Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital, Fife

Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The cottage hospital at Buckhaven opened on 28 August 1909. It was designed by Alexander Tod of Kirkcaldy for Lady Eva Wemyss in memory of her husband, Randolph Gordon Erskine Wemyss, of Wemyss Castle. Randolph Wemyss had died in July 1908 aged just 50 after a long illness, but in his relatively short life he had made a considerable impact on the Wemyss estate, guided and inspired by his mother. He invested the profits from the coal mines on his land both to improve production – building a coaling dock at Methil, and a railway from there to Thornton – and also to improve the conditions of his tenants and workers. He was behind the development of the ‘New Town’ or ‘Garden Village’ of Denbeath, where he built over 200 cottage flats in 1904-5, and invested in the company that built a tramway from Kirkcaldy to Leven.

OS Map, 25-inch, revised in 1913. The Wemyss Memorial Hospital is here dwarfed by Denbeath School to its north-west. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The housing built by Wemyss at Denbeath was remarkable in many ways. The design of the cottage flats was unusual. Arranged in terraces of two storeys, with one flat per floor, the L-shaped flats interlocked with their entrances alternately on the north and south sides. The upper-floor flats were accessed by external stairs. They were also unusually large, giving a larger square footage of floor area than was recommended by the 1919 Housing Act, and built on a low density at 10 houses per acre, yet the rents kept affordable.  [see John Frew and David Adshead’s article, ‘”Model” Colliery Housing in Fife: Denbeath “Garden” Village 1904-8’ in Scottish Industrial History, X (1987) pp 45-59 for more on the housing.]

Wellesley Road. Detail of the cottage flats in Denbeath, photographed by Jerzy Morkis in 2010, © CC BY-SA 2.0, reproduced from Geograph

Designs for a cottage hospital to serve the new garden village may have been outlined around 1907 by Randolph Wemyss and Alexander Tod, the Wemyss Castle estate architect. However, they were seen through by Lady Eva Wemyss, with Tod, following her husband’s death. Lady Eva was Randolph’s  second wife (he had been divorced from his first wife in 1898), and the daughter of William Henry Wellesley, 2nd Earl Cowley, a great nephew of the Duke of Wellington. Both Lady Eva and Alexander Tod were said to have visited ‘some of the principal hospitals in the country’ before settling on the design, which embodied the ‘best features found in all of them’. [Dundee Courier, 31 March 1909, p.6]

Detail of ward wing, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

In March 1909 Lady Eva Wemyss laid the foundation stone, placing a sealed glass jar containing current coins and copies of the daily newspapers in a cavity on top of which the foundation stone was lowered into place. Building work proceeded rapidly, and at the end of August 1909 the hospital was officially opened by Lady Eva, the ceremony being presided over by Charles Carlow, the manager of the Fife Coal company. Carlow gifted the four-dial clock, which originally had Westminster chimes, and had the novel design of hands representing the miner’s pick and shovel.

Detail of the central tower. The hands of the clock are in the shape of picks and shovels. Photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The plan is of the standard central administration block flanked by ward blocks favoured at the time but it is dressed up with baronial details. Described as picturesque in the contemporary accounts in the local newspapers, the building has undoubted charm. Originally the harling was yellow, or ochre coloured rather than white.   There are circular stair turrets and corbelled bartizans at the angles of the wards. The somewhat eccentric entrance has a Doric portico fronting a circular tower, topped with a conical roof sporting the gabled clock faces.

Detail of the entrance to the Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital, with the coat-of-arms of the Wemyss family carved in red sandstone in the pediment. Photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

To the rear were the kitchen and laundry, with the ‘latest appliances for mechanical ironing of linen’, and at the east end of the site a small chapel and mortuary. Originally there were wrought-iron gates ‘of mediaeval design, with side railings of wrought iron’ – now long disappeared.

Rear of the hospital, showing the kitchen, laundry and boiler house, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The hospital was designed as a surgical hospital – accidents in the coal mines were not infrequent – and contained two main wards with six or seven beds in each, an emergency ward with two beds, operating theatre, X-ray room, doctor’s room, as well as accommodation for the matron and nurses and the usual stores and offices. Three ‘up-to-date’ bathrooms were installed, including, an ‘electric bath’.  It was to be lit by electricity, and heated by hot-water pipes and open fires.

Design for entrance hall floor, dated April 1909. © RCAHMS

Some of the original plans have were deposited in the National Monuments Record of Scotland (now part of Historic Environment Scotland), including a design for the entrance hall floor. It features the Wemyss family crest of a swan at the centre.

The Chapel and mortuary, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The grounds were laid out and planted with flowers and shrubs by the head gardener of Wemyss Castle, Charles Simpson. Originally the front of the hospital looked directly out over the Forth, but housing has since been built opposite. Along with the view, the hospital has lost a few of its original features – weather vanes formerly topped the turrets, a swan in the centre, a working miner with lamp and tools and a ship and colliery winding engine on the side turrets. On the whole, though, the building is little altered, except internally largely the result of a sizeable addition to the west built in the 1960s as a geriatric unit added by the South East Regional Hospital Board in the face of a pressing need for additional beds for the elderly in Fife.

Geriatric Unit, from the south, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

An extension of the hospital was first mooted late in 1954. At that stage it was hoped to add an out-patient and physiotherapy department. At much the same time the South East Regional Hospital Board had been considering its strategy for hospital provision for the ageing population, specifically in Fife. Early in 1955 sketch plans were drawn up, at this stage for a 44-bed unit with some physiotherapy and out-patient accommodation. Little progress having been made, in January 1957 the Regional Board appointed Dr Robert Rankine to develop and take charge of a hospital geriatric service for the county.  He produced a report in April endorsing the proposals to expand the Randolph Wemyss hospital. At this stage, however, there was no prospect of funds being available for such a building before 1960. In February 1959 the Regional Board approved the acquisition of additional land to the west of the hospital for a new building and the construction of a 60-bed geriatric unit, with limited facilities for physiotherapy, at an estimated cost of £120,000. [Fife Archives, H/EF/1/10-11, East Fife Hospital Board of Management Minutes.]

Geriatric Unit, from the west, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The new unit was built in 1962-3 and officially opened early in 1964. The architect in charge was Iain D. Haig, one of the team in the Regional Board’s architects department headed by John Holt. Although in marked contrast to the original hospital, its stylish design and respectful distance from the older building ensures that each can be equally appreciated. (Personally, I think they are both very handsome – in different ways.) Rather like the slightly earlier Phase One buildings at the Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, the geriatric unit blends modernism, in its construction and the concrete fins that form the building’s most distinctive feature, with elements of traditional Scottish vernacular building traditions, in the use of random-rubble stone as a facing on the ground storey.

Geriatric Unit, showing the low link-building, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

The new range was designed with a reinforced concrete frame, aluminium sliding sash windows (since replaced), a central spine beam supporting floors and roof, and close-centred perimeter columns of precast concrete designed as projecting fins to create ‘sun baffles’ for the ward areas. Wards were on the upper two floors, designed on an adaptation of the Nuffield type with the bed bays on one side of a service corridor, and ancillary rooms, plus single-bed rooms, on the other.

Geriatric Unit, view towards entrance on west front, photographed in October 2019 © H. Richardson

Each of the two ward floors accommodated thirty patients arranged in two nursing units per floor of sixteen and fourteen beds, with four 6-bed bays, one 3-bed bay and three single rooms. Nurses stations were in the service corridor area placed centrally between the 6-bed bays and with the single rooms close by. Glazed screens divided the bed bays to maintain a clear view for the nursing staff. A day room was placed at the centre, between the two 6-bed bays, and a passageway ran along the south-west side beside the windows, fitted with a handrail to assist ambulant patients to exercise, out of the way of the main circulation corridor on the other side of the wards. Perhaps in an echo of the original entrance hall floor, there was a patterned vinyl-tile floor, supplied by Nairn’s of Kirkcaldy in the new wing. The original colour scheme throughout was grey and white, with accents of stronger colour. [The Hospital, May 1965, pp.229-30]

In 2008 the hospital was re-opened by Nicola Sturgeon after modernisation. It currently operates as a community hospital run by NHS Fife, with various out-patient clinics, and the geriatric unit (now the Wellesley Unit) providing in-patient palliative and continuing care.

Two Highland Hospitals.

Only a few miles apart, there are two small hospital buildings both designed by W. C. Joass. Both hospitals are particularly fine examples of Victorian cottage hospital architecture in Scotland, typical of the diminutive scale of the earliest hospitals of this type.

W. C. Joass was the father of one of the great London Scots architects J. J. Joass. William Cumming Joass was born in Inverness in 1833. He may perhaps have trained with Alexander Ross, as he was later taken into partnership by him and placed in charge of the Dingwall office. From 1865 Joass was practising on his own account there. Most of his work was in the Highlands, much of it domestic or farm buildings, but also quite a few churches, some schools – notably during the 1870s, and police stations in the late 1880s and 90s (four of these were on the island of Lewis). In the year that he became a partner of Alexander Ross the poorhouse on Skye was one of the projects in hand, but the first hospital that Joass designed was the Ross Memorial in Dingwall.

Front elevation of the Ross Memorial Hospital, photographed in August 2019, © H. Richardson

Still functioning today, this hospital opened in 1873 as a memorial to Dr William Ross who died in 1869. Joass was also the architect for additions to the hospital carried out around 1879. That year he was also engaged to design the Spa Pavilion at Strathpeffer, having earlier designed two hotels in the small Spa town, the the Strathpeffer and the Ben Wyvis.

The 1st edition OS map, surveyed soon after the hospital was built in 1873, shows the isolated position of the hospital, well east of the town centre. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Ross Memorial treated both medical and surgical cases, and, if need arose, could accommodate infectious cases, due to the way in which it was designed with effective separation between the wards. Joass was advised by the local medical practitioner, Dr Bruce, as well as drawing on Florence Nightingale’s Notes on Hospitals. The medical and surgical sections were designed to function independently, minimising the risks of cross infection. Each comprised two small wards (with just two beds apiece), with their own kitchen, wash-room and WCs. The nurse’s room was placed between the wards, with inspection windows through which she could view the patients.

Plan, elevations and sections of the Ross Memorial Hospital, reproduced from H. C. Burdett, Cottage Hospitals: General, Fever, and Convalescent: Their Progress, Management and Work…, London, 1880 p. 274

Henry C. Burdett, the great social reformer and chronicler of hospital design in the late-nineteenth century, commended Joass’s plan in his book, Cottage Hospitals, published in 1880: ‘as, with the exception of the ventilation of the WCs, which should in all cases be entered by a lobby with cross ventilation, so that the escape of sewer gas into the passages may be avoided, we consider the arrangements very good indeed.’ Burdett’s description of the hospital suggests that in the short time since it opened  it had adapted to suit local needs and was treating surgical and accident cases on one side of the building, and infectious diseases on the other.

Old postcard of the Ross Memorial Hospital. © H. Richardson

The Inverness Courier, reporting on the opening of the hospital, found no fault with the building: ‘everything about the hospital is so arranged as to prevent the absorption of any poisonous matter’. The floors were ‘saturated with solid paraffin’, and non-absorbent matting used. The main decorative element seems to have been a set of engravings given by Lady Walden to cheer the rooms. An unusual detail given in the newspaper regarded the operating table, made of pitch pine donated by the owner of one of Inverness’s sawmills, Mr Walker. The table was made by Mr Lewis Macdonald, carpenter, but intriguingly, the legs were turned ‘by an amateur’.

OS 2nd edition of the 25-inch map, revised in 1904, shows the various additions to the hospital to this date. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The David Ross lodge, at the entrance to the hospital, was built in 1895-6 as a memorial to the Provost David Ross by the Wester Ross Farmers’ Club. In 1909 a new isolation hospital was built, with six wards, kitchens, nurses’ accommodation, bathrooms and ‘special pan cleaning apparatus’ (this may be the block to the west of the main building – later used as a nurses’ home). It also had a veranda for the open-air treatment of patients suffering from tuberculosis.  Further additions were made in 1938 by the local architects Mackenzie and MacDonald and X-ray apparatus was installed, gifted by William Peterkin, a well-know shorthorn breeder. Peterkin later gave £3,000 to build and furnish a maternity home on the site. This gift was announced mid-December in 1944, and only a week later he died suddenly (though he was 87 years old). When the new wing was opened in July 1946 it was named the William Peterkin Maternity Home in his honour. The ‘home’ provided 16 beds, varying from one-bedded to four-bedded, and a labour room. During that year around 200 babies were born in the hospital – the only such facility in the county of Ross-shire.

The large-scale OS map of 1964 shows the new out-patient department to the rear of the hospital. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Two years after the Maternity Home opened, the hospital passed to the Secretary of State for Scotland under the National Health Service. The change had not been welcomed by the Chairman of the managers, W. R. T. Middleton.

Outpatients’ Department, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson

Under the NHS a new out-patient department was built which opened in 1962. This was followed by new maternity and physiotherapy units in 1966. The design of the out-patient department was based on the standard plan devised within the Department of Health for Scotland, a copy of which was supplied in advance of publication to the Northern Regional Hospital Board. D. Polson Hall, the Architect to the Board, had to adapt the plan in order to provide additional space for orthodontics and eye specialities. Double-glazing was another modification, not unreasonably for a hospital in the Highlands. The standard plan was also applied to the out-patients’ departments at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, and the Lawson Memorial Hospital, Golspie, built around the same time.

View of the rear of the hospital, with the boiler house chimney to the right. Photographed in August 2019, © H. Richardson

The maternity unit contained 16 beds and labour suites, and the physiotherapy unit included treatment rooms and a gymnasium. Building costs for the maternity and physiotherapy units were not overly high, coming in at £111,136, below the limit of the region’s ordinary building programme and thus not centrally funded. This included the boiler house, which had to be put in to cope with the demands for heating and hot-water in the enlarged hospital.

Entrance to the back of the Out-Patients’ Department. Perhaps the original porch? Photographed in August 2019. © H. Richardson

The second, and last, hospital that Joass designed was the Nicolson Mackenzie Memorial Hospital in Strathpeffer which first opened its doors in 1896. It was established as a mineral water hospital, a partly charitable and partly self-funding small enterprise to treat those of limited means seeking treatment for rheumatism and other joint pains.

South front of the former Nicolson Mackenzie Hospital, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson

Built on the slopes above Strahpeffer, the Nicolson Mackenzie blends in with the neighbouring villas of this surprising spa. It is a buff-coloured, harled building with a tall slim central block of two storeys flanked by single-storey ward blocks. At a public meeting in Strathpeffer in October 1891 the first committee was appointed for promoting a hospital scheme, and a site was gifted by the Earl of Cromartie (at the rear of Mr Lunn’s posting establishment). In 1894, the committee was offered £1,000 from Miss Morison Duncan, on behalf of her mother, Mrs Morison Duncan of Naughton House, Fife, if the hospital was named after her uncle, Dr Nicolson Colin MacKenzie, who had been born in Strathpeffer but had lost his life in rescuing his fellow passengers from the wreck of the Fairy Queen  off the coast of Nova Scotia.


East front and main entrance to the former hospital, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson, and below the same view in the mid-1970s, © Crown Copyright: HES (List C Survey)

With this generous donation work was soon underway on the building, the foundation stone was laid in October 1895 by Miss Morrison Duncan herself. The local newspaper recorded the event, which took place on a fine, if chilly, day. The Mineral Water Home was heralded as a most beneficial institution at this fashionable resort that would greatly benefit the poorer class: ‘it will enable them to sojourn in search of rest and health without incurring anything like the expenditure they cannot at present avoid.’

OS 2nd edition, 25-inch map, revised in 1904, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The contractors who built the hospital were all from Dingwall or Strathpeffer: Mr Harrow, mason, and D. Ross, carpenter, both of Strathpeffer; R. Mackenzie & Son, plumber, D. Maclean, slater, and G. Mackay, plasterer, all of Dingwall. In August 1896 the building was completed and the opening ceremony performed by Lilian, Countess of Cromartie. Miss Morrison Duncan was there, along with the local dignitaries and visitors then staying at the Spa. A short notice of the opening appeared in the specialist journal The Hospital in September 1896 which described it as being a ‘pretty little building’. Its success was immediate, and the original provision of just ten beds soon raised to 12.

The Nicolson Mackenzie photographed in the 1970s, when the harling was painted white. © Crown Copyright: HES (List C Survey)

It was not the first hospital to be built in Strathpeffer, but there is a mystery surrounding the earlier hospital with just a few scraps of information having so far come to light. It is mentioned in the New Statistical Account for Scotland as having fifty beds – remarkably large for so small a place. It seems to have been established largely through the efforts of Captain James Edward Gordon, briefly M.P. for Dundalk. According to a later newspaper report, the hospital never opened, as Gordon did not appointed any trustees to run it, and the building was pulled down some twenty years after it had been built. This is not quite consistent with a report in the Inverness Courier of 8 August 1838 which mentions a hospital or dispensary at Strathpeffer, as a favourite project of Gordon’s, ‘the design of which is good’. At the time, Gordon was trying to divert funds from the Destitution in Shetland Fund to his Strathpeffer charity. There is also a notice which appeared in the Courier in August 1836, entitled ‘Strathpfeffer Infirmary’ about a bazaar that was to be held to raise money for this charitable institution ‘established for the relief of the destitute and suffering poor, who annually resort to the mineral waters from the surrounding counties.’ Perhaps the truth about this early hospital will emerge one day.

View from the north-west, the rear of one of the former ward blocks is in the foreground to the right, photographed in August 2019 © H. Richardson

Its successor survives, though no longer as a hospital. Its future was already under threat in the 1960s, when the rationalisation of services and development of Raigmore were in full swing. It held out until the early 1990s, and was subsequently converted to domestic use. Around that time the harling, which had been painted white, was repainted a buff colour. Renamed Mackenzie House, it became a guest-house, and more recently has been adapted for holiday rentals. I would like to thank the present owner who very kindly allowed me to take some photos of the former hospital.

Sources

Inverness Courier, 30 Oct 1873, p.7: H. C. Burdett, Cottage Hospitals, 1880: The Hospital, vol.58, no.7 July 1962, p.491: Ross-shire Journal, 21 October 1892, p.4: 25 October 1895, p.7; 28 August 1896, p.7: The Hospital, 19 sept 1896, p.406: Ross-shire Journal, 16 July 1897, p.7;  6 May 1910, p.7: The Scotsman, 13 Dec 1938, p.8: Aberdeen P&J, 15 Dec 1944, p.4: The Scotsman, 24 July 1946, p.3

Medical Officer for Health, Ross and Cromarty, Annual Reports1946 adn 1947

Annual Reports of the Department of Health for Scotland: Parliamentary Papers, Estimates Committee, Hospital Building in Great Britain, Minutues of Evidence, Session 1969-70

Inverness Courier, 24 August 1836, p.1, 8 August 1838 p.3: The New Statistical Account of Scotland. V.14 (Inverness, Ross, Cromarty) Edinburgh W. Blackwood and sons, 1845, p.250

see also the Ross-shire Journal 8 Sept 2018

Netherlea Hospital, Newport-on-Tay

Netherlea Hospital will soon be no more, and so here 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.

The former Netherlea Hospital, photographed in July 2018 © H. Richardson

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.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map surveyed in 1893. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

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. 

The former Netherlea Hospital, photographed in July 2018 © H. Richardson

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.

The former Netherlea Hospital, photographed in July 2018 © H. Richardson

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. 

Sources:
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

West Highland Cottage Hospital in Oban

The cottage hospital at Oban was founded by a wealthy widow, Mrs Agnes Parr of Killiechronan, Mull, and was officially opened by her in September 1896. A competition was held for the design, which was won by the Oban-based architect and engineer George Woulfe Brenan.

Postcard of the West Highland Cottage Hospital. The photograph may be of the opening of the hospital in 1896, although the card was not posted until 1926. © H. Richardson

Agnes Parr had first offered £2,000 to build a cottage hospital for Oban in 1892. Such a hospital was much needed.  In the 1880s an article in the influential journal The Hospital noted that Oban was not only the destination of thousands of tourists and pleasure-seekers, but the head-quarters of the fishing industry on the north-west coast, and it was to Oban that accidents at sea were most frequently brought. The only local institution for accident cases or the sick was the local poorhouse, so most patients made the long and uncomfortable journey to Glasgow.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 20.14.21

Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised in 1897-8. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1890 it seemed that Oban was to have its cottage hospital. Plans were prepared by Robert Mortimer of Westminster for an L-shaped building, funds having been provided by an anonymous donor. But two years later the Glasgow Evening Post noted that the scheme had apparently fallen through. Perhaps Agnes Parr had been involved in the earlier scheme, or was prompted by the failure of the earlier plan to take up the cause. At that point she was recently widowed, her husband, Thomas Philip Parr, having died in October 1891 at their London home in Upper Belgrave Street, Westminster, leaving her a substantial fortune.

Detail of the postcard, showing the assembled dignitaries being addressed.  The gentleman with the white beard, right of centre, resembles Colonel Malcolm in later years.

Progress on the revised scheme was less than rapid. The plans by Robert Mortimer were laid aside and a competition held for new designs. It took a few years to raise additional funds to provide an endowment to cover the hospital’s running costs, but finally the new hospital was completed in 1896.

Colonel Edward Malcolm of Poltalloch presided over the opening ceremony. He noted that the hospital committee had considered twenty-three different schemes for the hospital. The architectural competition was supposed to be anonymous, but, as so often was the case, it was won by a local architect. The hospital had two wards with five beds in each and two private wards. The plans also allowed for subsequent enlargement ‘to a considerable extent’, with the minimum of interference with the design. Heating and ventilation were supplied by E. H. Shorland & Brother of Manchester in the form of their patent grates, exhaust roof ventilators and inlet tubes.

Woulfe Brenan’s plans for enlargement were soon required, with the work put out to tender in June 1898. Further extensions were carried out in 1911 and 1934‑6, the latter by Lake Falconer who had taken over Woulfe Brenen’s practice. The 1930s work comprised an extension of one of the existing wards to provide a further six beds, and nurses’ accommodation. Lord Trent of Ardnamurchan declared the new wing open in June 1936, remarking that the hospitals was now so comfortable that illness or convalescence was now  ‘almost a pleasant thing’.

It was at the West Highland Cottage Hospital that Unity Mitford died in May 1948. She had been taken ill at Inch Kenneth, and when her condition worsened she was taken across to Mull, but having missed the ferry to Oban undertook a five hour journey on a motorboat, arriving at the hospital at one in the morning. She died a few hours later.

The hospital closed in 1995, a year short of its centenary. It was replaced by the Lorn & Islands District General Hospital (Reiach and Hall, architects), as were the other small local hospitals: Dalintart, the Mackelvie, the County hospital, and the maternity hospital at Gleneuchar House. A small group of houses now stands on the site, on Polvinster gardens.

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 14.59.38The marker to the right on the map of Oban indicates Polvinster Gardens, the site of the cottage hospital. © OpenStreetMap contributors

For more information on the hospitals in Oban and the surrounding area see Argyll and Bute

Sources: 

H. C. Burdett (ed.), Hospitals and Charities Year Book, 1925: Campbeltown Courier and Argyll Herald, 26 Sept. 1896: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 19 Sept 1896, p.2: Glasgow Evening POst, 4 March 1892, p.4: Edinburgh Evening News, 6 May 1893, p.2: The Scotsman, 19 Sept 1896, p.6: The Hospital, 18 Dec 1886, p.201:16 Aug 1890,  p.296: British Architect, 17 July 1896: Building News, 24 June 1898, p.909: Scotsman, 15 July 1933, p.11: Dundee Courier, 15 May 1934, p.4: Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 19 June 1936, p.7

Adamson Hospital, Cupar, Fife

The Adamson Hospital, photographed in December 2017 © H. Richardson

The Adamson Hospital in Fife’s County Town of Cupar is a modest, quietly attractive Edwardian building with a bold modern wing added in 2012. It first opened in 1904, but this was not the beginning of its history. Like so many historic hospitals it had a shaky start, but unusually it began in a fine purpose built hospital erected in the 1870s. Its only fault was location – it was built on the outskirts of the picturesque village of Ceres, about 3 miles to the south of Cupar. Its isolated position and inadequate support from local doctors proved its downfall, it operated for just six years as a hospital and then lay empty until it was acquired by the Leith Fortnightly Holiday Scheme.

Postcard of the first Adamson Cottage Hospital, reproduced courtesy of Ian Lindsay © Ian Lindsay, Postcard13

The original hospital, named the Adamson Institute (sometimes also called the Adamson Institution), photographed in December 2017 © H. Richardson

Alexander Adamson, after whom the hospital was named, was a manufacturer in Ceres, ‘in the halcyon days of handloom weaving’ (according to the St Andrews Citizen). [1] He died in 1866 a wealthy man, bequeathing the residue of his estate for the purpose of founding either a school or a hospital in or near Cupar. His seven trustees were personal friends and were mostly from Ceres, and when they decided upon building a hospital, they chose Ceres as its location. Thus the Adamson Institute  or Institution as it was variously known was built in 1872-3 to designs by the Cupar architect David Milne. A portrait of the founder, painted by Charles Lees, was to be hung on its walls.  

Detail of the centre gable and flanking dormer heads – the latter carved with the date 1872, photographed in December 2017 © H. Richardson

Surviving today, though now converted into private flats, the former Adamson Institution is a handsome building, not obviously a hospital in its outward appearance. This was common enough for cottage hospitals, particularly the earlier ones, which deliberately aimed to present a more domestic appearance than the often dour poor law infirmaries designed with Nightingale-style ward blocks. Cottage hospitals treated a broader spectrum of society, were generally operated by the local general practitioners and sometimes charged a small fee to in-patients. The Ceres building fits neatly into this pattern. Its architect was local, as were the builders and craftsmen who worked on it: the builder was from Ceres, Robert Nicholson, as was the joiner, William Younger; the plumber was Mrs Steele from Cupar; William Bryson of Cupar was the plasterer; Francis Batchelor, the slater, was also from Cupar; the lather, John Burns was from St Andrews as was the bell hanger, James Foulis. [2]

The map is not very clearly labelled. The ‘Adamson’s Institute’ is the large building to the right of the lettering, marked with a small circle. Detail from the 2nd Edition 25-inch OS map, revised in 1893. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Just fifteen patients could be accommodated in eight bedrooms, three on the ground floor and five on the first floor, and there was a sitting room on each floor for the use of ambulant patients. The board room was to double as an operating room and there was the usual accommodation for staff and services. Although the building was completed in 1873 and Dr Blair of Strathkinness appointed as its medical officer, it is unclear whether it received any patients in the early years. Dr Blair left the district in 1876, and in 1877 the Trustees were advertising for a nurse, who would also act as a Housekeeper and Cook, for the hospital which was ‘about to be opened’. [3]

This 1912 map marks the Leith Holiday Home (it is the large building some distance to the right of the label). Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

In 1883 the trustees were forced to close the hospital. Various efforts were made by the local authorities to acquire the building as an infectious diseases hospital, but these were rejected by the Adamson Trustees. In 1895 it was leased to the committee of the Leith Fortnightly Holiday Scheme, providing under-privileged town children with a ‘fresh-air-fortnight’. The first fifty children were sent here in July 1896. The building was finally purchased by the Scheme in 1901. (Later it became known as Alwyn House, an employment rehabilitation centre run by the RNIB.) 

Postcard of the Adamson Cottage Hospital

Meanwhile the need for a cottage hospital in Cupar was becoming increasingly pressing, in particular for cases of severe injury due to accidents. This became critical in 1899 when the place to which accidents or special cases of illness were taken was taken over by the burgh and made into an infectious diseases hospital, closing its doors to all other cases. Other patients had to suffer the long journey to Edinburgh for admission to the Royal Infirmary. Members of Cupar’s Sick Poor Nursing Association were instrumental in finally getting a cottage hospital in the town. In April 1899 they opened a small hospital-come-nursing home at Moat Hill. Pressure was also put on the Adamson Trustees to fulfil their original requirements. The decision to sell the Ceres building to the Leith Holiday Home Committee and buy or rent a building to be called the Adamson Hospital ‘in a more suitable place’ was narrowly voted through at a meeting of the Trustees in February 1901. [4]

The original part of the Adamson Cottage Hospital, photographed in December 2017 © H. Richardson

After obtaining plans from three local men: Henry BruceDavid Storrar and Henry Allan Newman, Newman was appointed and work progressed quickly. The contractors for the work were mostly from Cupar or Cupar Muir: J. Stark, mason; Thomas Donaldson, joiner; A. Stewart, plumber; Messsrs M’Intosh & Son, plasterers and slaters; John Randall, painter; C. Edmond, glazer; R. Dott Thomson supplied the grates and A. Douglas of Dundee electric bells. The furnishing was carried out by W & J. Muckersie, the window blinds by Hood & Robertson, both of Cupar. [5]

Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised in 1912, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The hospital opened in December 1904. There was no formal opening ceremony, but the local press published a sketch of the new hospital after a drawing by the architect, and carried a full description of the building. On the ground floor, to the left of the main entrance, was the female ward and a bedroom and sitting room for the matron, while in the equivalent position to the right was the male ward, the Yeomanry Ward, and an operating room. Kitchens etc were to the rear, nurses’ and staff accommodation in the attic. The Yeomanry Ward was a memorial to members of the 20th Company of the Imperial Yeomanry who served in the Boer War and was paid for by funds raised by Sir John Gilmour. [5]

The new wing of the Adamson Cottage Hospital. Photographed in December 2017 © H. Richardson

Since its opening in 1904 several extensions and additions were made on the site. Most recently in 2011-12 a new health centre was added to the west of the original building and the original hospital reconfigured by JMArchitects for Glenrothes and North East Fife Community Health Partnership (GNEF CHP) with Ogilvie Construction Ltd. This work entailed clearing away some of the later extensions to the hospital.

  1. St Andrews Citizen, 2 March 1901, p.6
  2. Fife Herald, 2 Oct 1873, p.2
  3. Fife Herald, 27 Sept 1877, p.1
  4. Dundee Courier, 27 Feb 1901, p.7
  5. St Andrews Citizen, 12 Nov 1904, p.6

Sources: Fife Health Board: Minute Books: The Courier, 26 Nov 2012: a booklet has been produced by Cupar Heritage on the history of the hospital (which I haven’t yet seen).

 

St Margaret’s Hospital, Auchterarder

Main front of St Margaret’s Hospital, photographed in 2017 © David Wotherspoon, all rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of D. Wotherspoon.

The cottage hospital in Auchterarder is a really good example of Scottish architectural style being applied to a public building in the inter-war years. The 1920s and 30s were not just about International Modernism or Art Deco; Gothic Revival and the Arts & Crafts styles continued to flourish and develop. Here, the Glasgow-based architects Stewart & Paterson were commissioned by Andrew Thomson Reid (1863-1940) of Auchterarder House to design a cottage hospital as a memorial to his parents. The architects had worked for Reid on additions to Auchterarder House before the First World War.

Extract from the 1:25,000 OS Map, surveyed in 1938. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Reid had been planning to build a hospital since before the First World War, but war-time conditions and their aftermath caused the project to stall.

Detail of one of the dormer heads. The initials J R commemorate James Reid, Andrew Reid’s father and the founder of the family’s wealth. Photograph © David Wotherspoon, all rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of D. Wotherspoon.

The initials M A R on this dormer head are of Andrew Reid’s mother, Margaret Ann Reid, née Scott. Photograph © David Wotherspoon, all rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of D. Wotherspoon.

Building work commenced in 1924. W. G. Gordon, builder, was awarded the contract for the mason work, and George Miler & Sons carried out the slater work. The site to the west of the town just north of Durward’s Nursery, had been granted to Reid by Auchterarder Town Council. The hospital was officially opened by the Duchess of Atholl in August 1926. Amongst the dignitaries who attended the ceremony were Andrew Thomson Reid, his brother Edward Thomas Scott Reid, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway, Viscount Haldane and the American author and social commentator, Mary Follett, who was a guest of Lord Haldane.

South front of St Margaret’s Hospital. Photograph © David Wotherspoon, all rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of D. Wotherspoon.

The architects had very little past experience in hospital design and were advised in the planning of St Margaret’s by Dr D. J. Macintosh of the Western Infirmary Glasgow. The hospital had a simple symmetrical plan to provide for male patients on one side and women on the other in two public and two private wards catering for twelve patients in all. There were also the usual administrative offices, staff accommodation, kitchen and laundry as well as an operating theatre, dispensary and a boardroom.

View to the back of St Margaret’s Hospital showing later additions. Photograph © David Wotherspoon, all rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of D. Wotherspoon.

In 1948 the hospital became part of the National Health Service, administered by the Eastern Regional Board. Once building restrictions had been lifted, plans were made to add an out‑patient department with X-ray facilities, this was supposed to be built in 1954.

St Margaret’s Health Centre. Photograph © David Wotherspoon, all rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of D. Wotherspoon.

A health centre was added in the early 1990s to designs by McLaren Murdoch & Hamilton, architects, but the present health centre seems to have been built in 2001, and extended or refurbished in 2003.

The gates and stone gate piers at the foot of the drive leading to St Margaret’s Hospital. Photograph © David Wotherspoon, all rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of D. Wotherspoon.

Sources 

Minutes and letter books for the hospital from 1926-1948 are held by Perth and Kinross Archives

Journal of the R.I.B.A. Vol.XXVI, p.343: Dundee Courier, 12 April 1924, p.3; 22 July 1924, p.7; 16 Aug 1926, pp 4 and 9; 16 Oct 1952, p.4: Sunday Post, 15 Aug 1926, p.5: Perth County Council online planning: Perth and Kinross Council, Culture & Community Services, Profile of Auchterarder

Leanchoil Hospital, Forres

Recently I have been thinking about the topic of ‘Beauty and the Hospital’ – the subject of a conference being held in Malta next month by the International Network for the History of Hospitals. Specifically, I have been considering hospital architecture, and even more specifically Scottish hospital architecture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I could nominate quite a few candidates for a top ten of beautiful hospital buildings – they  might not be to everyone’s liking of course.

Leanchoil Hospital, photographed in 2012© Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Leanchoil Hospital on the outskirts of Forres was one of the first that sprang to mind. For me it is the archetypal cottage hospital, possesses great architectural charm, and resembles a miniature version of the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh – not the present building but the magnificent Victorian building in Lauriston Place designed by David Bryce.

Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, from an old postcard

Leanchoil Hospital was designed by the Inverness architect John Rhind. The postcard below hopefully shows something of the similarity to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The central range with its twin shaped gables contained the main entrance and administrative offices and makes a handsome preface to the square tower rising behind.

Postcard of Leanchoil Hospital from around 1900. Reproduced by permission of H. Martin.

On either side the ward pavilions have round Baronial style towers which, as at the ERI and most Victorian pavilion-plan hospitals, contained the WCs. (On the plan below these are labelled ‘offices’ – as in necessary offices.) Originally the terminating turrets of the sanitary annexes neatly rounded off the design, but extensions were added at both ends. The two-storey centre block contained matron’s and surgeon’s rooms either side of the main entrance, with an operation room, kitchen, scullery, larder and stores behind. The upper floor was occupied by bedrooms for the matron, nurses and servants.

Plan of Leanchoil Hospital published by H. C. Burdett in Cottage Hospitals, general, fever and convalescent… 3rd edition, 1896, p.262

Before the cottage hospital was built on the outskirts of Forres, the only available inpatient accommodation in the town was in a small building on Burnside. A public meeting held in 1888 first mooted the possibility of building a cottage hospital in Forres and in the following year John Rhind was asked to provide plans. These were sent to H. Saxon Snell & Son, the pre‑eminent London‑based hospital architects in England at that date, for their comments. However, before they could reply, Rhind had died and H. Saxon Snell took over as architect to the project.

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

The site chosen for the hospital was to the south-east of Forres, on Chapelton Muir, and extended to 9 ½ acres. It was described as ‘most picturesque and secluded, the trees in rear of the building sheltering them from East winds and forming an excellent background to a noble pile of buildings’. This ‘noble pile’  blends Baronial and Jacobean details to produce a lively façade, dominated by the central square tower. The general features of the building and overall design are probably the work of Rhind rather than Snell, but Snell would undoubtedly have ensured that the small wards were provided with sanitary annexes separated from the wards by properly cross‑ventilated lobbies and other similar details.

Donald Alexander Smith, later Lord Strathcona, photgraphed c.1890. National Archives of Canada. Public Domain image.

Funds for the hospital were donated by Sir Donald Alexander Smith (later Lord Strathcona), who was born in Forres but settled and made his fortune in Canada. In 1888 he offered £5,000 for the erection of the hospital and in 1891 he promised to grant a further £3,000 once the buildings were completed. At that point the estimate for building work stood at just short of £7,000, which the governors considered ‘more than it was advisable to spend’. It was decided to take tenders for just the main building – these came in at £4,900. Building work was superintended by H. M. S. Mackay of Elgin, with Mr Dorrell, as the Clerk of Works.

The hospital was unofficially opened at the end of April 1892, when the matron, Miss Gertrude Seagrave, who had previously served at Ashford Cottage Hospital, in Kent, moved in (quite a move, from Kent to Moray), and the first patients were admitted.

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Leanchoil Hospital, photographed c.1989, ©Harriet Richardson

The broad corridors on either side of the central block each had a bay half way along creating a small day-room for convalescent patients. The wings contained two wards each, one with four the other with two beds, with a nurse’s room and bath-room between them. The wards were heated by ventilating stoves, especially designed for this building, and the floors were laid with hard Canadian maple, wax-polished. The detached building to the rear of the hospital contained a wash-house and laundry, ambulance house and mortuary.

Leanchoil Hospital, photographed in 2010. It then had 23 beds, outpatients department and minor injuries casualty department. © Copyright John Allan and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

At the Annual General Meeting of the Governors held in January 1898, the chairman of the governors, Sir George Campbell Macpherson Grant commented on the largest expenditure of the previous year – some £500 on the site and railings. Perhaps anticipating criticism, he endorsed the expenditure, as money well spent: ‘…as that had brought the grounds into keeping with the hospital, and nothing tended to promote recovery more than beautiful scenery.’

Leanchoil Hospital gate lodge, photographed in 2009. © Copyright Stanley Howe and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Stanley Howe, who took the lovely photograph above and posted it on Geograph, noted the  stone plaque over the window, inscribed ‘The gift of Campbell MacPherson Grant of Drumduam, 1890’. ‘Mais pourquoi?’, he asked. As noted above, Campbell MacPherson Grant was the chairman of the governors, and was one of many who gave generously to fund the building and endowment of the hospital.

Former Maternity Wing, photographed in 2009. © Copyright Stanley Howe and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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Leanchoil Hospital, maternity wing, photographed c.1989, ©Harriet Richardson

Of later additions to the site, the maternity wing blends its modern style sympathetically with the old, by using the same tone of materials and keeping the wing to a single storey. It was built after a gift of £17,000 was made by Lady Grant of Logie in January 1939, though plans for the wing had been discussed since at least 1935 along with the general modernisation of the building and the addition of a nurses’ home. In November 1938 work had been completed to extend the wards and add sun rooms. The maternity wing was completed in 1940.

Extract from the 1:25,000 OS map, published in 1957, showing Leanchoil Hospital with the 1930s wing to the SE of the original buildings, and ancillary buildings added to the north. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

[Sources: H. C. Burdett in Cottage Hospitals, general, fever and convalescent… 3rd edition, 1896, p.262: Dundee Advertiser, 2 June 1892, p.3: Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 Jan 1891, p.6; 2 Feb 1892, p.6; 28 Jan 1898, p.7; 27 May 1935, p.5: Inverness Courier, 29 April 1892, p.5: Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 14 Dec 1939, p.3.]