09 Nov 2017

We're very pleased to announce the launch of the Dreadnought Seamen's Hospital online resource. As part of a collaborative project, a team of e-volunteers have generously devoted their spare time to transcribing details from records held at the National Maritime Museum. The Dreadnought Seamen Hospital Admissions and Discharges, 1826-1930 can now be searched and viewed on the Ancestry family history website.

by Graham Thompson, Archives Assistant

The Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital at Greenwich was the main clinical site of the Seamen’s Hospital Society (now Seafarer’s Hospital Society), founded with the philanthropic mission of providing relief to sick and injured seafarers of all nations. Throughout the period 1821-1870 it was a floating hospital, based on three successive converted warships, named Grampus and later Dreadnought. It then moved on land and until 1986 occupied the buildings which are now being converted into a student hub for the University of Greenwich.  

The details of admissions available on Ancestry include name, age and place of birth, dates of admission and discharge, rank, last vessel employed on, medical condition and fate. The patients were seafarers from all over the globe, reflecting the international traffic of the port of London. Casualties from local emergencies, among them women and children, were also admitted, so were military personnel during wartime. As well as helping to trace individuals, the records have possibilities for diverse avenues of academic research, including the history of medicine and diseases, and the history of black and Asian communities within the maritime world.


The 'Dreadnought' off Greenwich
Edward Cooke's original study of the 'Dreadnought' which was the Society's hospital ship off Greenwich from 1827 to 1856 (PAE6161)

Famous faces in the registers

Among the seafarers to be found in the registers is the writer Joseph Conrad (Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski). He appears as Conrad Korzenwinke, aged 24, born in Poland, recently employed as mate of the Loch Etive (1877) on a voyage from Sydney, admitted suffering from measles on 2 August 1881. He was discharged on 11 August and returned to the London Sailor’s Home for further recovery.

Able Seaman Albert Edward Mckenzie of HMS Vindictive (1897), the first sailor from London to be awarded the Victoria Cross, is another notable patient in the records. On 9 May 1918 he was admitted with multiple gunshot wounds sustained during the raid on Zeebrugge. He was discharged to fever hospital on 13 September and unfortunately died of influenza at Chatham Naval Hospital on 3 November, days before the war officially ended.

Martial Bourdin, a French anarchist, died of fatal abdominal injuries at the Dreadnought Seamen’s Hospital following the premature explosion of his device in Greenwich Park on 15 February 1894. Other local events featured in the registers can be classified as accidents in the workplace. For example, Isaac Selby, a carpenter from the Great Eastern (1858), recently launched at Millwall, was admitted suffering from concussion on 30 July 1858. Isabella Matilda Scott died from burn injuries on 29 August 1873, following a gunpowder explosion at the Dyer and Robson factory on the Woolwich Road.

Free access to the Ancestry website is available for readers in the Caird Library here at Greenwich. The Caird Library also provides access to the original registers and indexes.