Practically no trace now remains of Belvidere Hospital, a large housing estate having been built on the site. The Belvidere once played a key role in protecting the population of Glasgow from the ravages of infectious diseases, including smallpox. The hospital was built on the most up-to-date plan, and took shape over a prolonged period of construction beginning with temporary wooden huts that were later replaced by brick buildings.
Epidemics of infectious diseases were amongst the major threats to life to the urban poor, living in the overcrowded districts of the rapidly expanding and industrialising city. Although the parochial authorities made some provision for paupers, this was very limited and strictly speaking only paupers were eligible for admission. From 1862 local responsibility for public health in Glasgow rested with the Board of Police, and it was under their auspices that a temporary fever hospital was built in Parliamentary Road in 1865. Proximity to the centre of population and a restricted site rendered the hospital inadequate in the face of a severe epidemic of relapsing fever in 1870. As a result, Belvidere House and its 33 acre estate were purchased to provide a site for a permanent fever hospital.
The original house was built by John M’Call, a leading merchant of Glasgow, who died there in 1790. It then passed to his son-in-law Robert M’Nair, a sugar-refiner, who sold up in 1813 to Mungo Nutto Campbell. Campbell sold it on around 1820 to David Wardrop who exploited the coal on the estate, and over the following decades the house and grounds were passed from one industrialist to another. (See The Glasgow Story for more on the history of the house and a photograph by Thomas Annan taken in 1870.)
John Carrick, the Glasgow City Architect, was responsible for drawing up plans for the new hospital. The first ‘ temporary shed’ was occupied on 19 December 1870. Eight timber pavilions were planned, four had been finished and partially occupied by Christmas, and two were expected to be completed before New Year.
In 1871 it was decided to build a separate smallpox hospital at Belvidere. Great lengths were taken to ensure that the most up-to-date features were incorporated in the design and many other hospitals were visited to this end, including the Herbert Hospital in London ‘reputed to be the finest specimen of a pavilion hospital in existence’. The local press had called for the design of the new hospital to reflect ‘the experience and results of modern science’, hoping that the authorities would not adopt the ‘old style of building tall structures’ but rather would follow the model of the recent temporary blocks at Parliamentary Road built on the pavilion principle ‘so strongly advocated by Miss Nightingale, and by writers on the subject of hospital accommodation’. The ‘temporary’ hospital blocks at Parliamentary Road were anticipated to last for around twenty years. There were those in the medical profession who considered that after occupation for that period of time all hospitals should be remodelled, if not entirely razed and rebuilt.
Nothing seems to have been done immediately but in 1874 plans were drawn up for the new permanent structures. Five single-storey, brick ward pavilions were built, though still described as ‘partially erected ‘ in December 1875, as well as the necessary ancillary buildings. These works were completed in 1877. The pavilions were aligned roughly north-south, and each was divided into four wards, two for acute cases in the centre, two for convalescents at the ends. The flooring was of close-jointed oak, the inner walls coated with Keen’s cement and the wards warmed by hot-water pipes and open fires. Roof-ridge ventilators (Boyle’s) were a distinctive feature on the outside of the buildings.
To the south-east was a large wash-house. Matrons’ and medical superintendent’s houses and dormitories for the nurses occupied a position at the north-east corner of the grounds, close to which was the morgue. The original kitchen block stood opposite the north end of the central pavilion, it was surmounted by a small spire, which also served as a bell tower and clock. It was designed to minimise contact between the kitchen staff and the nurses: a platform under a verandah on the southern side of the kitchen allowed the nurses to receive the food which was served through a window.
The grounds were laid out into plots of shrubs and flowers by Mr M’Lellan, the Superintendent of Glasgow city parks. The team working alongside the architect were James Hannah, clerk of works; John Porter, builder; William Lightbody, joiner; Robert Nelson, plasterer; Wallace & Allan, plumbers and gas-fitters; John M’Ouatt & Sons, slaters; and James Comb & Son, heating engineers.
In 1879 work began on permanent buildings to replace the temporary sheds of the fever hospital on the south-east side of the site. Four brick pavilions were built to begin with. In 1882 the Medical Officer for Health in Glasgow, J. B. Russell, produced a ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, which resulted in the further expansion of the site. Russell’s memorandum itemised the requirements for a large infectious diseases hospital and considered various details of its construction.
Over the course of the next five years pavilion after pavilion was added until there were thirteen altogether, providing 26 wards and a capacity for 390 patients. In addition there were ancillary buildings, providing kitchens and laundries etc, so that the hospital was as self-sufficient as possible, thus limiting the number of visitors to the site. The extended hospital was officially opened on 4 March 1887.
The simple polychrome of thin, horizontal bands of white amongst the red bricks created a streaky bacon effect. This unusual construction for hospital buildings in Scotland gave them a utilitarian air reminiscent of Glasgow’s industrial buildings.
In contrast to the polychrome-brick of most of the buildings, stone was used for the large administration block, which also contained the nurses home, recreation hall and senior staff residences. It was a large, somewhat austere building erected on the site of the original Belvidere house. The central range was designed as an echo of the house it replaced.
In 1929 a house was provided for the Medical Superintendent and a new observation ward was opened in 1930. After the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 various additions were made and changes in function introduced. Two important developments at Belvidere were the opening of the first Cobalt Therapy Unit in Scotland in February 1961 and in March 1973, the opening of the second Neutron Therapy Unit in Britain.
The hospital closed in 1999. After years of neglect the derelict buildings were mostly demolished in 2006 – all except the administration block and nurses’ home. Hypostyle Architects acting for Kier Homes Ltd designed the masterplan for the site development. Divided into three zones: high density urban blocks, urban terraced housing, and low density sub-urban housing. The high density section nearest the London Road comprises four-storey blocks of flats and three-storey town houses. The terraced housing, of two stories, creates a buffer zone between the flats and the low-density housing on the south side of the site. Original plans to convert the listed admin block were subsequently scrapped and permission granted to demolish the remaining shell of the central block for more low-density housing. The original master plan was for 351 residential units: 145 flats, 115 townhouses and 91 houses.
Glasgow Herald, 24 Dec 1870 p.3; 22 Nov 1875, p.5; 3 July 1877 p.2; 5 March 1887, p.9: Strathclyde Regional Archives: Account of Proceedings at Inspection of New Hospital for Infectious Diseases erected at Belvidere, 1877: J. B. Russell, ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, 1882: ‘Report of proceedings at Official Inspection…’, 1887 Corporation of City of Glasgow, Municipal Glasgow, Glasgow, 1914: The Builder, 4 Dec 1875, p.1083; British Architect, 22 July 1887, p.70: Hypostyle Architects website
47 thoughts on “Belvidere Hospital”
I was admitted to Bevedere as I had Scarlet Fever in 1959. I was well treated but found as a child being in isolation , it was also over Xmas. I think it set me on my career as an RN. I was a Nurse for 36 years.
Correction to my email Should say found being in isolation “hard”
It seems awful these days for children to have been kept away from their families when they were poorly and in hospital. Even in the 60s visiting times were short and strictly kept, as I remember from when I had my tonsels out aged 6.
Hello Anne Clark. I was a ‘just qualified from The Glasgow Royal Infirmary Physiotherapy School’ 1958 physio and Belvidere was my first job. There were two of us, myself and a chap called Clelland who was superintendant physio. I dealt with the outpatient chest clinic and my share of the rest of the fevers, tuberculosis and poliomyelitis etc
I agree with your sentiments on children being isolated. I experienced it myself as a toddler in a fever hospital in Motherwell with scarlet fever. I was detained for some days because I cut my finger on a toy airplane. visitors could only look through a window. There was no personal contact but it was for the benefit of the patient and the visitors. I absolutely loved working in this once enormously important hospital. Much work on poliomyelitis was done by the then superintendent medical officer. I would be pleased to have any more information about Belvidere which you may remember around this time
My father was Dr Peter McKenzie, superintendent from about 1947 until he retired in 1979. He setup the first respiratory intensive care unit, the first n Scotland and among if not first in the UK. This deal with patients paralysed mainly with polio, with ‘iron lungs’ and later positive pressure ventilation via tracheostomy. The latter was very innovative and reduced mortality dramatically compared to the iron lung. Cross infection was reduced by installing many sinks with soap and water.
My father was the medical superintendent, Dr Peter McKenzie, who set up the respiratory intensive care unit, to treat paralysed patients, mainly from polio, the first such unit in Scotland and possibly in the UK. He published a book of his memoirs and retired in 1979.
Do let me know if you wish more info.
Thanks for this report and the history of Belvidere. I remember the hospital well – I was on the medical staff in the late 1960’s. There was great atmosphere, almost like a family, especially in the doctors’ dining room and sitting room. But, of course, with the advances in medical knowledge and science, the need to keep patients separated from the visitors diminished and the modernisation of the hospital was already reaching it’s limits when I was there so the final closure was inevitable.
Did you know my father, Dr Peter McKenzie, superintendent from about 1947 until he retired in 1979?
Dear Peter, I never met your father. I only began my research on hospitals in the 1980s. I would be very interested in tracking his book, thank you for getting in touch
I hope this reply reaches you. Yes I knew your father very well – he was the head of the infectious diseases part of the hospital all the time that I was there. He was a doctor in the traditional sense – not a heartless scientist seeing patients more as broken machines, he saw patients as people and was willing to spend time talking with them, especially if they came from the Vale of Leven area…!
He never spoke much about his family so I wasn’t aware of his children or even if he had any.
I knew he later became interested in interviewing people with interesting stories to tell and recording what they told him – I don’t know the correct name for that sort of historical research but I think his work has survived – maybe you have it.
As you know, the hospital has long since gone and had been replaced by rather characterless houses. That whole part of Glasgow has changed completely – about the only things left from “the old days” are the Celtic football stadium and the block of flats with the “chippy” opposite the hospital – that has, for some strange reason, survived all these years but is now, I think some sort of snack bar and not a real “chippy.”
All the best
Feb 8, 2019
Just picked up on this thread on seeing the story of Steve Chalmers and TBM on the BBC website and presumed it must be the same Dr Peter McKenzie I knew. He lived round the corner from us in Cambuslang. He retired when I was a student but was very much and inspiration to me as a student and (once) young doctor. I would be interested in his memoirs.
I worked as a Dietitian from April 1985 until 1994. I remember your dad having an office next to mine on the ground floor of the old nurses home when he was gathering information to write a book about the hospital. Do you know if this was ever finished.
Karen A Milligan
My father, Tom Muir, worked for Bayer-Winthrop and became good friends with your father. I recall meeting him on numerous occasions, including a trip to our family home in Canada. I remember waiting outside in the car at Belvidere Hospital as a youngster whilst my father was in meeting with your Dad. My father passed away in 2001 but always spoke glowingly of his friend Dr Peter McKenzie.
I was in Belvedere Hospital when I was about aged three in 1952 & my Mum now passed told me I had Pneumonia!! I cannot find any records of my stay there & would love to find out exactly when & why I was admitted & discharged. I remember being in a high sided metal cot & wonder if this has caused my long term Claustrophobia?
I also remember having a nice nurse & not so nice nurse & her causing me to cry & more than likely because I was missing being at home😪remember day my parents came to take me home
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I was born in Belvidere hospital in 1972! My mum has passed and my dad has drink related Alzheimers. Did anyone work there in 1972 and be able to tell me if me being born there would have been normal practice as it was an infection hospital at the time????
Hello Shay – I worked in Belvedere until the end of 1969 (in the original infectious diseases part) and its probably traditionally remembered as an ID hospital but there was also a department for fitting artificial limbs, a radiotherapy department (a very advanced one) and a maternity unit. They were all located apart from the ID hospital and the staff didn’t really have much contact with us. So being born there in 1972 would probably have been normal for families living in that part of Glasgow.
David, do you possibly recall the location of the maternity unit? With everything gone now and the only sources online, I wanted to know where it was in relation to the other buildings. Looking at old online maps and aerial photos the Clyde is just a few hundred feet south of the hospital!
As I remember it, the maternity unit was close to the main road with the original infectious diseases part set well back from the road.
Shay, I was born there in December 1966 (my family lived in Parkhead at the time) and we moved straight out to Cumbernauld weeks afterwards.
My sister was born there in September 1963. Mum did not have a straight forward pregnancy so was admitted to Belvidere for delivery of her baby and care afterwards.
Hi Craig, my mum was born there in December 1966 also.
Hi Shay, Belvedere maternity was used by the people in the east end of Glasgow. My daughter was born there in February 1969 as it was our local maternity. The infectious diseases were in a different building. It was a nice hospital then, I am now in Canada and was sad when I heard it had been demolished.🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦
My father was a doctor at Belvedere Hospital. He was specialising in Infectious diseases. He worked there from late 60s to 1975.
His name was Dr. Hashmat Jamil Siddiqui.
My mom is 93 and was in Belvedere for Scarlet fever when she was 9 for 2 months. I have heard her stories of the fever van and the hospital for years,but just found this site and am excited to share it with her
My Dads twin sister was in the Scarlet Fever unit and sadly passed away there on 12 Feb 1937 aged only 3.
I was born in Belvedere in January 1966. My family stayed in Sorby Street. All my brothers both older and younger were born in the Rottenrow though. Never had an explanation why.
I trained in Belvidere Hospital and gained my RFN. Now a thing of the past. However I do remember Dr Peter Mackenzie who lived in the house at the gate and Matron was Miss Morrison. Nurses home was at the far end of the hospital unless you were on night duty and you moved to the main building as it was supposed to be quieter to allow the nurses to have a good sleep. I used my first Iron lung in Belvidere as we nursed paralysed patients.
My mother started her nursing career there in the late ’30s. Marie Campbell, then McFadden. She had 6 children and still worked there in the late ’60s. She often spoke about the wonderful skills which doctors and nurses acquired there dealing with infectious diseases and the danger that these skills might be lost. I hope that her concerns may not be justified given the current challenges … but fear that she may have been correct. I would love to find out more about a hospital whose contribution to the history and wellbeing of Glasgow has, in my opinion, still to be fully acknowledged.
I started my nurse training June 1958. Miss Morrison was matron. Dr Rankin was the Chief . Dr McKenzie consultant mainly in ward 4 Polio ward run by Sister Hamilton.
Also did general, midwifery and Queens nurse training but training at Belvedere was outstanding.
Dr. A.L.K. Rankin was Consultant Physician and Chief Superintendent at Belvidere from the late 1940’s until 1963. A Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, he contributed massively towards the fight against infectious diseases whilst still retaining the common touch with his patients.
I was in Belvidere Hospital in 1956-1957 with Diphtheria, was there for 6 months, was really very ill with this disease, I remember the ambulance coming to take me away to hospital, and remember my Mum telling me that Public Health Department came to fumigate our home.
Maureen P Reilly
So many memories of this place. My father was a manager in the Artificial Limb & Appliances centre at Belvidere. He worked there from some time in the 50s to 1978 when he sadly took ill and died just before retirement. I used to drive in with him from east kilbride and catch the No 64 bus to school in Glasgow centre. Then I had a summer job there in 1973 & 1974 as a ward orderly. Firstly in the Orthopaedic Ward and in my second year in the Terminal ly ill ward (not sure what it was called). I have so many memories and stories. Losing a man’s false teeth when washing them in the sluice (recovered with the help of a coat hanger). Being asked to shave patients shortly before they died and standing at the end of their beds as they passed, breathing in unison. Taking the deceased in a trolley to the remote & creepy morgue, once in a lightning storm between the individual wards. A young male patient, after 3 months in traction, sneaking out with a visitor to get a can of beer from the shops opposite the entrance. His leg was broken again as he was bumped off the pavement by his “friend” and he spent another long period back in traction. I even had my driving lessons by the Ambulance Driver inspector and passed my test (first time) in the area around the hospital.
Seems like yesterday, yet a lifetime away.
Didn’t know you had a spell working there Jim, I’m sure it helped set you up for real life!
Hi Liz, I had forgotten you were connected to the world of prosthetics. Belvidere seems a bygone age now yet the valuable experiences I was exposed to there are still vivid to me now. Nice to here from you.
Wishing you the best.
I was a patient in the Belvidere Hospital in approx 1952 aged 4 & in later years, was told by my mum I had pneumonia. I remember the nurses with their white bibs on their uniforms & their big hats, I remember liking the nurses & their was one who I remember I did not like.
I remember crying & probably as isolated from my mum & dad & remember my mum & dad coming to the ward, to take me home, my dad teasing me & pretending, I was not coming home on that day & being happy I was. The rest was a blur.
However, I am interested to know if any records are still held on the admissions & discharge records from that time?
I haven’t checked, but I would guess that patient records might be with the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, which can be accessed at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow. They are closed just now, but you could try sending an email or having a look at their online catalogue. This link should help: https://www.gla.ac.uk/myglasgow/archivespecialcollections/
Harriet, I will check out at the Mitchell Library.
With Many thanks
I worked in Belvidere up until about 1978 in the nurses home as a typist. I remember Dr. Peter McKenzie and Dr. Campbell Love very well. I used to take the mail round into their rooms and in they days they had their dogs at work with them. I remember Dr. McKenzie’s wife Mary as well – I think that was her name. I have very happy memories of Belvidere.
I was a Navigation Cadet on the ship ‘City of London’ berthed in Glasgow May 1963. I became ill and was transferred to Belvidere Hospital by ambulance on 21.May.1963. I had recently returned from a voyage to India and a brief leave at home in Belfast. I recall being in an isolation room for several weeks and bearing in mind I was not at a ‘Home’ hospital I remember being well looked after. Many years later I have difficulty recalling my exact diagnosis but do remember that at the time it was very important that my sister and father were advised immediately as my sister was a midwife in a Belfast hospital and my father a school teacher and I had just left them having been in the same house for one week.
Can you advise me if records exist were I can obtain my exact diagnosis. My local medical records do not go back that far,.
Thank you for any light you can shead on this matter.
My mother spent time in Belvidere when she had diphtheria as a young child (around 1922). She learned a song there which she sang to us children and we in turn sang to our children and grandchildren. People may be interested to know the words:
I’m tired of lying in bed, I want to go home.
It’s weeks and weeks and days and days since I’ve been home.
Mother, mother, take me home, from this convalescent home
Here comes the doctor, Doctor Wilkie, to see his patients once a week.
“Are you better, are you worse? Clap your hands and kiss your nurse”
Here comes the nurse with the red hot poultice,
Sticks it on and takes no notice.
“Oh” says the patient, “that’s too hot”
“Oh” says the nurse, “that is not!”
Goodbye to Doctor Wilkie, goodbye to Sister dear,
Farewell to all the nurses, farewell to Belvidere.
That’s amazing! Really captures the child’s experience in hospital. Thank you for sharing.
I was knocked-down by a car on the Gallowgate and woke up in the ICU at the Royal Infirmary two weeks later.
I was admitted to Belvidere in February 1969. I have always wondered why I was sent there as I was only nine years old and sent to a men’s ward. I don’t think that they had a children’s ward in the hospital or I would surely have been put in there?
In Belvidere they let me away with murder! It was a wonderful surprise when I didn’t want to eat something and they just let me leave it. And I still got ice cream!
The nurses spoiled me and they’d show off their new dresses to me and ask me what I thought. What I thought!? Those were the days when nurses usually wore a uniform of blue or blue and white striped shirts, white dresses and a wee white cap. And I loved the capes, or cloaks. I remember watching them put the capes on at the end of their shifts and watched them walk in the hospital grounds. They looked like superheroes, and they were of course. They were surely on their way to thwart the cunning plan of some evil-doers no doubt! Well, I was bored, so that was a good image to think about. It passed the time, and there was a lot of time to pass. I thought the capes looked fantastic and I wanted one! I could have turned into a superhero and flew up into the sky wearing one of them. The nurses never did, but then, they never tried either! Or maybe they only did that at night when I wasn’t looking?
Mary was the cleaner who came to the ward every morning and always with a cheery smile and she would always be singing or at least humming some song or other. She used really strong disinfectant – on the wards I mean! – and, to this day, I love the smell of disinfectant. The stronger the better! It must be because of Mary and her bright optimism and a feeling that things were getting better.
It wasn’t long before Mary had me helping her out with her work and I was very happy to do so because while the men had each other for company and conversation, I would get very easily bored and often lonely too. I think Mary knew that I would enjoy that feeling of importance.
In the mornings I would march up and down the ward with my walking stick over my shoulder pretending that it was a rifle and that I was on guard duty protecting the wounded soldiers! Any enemy soldiers who dared to enter would be shot for sure! But only the nurses came in and of course they were on our side, though sometimes that was hard to believe!!!
I worked as a junior doctor at Belvidere in 1986 on rotation from Glasgow Royal infirmary. It was a backwater that should have been shut years before. Certain consultants used it as a dumping ground for patients seen on domiciliary visits that they rarely saw again. I, as a doctor less than a year qualified, was making up chemotherapy in a side room with the window open. One of my co juniors died of mesothelioma contracted by exposure to asbestos in the ‘accommodation’ provided for us at that time. She sued the Health Board and won.
It was an affront to medical care, hated by the doctors that worked there and should have been got rid of long before it was. If anyone has ‘fond memories’ of that place they are seriously deluded.
The “fond memories” are from a time when Belvedere had an identity and function of its own and not as a neglected annex to the Royal. I still have “fond memories” – conditions then (late 60’s) were not as you describe them but I agree the place had, even then, largely served its purpose and its coming demise was clear.
As part of recent research into family history, I discovered that my paternal grandmother died at the Belvidere in 1929 from puerperal sepsis. Her younger sister also died there the same way in 1934. Each had been confined at home and would have been separated from their child when admitted. One forgets how bad things could be before we had effective antibiotics.
I was also born in the hospital in November 1970. I was from Easterhouse and moved away before I started school but I was told I was rushed back as a baby as I developed bronchial pneumonia and nearly died as many did in the early 1970’s. I was seriously unwell for a long time, I was really sad to find it was demolished as I had a lot of relatives in the local area who were also buried nearby as well. I only want to say thank you to any of the doctors midwives and nurses who may have been there during my birth.