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Visiting the main building of the British Hospital, Montevideo, Uruguay: sedate 1913 seat of a distinguished facility

Updated on July 2, 2012
Flag of Uruguay
Flag of Uruguay | Source
British Hospital, Avenida Italia, Montevideo, Uruguay
British Hospital, Avenida Italia, Montevideo, Uruguay | Source
Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay
Map location of Montevideo, Uruguay | Source

Evidencing historically close Anglo-Uruguayan community relations

What was previously established in the 19th century as the Hospital Estranjero (Foreign Hospital) had located in the Old City: (Spanish: Ciudad Vieja ) of Montevideo, Uruguay. This institution was founded in 1857, when Uruguay was going through its civil war period.

The British commercial presence in the River Plate (Spanish: Río de la Plata ) area was considerable even in the early and mid-19th centuries. Indeed, when the Oriental Republic of Uruguay (Spanish: República Oriental del Uruguay ) was established in 1828, Great Britain acted as a guarantor of this newly independent state, situated on the eastern bank of the Uruguay River between Argentina and Brazil (1).

In 1913, however, the Foreign Hospital, known from then onwards as the British Hospital (Spanish: Hospital Británico ) moved to new premises. Located on Avenida Italia, a main east-west road artery in Montevideo, the original building has since expanded greatly to include a whole complex.

The front elevation of the original 1913 building has a typical 'British'-looking veranda, of a type common in many parts of the former overseas British Empire. Its two storeys are supplemented by a number of dormer windows.

The hospital contains among the most advanced medical facilities in the country, including state of the art diagnostic imaging. For many years the hospital has operated a health insurance scheme which is widely subscribed locally. The Hospital is a regular venue for medical conferences featuring international speakers.

Since 1913 generations of British residents of Uruguay, and Uruguayans of British and other backgrounds, have used this prime facility (including myself). Interestingly, the American Embassy in Montevideo includes various doctors from the British Hospital by way of medical service listings for visiting and resident American citizens. Indeed, the United States has built up a strong commercial relationship with Uruguay which compares and even exceeds the one that has existed for nearly two centuries between the country and Great Britain.

The British community in Montevideo is also served by many other institutions and facilities. There is a British School in the suburb of Carrasco, which in recent years celebrated its centenary. A British Cemetery was originally managed by the same British expatriate committee as commenced the British School. An Neo-classical Anglican cathedral, Holy Trinity, in the Old City has been a hub of important events in the lives of many Anglophone residents since the 19th century. A English language library which corresponds with the British Council exists in the city also.

July 2, 2012


(1) Stated differently, the projection of British Naval power in defence of British commercial interests was less overt than in the cases of formal British protectorates in other parts of the world. From the earliest days when Uruguayans started to enjoy the dignity of independent citizenship, they have also maintained respectful and mutually beneficial commercial relations with Great Britain.

Also worth seeing

In Montevideo itself, visitor attractions include: the Legislative Palace (Spanish: Palacio Legislativo ); Independence Square (Spanish: Plaza Independencia ), with its Artigas Mausoleum, Independence Building (the former Estévez Palace); the Ciudalela entrance, and the Palacio Salvo ; the Cerro Fortress; the Cerrito; the Obelisk (Spanish: Obelisco ) and many others.


How to get there: LanChile flies to Montevideo , Uruguay from North American destinations including New York and Toronto . The Uruguayan airline PLUNA, which codeshares with VARIG, flies to a number of Latin American regional destinations. Car rental is available at Montevideo Carrasco International airport. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please consult appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing visa requirements which may apply to the holders of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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