The story of Netley in Southampton – its hospital, its people and the secret history of the 20th-century. Now with a new afterword uncovering astonishing evidence of Netley’s links with Porton Down & experiments with LSD in the 1950s.
It was the biggest hospital ever built. Stretching for a quarter of a mile along the banks of Southampton Water, the Royal Victoria Military Hospital at Netley was an expression of Victorian imperialism in a million red bricks, a sprawling behemoth so vast that when the Americans took it over in World War II, GIs drove their jeeps down its corridors. Born out of the bloody mess of the Crimean War, it would see the first women serving in the military, trained by Florence Nightingale; the first vaccine for typhoid; and the first purpos- built military asylum. Here Wilfred Owen would be brought along with countless other shell-shocked victims of World War I – captured on film, their tremulous ghosts still haunted the asylum a generation later. In Spike Island, Philip Hoare has written a biography of a building. In the process he deals with his own past, and his own relationship to its history.