5. Great Kitchen [WW1]

Historic Image: Operating theatre

Great Kitchen as operating theatre, 1915.


This room was originally the Pavilion’s largest kitchen. It had running water and plenty of light from the square lantern above our heads, which made it ideal for locating one of two operating theatres. Here’s Kevin Bacon, one of the curators of the Indian Hospital gallery:

Kevin Bacon

‘When we talk about the Pavilion hospital, it wasn’t actually just the main Royal Pavilion building itself that was used, it was the whole Pavilion estate. So this also includes the buildings that are now the Dome and the Corn Exchange, which were formerly the stables of George IV. When the building was converted the requirements were partly that it could be a state of the art medical facility, so two operating theatres were set up, one in the Great Kitchen, another just off the main auditorium of the Dome. There was also an X-ray room which was set up here, which was a bit of a struggle for the military authorities to set up, because X-ray at this time is still a relatively new technology and unfortunately, the best X-ray equipment came from Germany. So they had to rely on inferior American exports, which apparently had a small habit of causing minor explosions when they were used.’

As an operating theatre, it was almost unrecognisable, as Jody East explains:

Jody East

‘All of the walls have been boarded, so you can’t see any of the original Regency kitchen fittings at all, it looks like a sort of clean, white, empty space with an operating table in the middle. All you can see are the pillars which come down supporting the roof.’