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Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0064 DSH
Held at: National Maritime Museum
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Full title: Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital
Date(s): [19th century-20th century]
Level of description: Collection

Name of creator(s): Dreadnought Seaman's Hospital


Administrative/Biographical history:

In the early years of the nineteenth century Zachary MacAulay and William Wilberforce established a fund for the relief of distressed seamen. The committee appointed to manage the fund met for the first time on 8 March 1821 and from this meeting was formed the Seamen's Hospital Society. The purpose of the new society was the establishment of a hospital solely for seamen. The 48 gun GRAMPUS was loaned by the Admiralty for conversion as a hospital ship and she was moored at Greenwich in October 1821.

Within the next ten years it became clear that the accomodation in the GRAMPUS could not meet the demand and in 1831 the Admiralty agreed to replace her with a larger hulk, the DREADNOUGHT, previously used by the Royal Navy as a hospital ship at Milford Haven. In 1833 the hospital was incorporated by Act of Parliament as 'The Seamen's Hospital Society'.

In 1832 the high incidence of cholera prompted the Central Board of Health to convert the DOVER as an isolation hospital and she joined the DREADNOUGHT at Greenwich. The Society took over the maintenance of this ship in 1835, also taking responsibility for other ships as time went on to combat outbreaks of disease. The DREADNOUGHT in turn proved inadequate to cope with the numbers, principally merchant seamen, requiring medical treatment and in 1857 she was replaced by the 120 gun CALEDONIA, renamed DREADNOUGHT by special permission of the Admiralty.

Debate arose in 1860 as to whether the hospital ship should move to a more convenient mooring or whether a new base should be sought ashore. Application was made to the Admiralty for the tenancy of the then little used Greenwich hospital, and in 1867 it was agreed that part, at least, of the building should be made available. After further negotiations, the Admiralty in 1870 leased the Infirmary, together with Somerset Ward to the Society at a nominal rental. The DREADNOUGHT hulk remained in use at Greenwich until 1872 as isolation accomodation.

The Society continued to expand, opening branch hospitals and other establishments including, in 1877, the Dreadnought School for Nurses. With the advent of the National Health Service in 1948 the hospital and its branches were handed over to the Minister for Health, the Dreadnoght Hospital itself surviving as a hospital for seamen, administered by the Seamen's Hospital Management Committee until 1974. This committee was succeeded by the Greenwich and Bexley Area Health Authority and later, in 1982, by the Greenwich Health Authority. The hospital was closed in 1986.


McBride, A. G, 'The History of the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital at Greenwich', Seamen's Hospital Management Commitee, Greenwich, 1970.

Plumridge, J. H 'Hospital Ships and Ambulance Trains', London 1975.

(Both of these volumes are available in the Library as PBN7334 and PBB4449 respectively)


Scope and content/abstract:

Admissions registers to the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

These are records of the Department of Health and Social Security. The Admissons Registers and clinical records are closed for 100 years and the Registers of Nursing staff for 50 years. The Closure Period is calculated from the date of the latest entry in any one volume. In certain cases access to material falling within this period may be granted to bona fide researchers on application to the Greenwich Health Authority through Archive staff.

Enquiries regarding this collection should be directed to Archive staff.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Please contact the Archive for further information.

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue online at the: National Maritime Museum website .

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Edited by Sarah Drewery, Jun 2011.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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