Marvellous Maps – updating the Scottish Hospitals Survey

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.

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Athole & Breadalbane Union Poorhouse (see Perth & Kinross). Extract from the 1st Edition OS Map, surveyed in 1863. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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.

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Kelso dispensary, Roxburgh Street, founded in 1777 (see Borders).  Extract from the 1st edition OS map, surveyed in 1858. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

For anyone interested in public buildings these maps are especially useful as they give ground plans, and often room uses as well.

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Barony or Barnhill Poorhouse was completed in 1853, so this map was produced just a few years after it opened (see Glasgow). Extract from 1857 Town Plan of Glasgow, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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Detail of the OS large-scale Town Plans, showing the central part of Barony Poorhouse.

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.

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The former Crichton Royal Asylum (see Dumfries & Galloway). Extract from the 1st edition OS map, surveyed in 1856. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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.

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Detail of the former Crichton Royal Asylum. Extract from the 1st edition OS map, surveyed in 1856. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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).

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 17.10.46Royal Edinburgh Asylum (see Edinburgh). Extract from the large-scale town plans, sheet 50, surveyed in 1852. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 20.15.28Royal Edinburgh Asylum. Extract from the OS Large-scale Town Plans 1876. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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.

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Detail of the 1852 map, showing the Bower in the asylum grounds, with a cage marked at the centre where the paths cross. 

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.

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Perth poorhouse (see Perth & Kinross), later Rosslyn House, council offices. From the OS large-scale town plans, 1860. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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.

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Perth Poorhouse, detail. OS large-scale town plans, 1860. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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.

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, mental hospital, Poorhouse, Scottish Hospitals and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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