- This page, from one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s sketchbooks, show a few of his designs for Renkioi Hospital. It was designed for soldiers injured during the Crimean War.
- Large numbers of injured soldiers were dying in hospitals from infections and disease. The British Government asked Brunel to design a new type of hospital to try and combat the issue. After speaking to doctors and looking around hospitals in London, Brunel came up with his design in just six days.
- The sketches show Brunel’s plan for how the buildings would look. The building with the curved roof was designed to be a kitchen, whilst the building behind was a hospital ward. At the bottom of the page Brunel seems to have sketched out how the beds might fit in to the ward.
- He also sketched designs for other parts of the hospital including wash basins, toilets and baths for injured soldiers.
A flat pack hospital
During the Crimean War (1854-1856), conditions in the hospitals for wounded soldiers were terrible. Whilst in hospital many soldiers were catching and dying from a range of diseases including cholera, dysentery, malaria and typhoid. In February 1855 Isambard Kingdom Brunel was asked by his brother-in-law Sir Benjamin Hawes, who worked in the War Office for the British Government, to come up with a new hospital to try and solve the problem. He set to work straight away, even though he was busy working on the SS Great Eastern and the Royal Albert Bridge. He wrote in his diary “This is a matter in which I think I ought to be able to be useful and therefore I need hardly say that my time and my best exertions without any limitations are entirely at the service of the Government”.
The wooden hospital wards Brunel designed could each take up to fifty soldiers. When used together the wards would create a hospital able to treat over 1,000 soldiers. Each ward was designed to connect to clean running water and the main drainage system. Brunel also added high windows along both sides of the wards to allow fresh air in and included a stove in each to provide warmth. He designed the hospital to be built in parts (known as prefabricated) with each part only needing two men to carry it. All the parts were built in England then shipped out to Turkey where it was put together. The hospital was quickly constructed on a site in west Turkey; the whole process from design to the arrival of its first patients took less than six months. It proved to be successful with far less soldiers dying from diseases at Renkioi than at other hospitals during the war.