less and less as the amount of shipping on the Thames dramatically declined during the second half of the 20th century. The ‘Dreadnought’ finally closed its doors in 1986 when it was no longer viable as a separate hospital.

However, special services for seamen and their families continue to be provided by the ‘Dreadnought Unit’, now based within St Thomas’s Hospital in Lambeth.

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