The fascinating history of the Royal Berkshire Hospital main building has been revealed as NHS officials ponder its future.

The hospital was opened in 1879, made of fine Bath stone.

The building, designed in Greek Classical style, was modelled after the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, itself a striking example of neoclassical architecture.

Responsibility for the design of the hospital was held by Henry Briant, who was later responsible for designing homes in Eldon Square and eventually became a vicar.

Work continued under architect Joseph Morris who built a home for himself at 3 Craven Road, opposite the hospital.

Mr Morris built extensions in 1883 containing a chapel, library and more clinical wards.

Later, Charles Smith and his son Charles Steward Smith expanded the hospital further from 1908-09, adding the King Edward VI Memorial Ward, which is now used as the oncology ward, which is the study of cancer.

More modern additions were built in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the X Ray Department, Maternity Ward and the A&E Department.

Details of the original building’s history were given in a presentation Richard Havelock, from the Royal Berkshire Medical Museum, who argued the building needs to be preserved.

Mr Havelock said: “I’m delighted that the hospital hierarchy share my and our museum’s concerns with preserving the old buildings as far as can be done and putting them to use which is most appropriate.”

During the session, Ed McGeehin, a member of the Trust, said that the main building cannot be used for modern healthcare.

The session was held against a backdrop of planning for the future of the hospital.

The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust is currently engaging in an exercise called ‘Building Berkshire Together’ where a stategy for the long term future of the hospital is being devised.

Three preferred options have been identified: a full or partial redevelopment on its current site, or relocation to South Reading or Thames Valley Science Park in Shinfield.

On site redevelopment was estimated to cost £700-£950 million, whereas relocation would cost £1.2 billion.

Attendees of the meeting debated which of the three options would be better.

Sunila Lobo said: “If you have a Grade II listed building there’ll be so many requirements to meet, it would make it expensive just, for instance, to put solar panels on that wonderful historic front of the hospital.

“I’m sure then you’ll have to ask permission, there’ll be lost more delays.”

Ali Foster, programme director of Building Berkshire Together, acknowledged that there were pros and cons to staying or relocating, as well as people having ‘anxieties’ about running health services in two places simultaneously if relocation is chosen.

You can find out more about the The Building Berkshire Together process here https://buildingberkshiretogether.co.uk/