Stratheden Hospital


Photograph taken in May 2001 by RCAHMS Aerial Photography

Stratheden Hospital  is administered by NHS Fife as a community hospital and continues to care for patients with mental health issues. On 6 July 2015 work was officially commenced on the construction of a £4.4 million Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit (IPCU). First Minister Nicola Sturgeon joined NHS Fife chief executive Paul Hawkins in a sod-cutting ceremony. The new IPCU facility will consist of an eight-bed unit and is the most recent phase of works to modernise large areas of the hospital.

The oldest buildings on the site were designed in 1860 by Peddie and Kinnear, as the district pauper asylum for Fife and Kinross. The site had been acquired from a Mr R Wilson of Cupar, comprising a large estate around a house named Retreat – rather apt. But the house seems to have been demolished to make way for the farm steading. Building work suffered various delays and only began in 1863, with the foundation stone being laid in August 1864. 

The asylum was up-to-date in its provision of a mix of single rooms and larger dormitories and day rooms for the patients. It boasted no architectural display, efficiency with economy being the requirements of the Lunacy Board. With a frontage of 410 feet, the main building was symmetrical, males occupying the east, the females the west side. The end wings were for infirmary and refractory patients on the ground floor with quiet and convalescent patients above. At the centre was the dining-hall and a recreation hall that was also to serve as a chapel, the usual arrangement at this date. On the north side, the two-storey range at the centre contained the main entrance, reception rooms, a laboratory and staff offices. [Fife Herald, 21 June 1866]

canmore_image_SC00755739-3Upper-floor plan by Peddie & Kinnear, one of a set of plans by the architects in the NMRS collection


Elevations and Sections

The architects were awarded the commission following a limited competition in which Brown and Wardrop were the only other architects invited to submit plans. Peddie and Kinnear had themselves unsuccessfully competed for the design of the Inverness District Asylum the year before, and in 1860 produced plans for Haddington District Asylum. Earlier they had designed a number of poorhouses, and so were well versed in the complex requirements of such large institutions. The map below shows the original block on the north side of the complex which by this date had been considerably extended.

Just before the asylum opened it was inspected by two of the Commissioners in Lunacy, an event that was reported in the Fife Herald with considerable local pride. The warm sunshine and strong breeze of wind on that late June day meant that the means of ventilation were well exercised, ‘imparting to the asylum a fresh and delightful odour, such as is only to be found in green fields and rural scenes’. 

I shall post this for now, although there is much work to be done to disentangle the history of the later buildings on the site. Below is the original entry from the Survey. 

STRATHEDEN HOSPITAL, SPRINGFIELD   Stratheden Hospital was opened as Fife & Kinross District Asylum without ceremony on 4 July 1866 for 200 hundred pauper lunatics, the Fife Herald noted that the first patient to be admitted was a woman ‘who stared considerably at the sight of the palatial display and who had ultimately to be forcibly introduced to a home in everything but name’. Peddie and Kinnear, the Edinburgh architects, were appointed to design the new asylum in 1861 but progress was delayed by the interference of Lord Kinnoul whose amendment to the Lunacy (Scotland) Act allowed pauper lunatics to be accommodated in poorhouses. He was energetic in lobbying the Lunacy Board in an attempt to dissuade them from proceeding until the Bill was passed in 1863. However, the accommodation for lunatics generally provided in poorhouses was unsuitable and insufficient. As soon as Stratheden was completed the commissioners in Lunacy withdrew the licence to keep lunatics in Dunfermline Poorhouse. The asylum was described in the Commissioners in Lunacy’s annual reports as being of ‘plain and economical construction’ with a separate house for the Medical Superintendent and a porter’s lodge. In 1865 it was noted that: ‘the whole of the main building is roofed in excepting the centre block, containing the dining‑hall, amusement room, etc, the roof of which has been delayed in consequence of the iron beams required for its support having been lost at sea.’

Amongst later additions, a hospital block was added by Kinnear and Peddie in 1891 and a large new nurses’ home, designed by Andrew Haxton was built in 1929, to the east of the main buildings. [Sources: Commissioners in Lunacy, Annual Report, 1865: RCAHMS drawings collection]


About Harriet Richardson

I am an architectural historian, working on the Survey of London at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. I have worked on surveys of hospital architecture in Scotland and England.
This entry was posted in asylum, Scottish Hospitals and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Stratheden Hospital

  1. Interesting information here. This year is the 150th anniversary of the opening of Stratheden. We hope to display some archive material over the summer.


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