Somerset Hospital, Second
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT of the CAPE COLONY: Architect
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NEW SOMERSET HOSPITAL, CAPE TOWN. – This large building was designed and built under the direction of the Public Works Department. It has a very pleasing appearance when seen from the bay or entering port, and is situated within spacious grounds surrounded by trees. A new wing, in commemoration of the Queen's Jubilee of 1897, will shortly be erected, giving increased accommodation, which is badly required. There are at present thirteen wards, these being named after various Colonial notabilities.
[Anon, c. 1899. Picturesque South Africa - An album of Photographic Views. Cape Town: Dennis Edwards & Co. p 42.]
The first hospital for civilians was founded by Dr Bailey, a naval surgeon who had been present at the Battle of Trafalgar. Opened in 1819, Old Somerset Hospital was a single-storeyed structure surrounding a quadrangle, and was only demolished during the 1930s. By the mid-19th century this old building had become totally inadequate and a new hospital was planned in a healthy position overlooking the sea.
Designed by the Colonial Engineer, Scott-Tucker, the foundation stone was laid by Governor Sir George Grey on 18 August 1859. The New Somerset Hospital stood isolated and imposing, towered and grimly fortified, a monument to the Victorians' preoccupation with the Middle Ages. Further towered wards were added later, and the interior, with its grand staircase leading upwards beneath a Gothic arch still impresses. The hospital continues to function amid these fanciful surroundings.
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