IT WAS one of the country’s most impressive buildings, with lush green space and sumptuous views.

In it’s full glory the former Royal Victoria Military Hospital was the longest building in the world, measuring a quarter of a mile and capable of accommodating 1,000 beds across 138 wards.

The need for the building became vital during the Crimean War when there was no military hospital to treat the wounded.

Hospital ships from all over the British Empire would dock in the port of Southampton, and Netley was considered the ideal location.

It’s construction began in 1856, with Queen Victoria laying the foundation stone on May 19. A time-capsule was concealed beneath, containing a copy of the plans, the first Victoria Cross, a Crimea Medal and coins of the realm.

The cost of the construction was £350,000, more than £40m in today’s money.

Although grand and visually attractive, the hospital was seen by many as being neither convenient nor practical, as the corridors were on the sea-facing front of the building. This resulted in little light and air getting to the wards and consequently unpleasant smells lingered throughout the building. Journalist Matthew Wallingford visited the hospital to write a report for the local parish newsletter.

Wallingford wrote: “It was a ghastly display of deception to say the least. To the naked eye it is a triumph of modern architecture, but should you inherit the misfortune to be sectioned there, one would not think of the place as so. It is not so much as the greatest military hospital in the world as much as it is a rather impractical waste of government finance.”

Injured soldiers were first treated at the hospital in 1863, with the patients later being photographed and the pictures bizarrely made into postcards.

It wasn’t until seven years later when the hospital’s D Block opened as the Army’s first military asylum.

It was in 1879 when The first Army nurses travelled overseas from Netley, led by Mrs Deeble – the Superintendent or matron who had served in the Zulu war.

Queen Victoria visited Netley Hospital numerous times, sometimes arriving by boat from her home across the Solent, Osborne House, and sometimes by train from Windsor. She awarded three Victoria Crosses to patients during these visits.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, a large amount of Red Cross huts were erected on the land behind the hospital’s main building, providing room for up to 2,000 beds.

During the carnage of the war, more than 50,000 patients were treated by the hospital and the Red Cross – including poet Wilfred Owen, who was sent to Netley suffering from shellshock.

Owen was later sent back to the trenches and was shot dead during a German offensive just five days before the end of the conflict.

In 1941, doctors and nurses trained in mental illness were dispatched from Netley to Scotland to treat Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, who was imprisoned there.

The hospital was used during the Second World War, with around 68,000 patients being treated during that time.

A fire ripped through the building in 1963, before it was finally demolished in 1966 and Queen Victoria’s time capsule retrieved.

The only section of the large construction saved was the chapel, now used as a visitors’ centre presenting the history of the hospital.

The land freed up from the levelling of the structure and the surrounding area was opened as Royal Victoria Country Park in 1970, providing the public with 200 acres of green space as well as a small shingle beach.