Probably the best source that I have been using for updating the Scottish Hospitals Survey is the National Library of Scotland’s map images. Maps are always key to charting the history and development of buildings, settlements and indeed the landscape. And the best thing of all is that the NLS is freely available to all. It is a wonderful resource.
Many of the maps, and for me particularly the first edition Ordinance Survey maps and large scale town plans, are things of beauty as well as mines of information. Being so used to the grey tones of most nineteenth-century OS maps, the vibrant pinks and reds of the buildings, buff or ochre paths and roads, and the blues of river and sea, are also a joy.
For anyone interested in public buildings these maps are especially useful as they give ground plans, and often room uses as well.
I have never been sure about how to interpret the mapping of gardens, some seem too generic to be completely accurate representations, although the general layouts, or features such as embankments, paths, ditches etc. are more likely to be as existing. If anyone knows more, please do enlighten me. Looking at the detail of Barony Poorhouse above, the arrangement in the airing yard with diagonal paths leading up to a viewing area with seats seems too unusual not to be an accurate depiction of an actual feature.
The Crichton Royal – what at first site might look like elaborately laid out formal gardens around the cruciform building are in fact the earthworks of the different airing grounds.
Zooming in it becomes clearer. The airing grounds were walled enclosures, to prevent escape, but in order to allow the patients to see over the confining walls the ground within was built up to form a flat-topped mound. Bowling greens are shown close by the Crichton Royal and the Royal Edinburgh Asylum (below).
Comparing different editions of the maps show how an institution was added to and changed. Between 1852 (above) and 1876 (below) wings were added to the main asylum building to the west, extending into the walled airing grounds.
The grounds of the East Division of the Royal Edinburgh Asylum not only have a bowling green, but what appears to be an orchard with paths crossing it, a formal flower bed (on the west side), shelter belts of mixed trees, and, on the east side, a cruciform feature which, on zooming in, is marked as a bower.
The cage presumably was an aviary. Caged birds were recommended for lunatic asylum patients in the mid-nineteenth century, along with potted plants and pictures, to provide objects of interest and an air of domesticity.
Perth poorhouse can be seen in splendid isolation, the wrong side of the railway tracks and very much on the outskirts of the city. The map was produced in 1860, the year after the poorhouse was built.
The National Library of Scotland site allows you to zoom right in. The plan of the poorhouse above shows the room uses, positions of doors, windows and stairs. It shows the divisions within the poorhouse – women on one side and men on the other – and the separation of the aged and children from the able-bodied adults. You can also see that the managers had grander rooms, placed either side of the main entrance, which had bay windows (the Board Room and the Governor’s Office).
Finally, a note for anyone not of a Scottish persuasion. The NLS has maps of Northern Ireland, Wales, and, dare I say it, even England.