Royal Victoria Country Park commemorates ‘Centenary Field’
The site of the former Royal Victoria Military Hospital has been protected in perpetuity as a ‘Centenary Field’ by Hampshire County Council and Fields in Trust, ensuring that the green space where the hospital once stood will remain as a living memorial to those who gave their lives during the conflict.
Chairman of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Elaine Still, unveiled a plaque to commemorate the dedication of the historic site, on Thursday 21 March. She said:“It is a great honour to mark the dedication of these fields and commemorate the significant role of the Royal Victoria Military Hospital during World War I. I am glad to think that this green space will be protected for future generations to enjoy, and that the memory of the hospital will be preserved in perpetuity.”
The Royal Victoria Military Hospital was a personal project of Queen Victoria and when completed in 1863 was the largest military hospital in the world. It became the centre for army medical research and training and treated more than 100,000 casualties from various major conflicts over a period of more than a century.
Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, put the land forward for dedication in the centenary year of the conflict’s end.
He said: “This site is enormously important, both to our national history, and to local people whose families have passed down their stories of this once great hospital. Many people who worked there still have family living nearby.
“The hospital chapel is the only part of the building which still stands. With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, we have been able to bring that history back to life for visitors thanks to careful restoration of the original Victorian interiors. We have also created an accompanying exhibition, improved visitor facilities, added outdoor information points, and can now offer visitors the chance to climb the chapel tower.
“Securing protection for the surrounding site, as a Centenary Field, further ensures that this historic and beautiful place will remain preserved for the generations to come.”
To mark the centenary of World War I, landowners across the UK were encouraged to dedicate memorial gardens, parks or recreation grounds that contain a war memorial, and other valued green spaces that have some significance to World War I, as Centenary Fields. The Centenary Fields Legacy campaign was delivered by Fields in Trust, in partnership with The Royal British Legion's 'Thank You' project.
Photo shows: Hampshire County Council Chairman, Councillor Elaine Still unveiling the plaque with Phil Halliwell, Business Manager, Royal Victoria Country Park.