Since its foundation, the hospital has been on the same site in Chatham High Street.
The original Tudor buildings were replaced by the current, Grade 2 listed, Georgian terraces in the 1790s.
Finally, an extension was added to the complex in 1824.
“The hospital is a charity”.
The Navy’s oldest hospital, having been founded in 1594 on the grant of a Royal Charter by Queen Elizabeth I to Sir John Hawkins. He had been Controller of the Navy, but he had become concerned about the destitution of many of the veterans who had fought in 1588, against the Spanish Armada.
Therefore he established a fund “to provide accommodation for the relief of disabled and needy mariners and shipwrights in service of the realm”.
Sir Hawkins had estates along the southern waterfront of the Medway, in Chatham, from where he had a clear view of the fleet at anchor in Chatham Reach. He resolved to set aside parts of his Chatham property to found the hospital.
“The hospital is run by a volunteer trustee body made up of 11 governors”.
Two ex-officio governors whose appointments provide a direct link to the charity’s origins, namely the Lord High Admiral of the United Kingdom and the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.
Four nominative governors whose appointments are in the grant of the Bishop of Rochester, Trinity House, the Commandant of the RSME, Chatham and the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust.
Five co-optative governors who are recruited and elected by the board, which usually includes a medical doctor and an accountant.
Organisation & Management
“The board of governors meets 4 times a year”.
The main board delegates finance and welfare and admissions to two sub-committees. Meetings are supported by a clerk/administrator who also acts as the point of contact for the residents and deals with day-to-day correspondence and financial matters. There is also a gardener/handyman who is responsible for minor maintenance, access to the almshouses and control of workmen on site. Both work part-time and are not routinely accessible at the hospital, but can be contacted by telephone or email in case of emergency.
There is no resident warden, caretaker or medical care and residents must be able to live independently. Applicants for accommodation at the hospital should download the application form and submit it, once completed, by post to the clerk/administrator. Once their eligibility has been checked, an interview with a panel of governors will be arranged to assess the applicant’s suitability. The grounds for assessment are set out in the guidance notes relating to the application form. On appointment, a resident will be given a handbook that sets out the running of the hospital in detail.
The hospital comprises 8 flats which are unfurnished; albeit, they do have fully-equipped kitchens and shower rooms. Anybody offered accommodation in one of the flats is appointed as a resident, they do not become a tenant. Similarly, they pay a weekly maintenance contribution (WMC) monthly by standing order towards the cost of running the almshouse, they do not pay rent. The WMC is calculated on the basis of a fair rent assessed by the government’s Valuation Office which is then subsidised by the charity in accordance with residents’ individual needs. WMC covers some service charges, but residents remain responsible for their electricity and gas usage and council tax.
In essence, residents occupy the almshouses as private individuals and the charity works in the background to provide them with as good a standard of accommodation as is possible within its means.