Nairn Hospital

For some now unfathomable reason, I managed to lose my gazetteer entries for hospitals in Scotland beginning with ‘N’. One of the tasks, therefore, that I have set myself is to rediscover the missing hospitals. They include some important buildings, such as Nithbank Hospital – the second incarnation of Dumfries Royal Infirmary – and most of the hospital buildings in Nairn. Today I have been on a virtual tour of Nairn, and have begun updating the Highland page accordingly.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 14.38.29Extract of the 1st-edition OS map, surveyed 1868. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The earliest hospital in Nairn was the precursor of the present Town and County Hospital. It is now a private house (Craig Royston). It was designed by Thomas Mackenzie and was intended for fever cases. Building work began in 1846, the plans having been drawn up some two years earlier when the scheme was first mooted and the site purchased, but progress was slow.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 14.38.48

Detail of the above map, showing the tree-lined drive up to the hospital, a shelter belt of trees around the edge of the buildings as well as the retaining walls, and a circular drive on the west side. 

The design, however, was met with enthusiasm in the local press, where it was described as ‘beautiful and appropriate’.  A ball was held in Anderson’s Hall in September to raise funds towards the completion of the hospital, and there was much approval of a gift of £20 from the Earl of Cawdor. Originally it provided just twelve beds, though later a wing was built to the rear. The hospital continued to serve the town but by the early 1900s it had become out-dated.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 15.23.39

Extract of the 6-inch  OS map, revised 1938. The Town and County Hospital is just north of Larkfield House, to the left is the poorhouse built in 1860-2 (marked as a Public Assistance Institution, later this was known as Balblair Home, now demolished). Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1903 the decision was taken to erect a new hospital. The scheme was boosted by the promised donation of £4,000 by a native of the town, Alexander Mann, then living in Guayaquil (Equador), South America. This sum largely covered the cost of construction, and he later also gifted £1,000 to purchase the site. The hospital was designed by William Mackintosh and built in 1904-6 (dated 1906 in the central pediment). John Gifford didn’t mince his words in the Pevsner Guide, describing the hospital as ‘small but stodgy Wrennaissance’.  The original building has been retained, used for dental services, as part of a larger complex including a new community hospital.

There was also the Northern Counties Convalescent Home on the outskirts of Nairn, built in 1892 to designs by Ross and Macbeth. It continued to operate throughout the twentieth century, though it was never transferred to the NHS. It finally closed in 2004. The building seems to survive, now a private house.

Screen Shot 2016-03-27 at 17.14.20

Extract of the 2nd-edition OS map, surveyed 1904. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Any photographs of these buildings, or information on other missing hospitals beginning with ‘N’, would be most gratefully received. The Town and County Hospital can be seen from Google Street view, as can the diminutive former Northern Counties Convalescent Home. The original Nairn Hospital is hidden behind its garden wall.

For a full history of the hospitals of Nairn with many historic photographs of the buildings see J.C. & S. J. Leslie, Hospitals of Nairn2012.

(Sources: Inverness Courier, 7 Feb 1844, p.3; Nairnshire Mirror and General Advertiser, 11 July 1846, p.3:  John Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland. Highlands and Islands, 1992: Aberdeen Journal, 29 July 1903, p.3; 16 Aug 1906, p.6: Inverness Courier, 28 June 1892)

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.
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