Netherlea Hospital has been demolished. This is a slightly revised post from 2017.
In March 2017 the Dundee Courier announced plans to demolish the former Netherlea Hospital in Newport, Fife, and replace it with a development of luxury houses and flats. Planning permission was granted in August 2018, and work clearing the site was underway in February 2019. The Law Property Group, on behalf of the developers, suggested that the development would be attractive to locals wishing to downsize. But with the upper price of £650,000 this seems disingenuous. A local councillor was quoted as being ‘surprised’ by the proposed price range. On a development promising between 35 and 45 homes, the cheapest property, a two-bed flat, would cost £275,000.
Netherlea was built as a domestic villa, for the local shipowner, Andrew Leitch, in about 1893 to designs by the Dundee architect Thomas Martin Cappon. It is a large red sandstone building in simple Tudor style, of two storeys and attics, with stick on half-timbering in the gables.
Andrew Leitch was a prominent figure in Dundee, and was particularly associated with the development of the harbour. Born in Fife, he started out as a colliery clerk, later moving to Dundee as the agent for Halbeath Colliery. From there he progressed to being a coal merchant, then exporter, also establishing the Dundee Loch Line Steam Shipping Company. He married in 1859 Isabella Thomson, with whom he had eleven children. She died, at Struan Inn, Banks of Garry, following a carriage accident in July 1897. Andrew Leitch remarried when he was sixty years old in 1902. His second wife, Janet Elizabeth née Smith, became a notable local figure, a supporter of women’s rights, the National Union of Women Workers and many philanthropic causes. She was also the first woman to be elected to the local School Board in Newport. She died in 1913, and her husband outlived her by just three years.
In 1917 the contents of the house were auctioned, at that time the house comprised: drawing-room, parlour, dining room, billiard room and hall, 10 bed and dressing-rooms, as well as laundry and kitchen apartments. By 1936 Netherlea was the home of David Hamilton Brackenridge, who, like Leitch, was a member of the Dundee Harbour Trust. Brackenridge was born in Cupar in 1871, and was educated at Madras College, St Andrews, and Dundee High School. He spent 21 years in Calcutta as representative of the Dundee jute merchants, J. C. Duffus & Company. On his return from India he became the local agent for Duffus. He died at Netherlea in January 1939 and a month later his widow had put the house up for sale. The accommodation was listed as comprising: on the ground floor, four public rooms, billiard room, cloakroom and lavatory, kitchen and usual offices; on the first floor, five bedrooms, two bathrooms and maids’ sitting-room and bathroom; on the second floor, three maids’ bedrooms and box room. It also had a modern garage, greenhouse and outhouses, was in excellent condition, electrically fitted throughout, and the grounds tastefully laid out.
Presumably the house failed to find a buyer, the contents were sold about a year later, but in 1945 Netherlea was offered to Fife County Council, and its future as a hospital discussed by the Public Health Committee. Before then, during the Second World War, it had been occupied by officers of the Norwegian Air Force. It became a maternity hospital under the NHS with 17 beds, an isolation room and nursery, plus 13 staff bedrooms, the conversion to a hospital was carried out by the architect Frank Pride, of Walker and Pride to plans drawn up in 1946.
Although officially opened on 21 July 1948, by the end of September it had yet to admit any expectant mothers. Lieutenant Colonel Noel Baxter of New Gilston, the county convenor for the East Fife Hospital Group Board of Management, visited the hospital expecting it to be up and running and was shocked to find this was not the case. Although Netherlea had a doctor, matron and nursing staff, it could not open to patients because there was no cook. Until one could be appointed, patients were being sent to Dundee, Perthshire or even Edinburgh – ‘all over the shop’ according to the County Medical Officer of Health. It opened not very long afterwards, presumably once a suitable cook had been found.
In 1974 Netherlea became a long-stay hospital for the elderly. Designated a community hospital in 1997, it closed in 2011. Since then it has been boarded up and its condition steadily deteriorated. There were some who wished to see the building retained, but despite its significance in the local history of the area, it will soon be demolished.
Dundee Advertiser, 3 Feb 1893, p.5: St Andrew’s Citizen, 17 July 1897, p.8: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 10 May 1916, p.2; 4 June 1936, p.5; 30 Jan 1939, p.5, 4 Sept 1945, p.8: Dundee People’s Journal, 13 May 1916 p.8, has a photograph of Andrew Leitch: Dundee Courier, 5 Dec 1913, p. 6; 17 April 1917, p.1: 30 Dec 1931, p.8; 24 March 1939, p.16; 28 Sept 1948, p.2: The Courier, 31 March 2017
18 thoughts on “Netherlea Hospital, Newport-on-Tay”
I am a relative ,great nephew I think,,of Hammie Brakenridge so was interested in this.Family folklore has it that Hammie donated the property to become a hospital and this is backed up by a wooden plaque which I have seen in the vestibule to that effect
Peter Brakenridge Shepherd
Thank you, I wasn’t certain if the house had been gifted by the Brakenridge family or not, so left it a little vague.
I wonder if the plaque is preserved I hope so
I hope so too
My great grandfather was G L WILSON mentioned in the article about Netherlea Hospital. He was a member of the Cupar Liberal Club and I am sure that the article does refer to him. However, I do not believe that he lived at Netherlea. His address from at least 1904 (daughter’s birth certificate) until 1932 when he died and on to 1933 when his widow died was Netherfield, Kilnburn, Newport-on-Tay.
Thank you Di, I have updated the post. The newspaper article that gave your great grandfather’s address as Netherlea made a mistake, confusing Netherlea with Netherfield – easily done!
Thank you for an excellent article. As chair-person of the Newport History Group I speak for many in the community here who are sad to see the demolition this week of Netherlea.
I was sad to see it go too. It played such a significant role in local history. Another piece of lost heritage.
I emailed the architects asking about the plaque but received no reply.
I was born there in 1959
I was born there in 1954 and was adopted by a family in Greenock.
I was born here in 1961, and my family was from Greenock.
And I was born there in 1949 – I guess they had found a cook by then!
Well I certainly hope so!
Sad I was born there in 1961 we migrated to Australia in 1965
Andrew Leitch was my great great grandfather. I am researching my family history and knew about Netherlea- I was very sad to hear of its demolition. What was the plaque people have mentioned? Any information about the Leitch family would be welcomed. Lesley Leitch (now Bickerdike)
I was born there March 21 1949
My aunt Miss Isabelle Hendry was the head matron at Netherlea Maternity Hospital during 1950/60s.