Airthrey Castle Maternity Hospital

‘Airthrey Castle against the Blue’  by Amy Palko photographed in 2007, and licensed under  CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Below is the brief gazetteer entry of 1990, with additional notes in italics below. Airthrey Castle survives at the heart of University of Stirling

AIRTHREY CASTLE MATERNITY HOSPITAL, BRIDGE OF ALLAN   The hospital opened c.1941 in the mansion house, a daring design by Robert Adam in his castle style. However, it had closed by 1969 when the new maternity unit opened at Stirling Royal Infirmary. The estates of Airthrey Castle were built on to form Stirling University.


Adam drew up designs for Airthrey Castle in 1791, but was not involved with its construction. Building work was supervised by Thomas Russell of Seton. The entrance front was rebuilt in 1891 to designs by David Thomson for Donald Graham, the chief partner in the firm of William Graham & Company, East India Merchants, of Glasgow. The interiors were fitted out with rich carved panelling, still in situ. He had purchased the estate in 1889, but died in January 1901 of erysipelas. After his death the house remained in his wife’s ownership,  but in 1924 the shipowner Charles Donaldson took a five-year lease of the estate. He died at the castle in December 1938.

At the outbreak of the Second World War the Estate was acquired by the Ministry of Health as an Emergency Maternity Hospital administered by Stirling County Council, taking patients from Stirling and Clyde. It remained in the ownership of the Graham family until after the war, having been put up for sale in November 1944. With the foundation of the National Health Service the hospital passed to the Western Regional Health Board. A nurses’ home was built in 1953 to the south-east of the house. This L-shaped, two-storey, flat-roofed building appears to have survived and was in use as a surgery/health centre for the University in the 1980s. 

In 1965 arrangements were made for the transfer to the new University of Stirling of the Airthrey Castle Estate, although it remained in use as a maternity hospital until 1968-9. It was replaced by new maternity units in Paisley and Stirling. The castle was listed in 1973 category B.

sources: Edinburgh Evening News, 23 Jan 1901: Dundee Courier, 1 Jan 1924: Western Daily Press, 8 Dec 1938: Dundee Courier, 15 Jan 1940: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 21 Feb 1944: PP ‘Report of the Department of Health for Scotland…’ 1953 c.9107: PP ‘Scottish Home and Health Department Review of the Hospital Plan for Scotland’ 1966 c.2877: OS maps.

Further Reading: N. Reid,  ‘Airthrey Castle Maternity Hospital 1939-1948’, and E. Rose ‘Airthrey Castle Maternity Hospital 1948-1969’ in Report of Proceedings of the Society of the Scottish History of Medicine, 1988-9, pp.14-17

I have just come across a conservation plan for Stirling University by Simpson and Brown  which includes a history of the Castle and the landscaping, it can be accessed here.

42 thoughts on “Airthrey Castle Maternity Hospital

    • Hi Jaqui, my name is James, i am part of a college group conducting a local investigation for our assessment, our topic is the history of Airthrey Castle in particular the maternity hospital. I myself was born there in 1968 and are trying to gather as much information or peoples experience as we can, if you could give any feedback it would be much appreciated

  1. I was born here in 1946.airthrey castle hospital .1946. looks beautiful.cant believe I finally found a photo of it .x.

    • Hi Katharine, my name is James, i am part of a college group conducting a local investigation for our assessment, our topic is the history of Airthrey Castle in particular the maternity hospital. I myself was born there in 1968 and are trying to gather as much information or peoples experience as we can, if you could give any feedback it would be much appreciated

    • Hello James, uncertain if your interest in Airthrey Castle Maternity Hospital remains. I was born there in 1946…..

      Kind regards, Dorothy Hallett (born Dorothy Johanna Brouwer)

  2. Hello , what documentation do you have about the November 1944 Knight Frank & Rutley sale ? I am doing an investigation about this particular sale and I am not able to find ANYTHING regarding the auction. Please get in contact with me to see if you can help me !

  3. I was born in Airthrey Castle 1st April 1940 Samuel Benson Beattie
    I remember my mother telling me when she arrived at Airthrey Castle the snow was very deep,and she was carried up the stairs of the Main Entrance by Staff at the Castle.
    She described the room she was in as having round walls.
    I was around 12yrs when she told me about this,unfortunately I dont remember anything more about what she said.
    I’am at present researching my Family Tree and would like to know about anything happening around the time of my Birth at the 1940.

  4. I was an unwanted child dumped. If not for this institution which I believed saved my life as a newborn on 5 January 1960i would never off enjoyed the 59 years I’ve atefully. A.R. Baxter

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  6. I was born UPSTAIRS in the castle Dec. 1942 (Dianne Hendrie). My best friend was born downstairs Feb.1943 (Janette Turnbull). She tells everyone I am older than her. My revenge is to say I was born UPSTAIRS, lol. Robert O’Brien,my cousin, also born at Airthrey Castle.

    • jy sister Kathie was born there on Dec 8th 1942. My mum had been evacuated from Clydebank after the Blitz. She was so far away from all her friends and family as my dad was posted abroad. She said they were very kind to her.

  7. My mum gave birth to my 2 brothers here. One in 1947 , the other in 1952. What I can’t understand is, my sister and myself were born 1955 and 1957, but delivered at home. My mum is no longer here so I can’t ask her. I would have liked to have been born in a castle lol

  8. Born here in April 1944 like many folk from Clydebank after the Blitz. My father said he had to take three buses to get to Airthrey Castle from Clydebank to visit my mother.

  9. I was born in Lennox Castle 70 years ago today (10th of June 1949). A part of the asylum was made into a maternity wing after the war. My mother was unlucky enough to find herself in that place, where horror stories abound. She told me that in inmates of the asylum were used as hospital orderlies, pushing trollies around the maternity wards; they were a constant presence. Mum was so traumatised by my birth in those horrendous conditions that her nerves got the better of her. In the end, dad had to sign a waver to have her discharged. She vowed never to have another baby, but my brother was born 8 years later in Melbourne Australia. Mum died recently, but whenever she had had to be admitted to hospital, she would relate to the doctors and nurses the nightmare of my birth.I feel very lucky to have survived Lennox Castle and to have made it to my 70th birthday.

    • I was born there 0n 16/4/1948,we immigrated to Australia 1951,what a stupid thing to do,finished getting polio

  10. I was born there on the 11 December 1943, my mother was sent there from 129 High Street Dumbarton ,we lived next to Denny’s shipyard. Now live in Brisbane Australia, great to say “i was born in a castle aaah fun and games.”

  11. I was born in Airthrey Castle on 1st April 1940
    But according to records it was only opened in 1941 can anyone enlighten me on this.

  12. I was born here in February 1948, to a South African mother and a Scots father, Tanya and Tom Main. We eventually settled in South Africa, and I now live in Cape Town. I have met one other person in SA whose daughter was born at the castle some years later. We must be scattered all over the globe.

  13. Myself and my wife were also born in Airthrey castle in 1968. I had meningitis when I was in there and wasn’t expected to survive. I would love to hear from anyone who worked there at that time. I still get goosebumps everytime I see this beautiful building.

  14. I was born in Airthrey Castle in May 1944 and my father always said that when I was born, a nurse held me up by my ankles at an upstairs window to let him see me from the grounds outside the castle. Beautiful photograph of the castle Thank you.

  15. HI ALL
    I was born in the castle on 13/09/67.
    Is there any books or reading material with information about the hospital, as i would like to fined out more about my birth place.

  16. I was born in Airthrey Castle in 1948,lived in Scotland until l was 11 years old,lived in Derby England to present time,would like to visit before l die.

  17. I was born in Airthrey 28 March 1942 whilst my father was away at war. Sadly he was killed in action the following December, having seen and held me only the once – when I was 8 months old.

  18. I was born there in 1941 and my sister in 1943. We lived in Clydebank. I took my mum back for a visit about 10 years ago but it had changed so much inside she said she couldn’t remember much of it. She said the second time she was there she met a woman she had met on her first visit (for me.) The woman said she liked the place so much she planned to come back regularly! I can see why- coming from bombed Clydebank and similar places it really is a lovely spot tucked under the Ochil Hills. I live in Canada now but visit Bridge of Allan when I’m ‘home’ just to be there. I wonder as I watch the university students come and go if they have any idea of the thousands of life stories that started in that building.

  19. I was born here in 1962 my parents margaret n danny stewart Stayed in Tullibody at the time Sadly lost my mum last year Nee Mitchell

  20. I was born here on 1st December 1945, my Mum and I living with her parents at Aberfoyle (my Dad still in the army). Many years later, when living in Manchester and studying with the Open University, I went to Stirling University for my summer school week. To return to the exact place of my birth after all those years was a very interesting experience!

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