Rummaging in the attic I unearthed some old slides of Bangour Hospital that I had taken in about 1990, though with all the appearance of having been taken a couple of decades earlier than that.
It wasn’t the finest day when I visited – dreich to say the least – but the buildings did not fail to impress. The church is the centrepiece of the large complex, though it was built later than the patients’ villas, admin and other ancillary buildings, and while the earlier buildings were designed by the wonderfully named Hippolyte J. Blanc, it was Harold Ogle Tarbolton that was the architect of the church.
The patients’ villas are a mix of these cream-painted blocks with grey slate roofs and red sandstone dressings.
And these roughly coursed yellowish sandstone blocks with red tile roofs. Both types have those distinctive round-arched dormer heads. The hospital closed in 2004, since when the buildings have slowly deteriorated – the haunt of Urbexers and film crews.
The listed buildings on the site have been on the Heritage At Risk register since the 1990s. Early in 2015 NHS Lothian engaged GVA James Barr to draw up proposals for the conversion of the former hospital to form housing, to aid marketing of the site for sale, with a view to submitting Full Planning Permission later this year. There is a website marketing its development potential www.bangourvillage.co.uk.
The hospital was originally built as the Edinburgh District Asylum from 1898 to 1906, Bangour was planned on the continental colony system as exemplified by the asylum at Alt Scherbitz near Leipzig, which had been built in the 1870s.
The Edinburgh District Asylum at Bangour was begun slightly before that at Aberdeen (later Kingseat Hospital), which was also built on a colony plan, making Bangour the first new asylum for paupers to be built on this system. (The Aberdeen District Asylum at Kingseat, though begun after Bangour, was completed two years earlier). A move towards a colony system had been made at some existing asylums in Scotland, notably the Crichton Royal at Dumfries, from about 1895. The distinguishing feature of the colony plan asylum was the detached villas to accommodate the patients which aimed to create a more homelike environment.
The competition held in 1898 for the new Edinburgh Asylum specified the continental form of plan. Bangour was designed as a self-contained village with its own water supply and reservoir, drainage system and fire fighting equipment. It could be self-sufficient by the industry of able patients.
The site was divided into two sections for the medical and non-medical patients, with power station, workshops, bakery, stores, kitchen and laundry in the middle. The patients’ villas housed from 25 to 40 patients each and varied from two to three storeys. On the ground floor were day-room, dining-rooms and a kitchen with separate dining-rooms for the nurses. The dormitories were located on the upper floors. Another important aspect of the colony system was the replacement of the large common dining halls with smaller dining-rooms within the villas. This was a feature of the Aberdeen Asylum at Kingseat as well as Bangour and the later Dykebar Asylum at Paisley.
The recreation hall, also designed by Blanc, contained a hall measuring 93 feet by 54 feet, with a stage at the north end. By incorporating a lattice steel girder support for the roof, there was no need to use pillars within the hall. There was even an orchestra pit in front of the footlights which was specially constructed to allow it to be covered at floor level when the hall was used for dances.
A church was added to the site in 1924-30 designed by H. O. Tarbolton. Set in a central position on the site and in a severe Romanesque style, it is one of the most impressive hospital churches in Scotland. The dark brown stone of the church contrasts strongly with the cream-painted villas near to it.
In 1931 the nurses’ home, with its two ogee-roofed octagonal central turrets, was extended by E. J. MacRae with a large new wing, blending sympathetically with the original block. [Sources: H. J. Blanc, ‘Bangour Village Asylum’ in Journal of the R.I.B.A., Vol.XV, No.10, 21 March 1908, p.309-26: Lancet, 13 Oct. 1906, p.1031]