In the middle of the Port of Mahon, approximately half way between the mouth of the port and its end, you find the Isla del Rey (King Island), called this because in 1287 it was the first land trod by the Spanish King, Alfonso III, during his campaign to conqueror Menorca from the Muslims. Prior to this the island was referred to as Rabbit Island.
The island has a surface area 41.177 sq.mts. and is triangular in form, it has two embarkation areas, one in the north and the other in the south, the latter being utilized more due its proximity to Cala Fontanillas, in Es Castell. The island is occupied by the old military hospital located on the east side, a closed enclosure surrounding and protecting the remains of the basilica (dated 6th Century).
During the 18th Century shortly after taking his seat, the 1st British Governor expropriated the island from its owners with the intention of constructing a sailor’s hospital. Under the command of John Jennings, of the British Mediterranean Fleet, in 1711 a spacious and airy hospital was built, and according to records remained an active institution for the following sixty years until it was substituted during the second British occupation for a newer building following a baroque style.
On the 30th October 1771, during Governor Moystins epoch and under great pomp and circumstance, the acting Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet, Baron Sir Peter Dennis laid the 1st stone. This act was commemorated with an engraved copper plaque, which was accidentally found in 1906 following restoration work.
The new hospital constructed between 1771 and 1776 had two floors, formed a “U” shape and was surrounded by gardens. The strong walls facing the sea were built with small windows while the interior walls were completely open with a series of arcades. The ground floor had an open corridor bordered with arches, opening onto the patio area; these arches corresponded with the arches located on the 1st floor. In actual fact the arches of the 1st floor were more decorative, were closed in and had windows, each arch divided by a strong buttress, and although it was a very strong feature the architectural design made the upper floor appear very light. The centre of the building and the crown of this majestic building was the square shaped tower situated in the east block.