These buidings originally housed the Royal Hospital for Seamen. Stories of the comparatively large numbers of African and West Indian mariners who passed through the gates can be traced through slave narratives, journals and newspaper accounts.
A magazine article from April 1834 stated that 402 West Indians and 130 Africans received treatment at this institution. By 1875 this figure had risen to 2340 West Indians and 599 Africans. These figures do not include the African Americans or Black British-born seamen whose presence was also noted in newspaper and court reports of that period.
The Naval hospital at Greenwich was mentioned in the Narrative of Briton Hammon (published in 1760), who was a slave to Major John Winslow of Marshfield, Massachusetts. In his narrative Hammon recounts how, having been discharged from the 74-gun ship Hercules on the 12 May, he was ‘…put into the Greenwich Hospital where I stay’d and soon recovered’.