ABERDEEN ROYAL INFIRMARY, FORESTERHILL By 1990 the Foresterhill site had been so added to that the original complex of buildings were hard to distinguish. The new Royal Infirmary, designed by J. B. Nicol in 1927, lay at the centre of this ambitious scheme, the buildings were impressively severe and uncompromising in grey granite. The Infirmary has been a victim of its own success, it is sad to see such an important complex being submerged under unsympathetic extensions.
Professor Matthew Hay, Aberdeen’s City Medical Officer of Health, conceived the idea of a medical complex, centralizing all the different voluntary hospital services for Aberdeen on one large site. The existing Royal Infirmary at Woolmanhill had been so absorbed into the city that there was no more room for expansion on that site.
Hays’ Joint Hospitals Scheme was a bold and important undertaking, foreshadowing the scope of the National Health Service. It comprised the general hospital, a maternity hospital and children’s hospital, together with a nurses’ home and the medical school buildings of Aberdeen University. They shared services including steam for heating, kitchens, sterilizing and laundry facilities. The University undertook pathological, bacteriological and bio-chemical work for the hospitals.
The main infirmary building consisted of three five-storey ward blocks for medical, surgical, and special cases. The ward blocks extended south from the gently curved east-west corridor, fanning out from the central administration area. This allowed a freer access of air and sunshine into the wards:
“a welcome variation to the long, straight, barrack-room passage way which would have been the construction in a previous building age, with the inevitable inducement of weariness before a long journey was begun.”
The foundation stone was laid on 28 May 1928 by the Prince of Wales and the Hospital was opened on 22 September 1936 by the Duke and Duchess of York. The Aberdeen Press and Journal gave an account of the opening ceremony in which it noted that there were 1,995 doors and 2,652 windows in the hospital. The doors were of ‘ultra-modern type, while special fittings were required for the windows which open inwards, and can be cleaned from the inside’. Local workmen were employed throughout.
There have been numerous additions to the site, though the original buildings remain, if somewhat dwarfed by the post-war expansion. [Sources: Architect & Building News, 1936, British Medical Association, The Book of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, 1939.]
ABERDEEN ROYAL INFIRMARY, WOOLMANHILL The former Royal Infirmary designed by Archibald Simpson is an elegant neo-Classical granite building of 1840, near the centre of Aberdeen. Comparable to the earlier Gray’s Hospital at Elgin, it was designed as an impressive public building as much as a functional hospital. To the rear of Simpson’s block are two ranges, largely dating from 1887, which create a roughly triangular court. Just as the Infirmary at Woolmanhill was replaced nearly a century later by the Foresterhill complex, the Woolmanhill building replaced an earlier infirmary built a century before.
The Aberdeen Infirmary was founded in 1739 and the foundation stone of the first building on the Woolmanhill site was laid in January 1740. It was of simple construction, built to the designs of William Christall who had visited Edinburgh and Glasgow to view William Adam’s Edinburgh Infirmary and Glasgow’s Town’s Hospital, before completing his own plans. It opened in 1742, providing twenty beds, including accommodation for lunatics, and had cost £484. No illustration of this building appears to have survived. On the completion of Simpson’s new Infirmary the old building was demolished.
In 1887 a major extension and reconstruction scheme was begun. The site formed an awkward wedge and added to this difficulty the managers wished to avoid interfering with the existing buildings. H. Saxon Snell, the well-known hospital architect in London, was consulted and at his suggestion Simpson’s building was converted into an administrative and clinical area, with new ward pavilions built to the rear. He also recommended retaining the separate fever block at the rear as part of the new surgical block. Known as the Jubilee Extension Scheme, the new blocks opened in 1897 and provided a new surgical block, medical block, pathology and laundry blocks. W. & J. Smith & Kelly, the Aberdeen firm of architects, carried out the work.
The new administration department, formed out of the former hospital, was also to provide accommodation for nurses:
“The first thing in a good modern hospital was to have the best possible accommodation for nurses… In some of the larger hospitals such as that of Marylebone every nurse has a bedroom to herself. The committee do not propose to go to that extent but they propose that everyone of the higher nurses… shall have a room to herself, and that the others shall be accommodated two in one room.”
It is perhaps worth noting that the Marylebone hospital referred to in London was in fact a workhouse infirmary. It is a measure of the changing attitudes to hospital and nursing provision for paupers that their nurses were offered better accommodation than those in a Scottish Royal Infirmary.
Burdett classified the layout and plan of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary as ‘composite or heap of buildings’, which was his class 4, class 1 being pavilion plan hospitals, class 2 block plan and class 3 corridor plan. There is a suggestion that the ‘heap of buildings’ class was the worst type. The plans were published before works on the new buildings had been completed.
Amongst the later additions were new operating theatres (pictured above), and out-patients’ department (below)
The out-patients’ department (demolished) was opened in November 1912, situated to the east of the infirmary on the other side of Woolmanhill. A large top-lit waiting hall was centrally placed off which were situated admission rooms, dispensary, Ear and Throat, Dental and Skin clinics, bacteriological and sterilising rooms, operating rooms for minor surgery, dressing and recovery rooms etc. A basement housed stores and heating chamber, and on the upper floor were two 4-bed wards for the Ear & Throat department and some staff accommodation. [Sources: British Medical Association, Aberdeen 1914, A Handbook and Guide, Aberdeen, 1914]
ABERDEEN EYE INSTITUTION The Eye Institution was founded in 1835 by Sir James McGrigor, the Director-General of the Medical Department of H. M. Forces. Its early foundation may have been prompted by the frequency of eye injuries amongst the Aberdeen granite cutters. However, the need for such specialist hospitals had been growing in the country since the end of the Napoleonic wars, when a high proportion of the returning forces were found to be suffering from diseases of the eye.
In 1914 the hospital was situated at No. 142, King Street in a converted domestic villa on backland behind the King Street frontage. It closed in October 1958 with services transferring to the eye casualty department at the Royal Infirmary’s Woolmanhill building.[Sources: British Medical Association, Aberdeen 1914, Handbook and Guide, Aberdeen, 1914: Aberdeen Evening Express, 9 Oct 1958, p.28.]
ABERDEEN MATERNITY HOSPITAL, FORESTERHILL The maternity hospital at Foresterhill opened in 1937 but it was originally founded c.1893, in a rented house in Barnett’s Close. It was not long before the building became overcrowded and the hospital was moved to a house in Castle Terrace in 1900. It remained there until the first phase of the present hospital was completed as part of Aberdeen’s Joint Hospital Scheme. The new building was situated between the Infirmary and the Children’s Hospital and was designed by J. B. Nicol on a U-plan of three storeys. It was constructed in the same style as the infirmary and of the same materials. However, the end walls of the wards were constructed of brick instead of granite to allow for future extensions. The initial plan had been to provide a hospital of 50 beds but the funds available were insufficient and this had to be reduced to 36 beds. The managers were aware that this would not be large enough but felt that it would be better to build a very good hospital on a smaller scale and add to it when funds permitted. In 1941 an ante-natal hospital was added and various further additions have been made since. [Sources: British Medical Association, The Book of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, 1939.]
ABERDEEN ROYAL INFIRMARY CONVALESCENT HOME, Pitfodels Hill, Cults The Convalescent Home was designed by W. & J. Smith & Kelly of Aberdeen who were at that time engaged on the extension of the Royal Infirmary at Woolmanhill. It opened in 1897. More recently it became the Aberdeen Waldorf School.
BELLEVILLE HOSPITAL, see Morningfield Hospital below
CITY HOSPITAL, ABERDEEN Before the City Hospital was built, infectious diseases were treated at the Royal Infirmary. An outbreak of smallpox in the early 1870s prompted the Corporation to provide hospital accommodation which was initially established in a disused match factory.
The first hospital, built on this site to designs by William Smith, began in 1874, some of which remains (as of 1990). It was constructed of concrete, with no wooden floors or walls, on the principle that the wards could be hosed down and completely disinfected. This was an early use of concrete in the construction of buildings, and the first time it is known to have been used for a new hospital in Scotland. There were four single‑storey pavilions with accommodation for 72 patients, together with a reception block, administration building, laundry and disinfecting station. Although the intentions were laudable that led the Corporation to choose concrete, the drawbacks were an exterior and interior that were ‘cold, cheerless and prison‑like, with cement everywhere on the floor, walls, and ceilings’.
In 1887 a wooden smallpox pavilion was built and wooden floors put into the existing wards and wood panelling installed. In 1891 the Public Health Committee began to consider extending the hospital to meet the needs of the expanding city and in the following year members of the committee visited similar hospitals at Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. John Rust, the city architect was employed to draw up plans for the extension which doubled the size of the existing ward blocks. Other improvements at this time included the installation of new sanitary arrangements, ventilation and heating systems, rearranging the administration building, providing extra stores, nurses’ bedrooms, laundry, waiting room, disinfecting block and mortuary, plus a new gateway and entrance lodge onto Urquhart Road. The new accommodation was opened in 1895.
The ventilation system chosen for the hospital was of a mechanical propulsive type, whereby the air heated by steam pipes was driven by large Blackman fans into the wards. To work successfully the windows had to be kept shut and the nurses began to complain of the close atmosphere. The system was scrapped c.1911 and replaced by radiators.
In 1911 a TB pavilion was added and a new nurses’ home in 1931. [Sources: British Medical Association, Aberdeen 1914, A Handbook and Guide, Aberdeen, 1914: Grampian Health Board, Common Services Agency, plans]
FONTHILL MATERNITY HOME, 60 Fonthill Road, ABERDEEN A domestic house was taken over by Aberdeen Corporation in 1945 and opened as a maternity unit in 1946. Latterly it acted as an annexe to the Aberdeen Maternity Home. Still marked as a maternity home on maps of the 1970s, and was still operating in 1990. The building was still extant in 2019, but is no longer in hospital use.
MORNINGFIELD HOSPITAL, 59 KING’S GATE, ABERDEEN (part demolished) Formerly the Aberdeen Hospital for Incurables, the hospital moved to Morningfield in 1884. It was founded in 1857 and opened in December 1858, in Belleville House, Denburn.
The house had been purchased in January that year for £910. A new wing was added in 1867 for five consumptive patients and a further wing added in 1877. In November 1883 the hospital managers acquired the Morningfield site and plans for a new hospital were prepared by the local firm of architects, William Henderson and Son.
The building committee visited Longmore Hospital, Edinburgh, and Broomhill Hospital, Kirkintilloch before the plans were finalised. The new hospital opened in August 1884.
In 1891 a new wing and a porters lodge were added and in 1901 a new dining hall and recreation room were opened. During the First World War the hospital was used to accommodate wounded soldiers (see edinburghs-war.ed.ac.uk for a photograph of Belgian soldiers and nursing staff outside the hospital).
Morningfield was transferred to the National Health Service in 1948, and was then designated as a geriatric hospital. It closed in 1998, the original building is still extant, converted to residential use. The 1891 wing and post-war additions have been demolished and further housing built in the grounds with the creation of Morningfield Mews. [Sources: H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and Asylums of the World, Portfolio of Plans: British Medical Association, Aberdeen 1914, A Handbook and Guide, Aberdeen, 1914]
NEWHILLS SANATORIUM, BUCKSBURN (see under Aberdeenshire)
OLD MACHAR POORHOUSE, FONTHILL ROAD The poorhouse was designed in 1853 by William Henderson for the accommodation of 200 paupers.
The new poorhouse replaced a smaller building which had been operating since 1848 following the decision the previous year not to unite with St Nicholas Parochial Board to build a joint poorhouse. Old Machar Board most probably adapted an existing building, as already in May 1848 they were recommending the acquisition of additional premises to provide better accommodation for the inmates. By the early 1850s the poorhouse held on average around 80 to 90 paupers, but there were over 200 paupers ‘on the books’, the majority of whom were given out-door relief. A larger poorhouse was advocated that could accommodate all 200, on the grounds that it would reduce the cost per-head of maintaining the parish poor as well as deterring people from applying for relief. It was also cheaper to house mentally ill paupers within the poorhouse than to place them in the Aberdeen lunatic asylum at a cost of £13 p.a. per patient.
‘At present it is painful to observe with what eagerness many parties insist upon their rights to parochial relief, on very slight grounds, who could otherwise, with a little exertion, provide for themselves… any measure which would remove the temptation to idleness and sloth which the present system has engendered … will… confer an invaluable boon on the community.’ [Elgin Courant and Morayshire Advertiser, 3 June 1853 p.2]
But the provision of a new larger poorhouse was by no means unanimously desired. A committee was appointed by the Old Machar Parochial Board to erect the new building. The Building Committee reported in August 1853 that they had considered three sites, eventually opting for the one at Ferryhill, offered by William Clark, ‘late ironmonger’, who held the ground on a 999-year lease from Martinmas 1756 and under-let it to a market gardener. The lease was purchased by the Board for £451. Plans and estimates for the new poorhouse were advertised for, and five sets submitted, several exhibiting ‘considerable merit’. After much deliberation the plans submitted by William Henderson were selected on the grounds that they seemed to offer the most economical and efficient accommodation, at the lowest cost. Henderson was currently engaged in preparing working drawings and specifications so that tenders for the building work could be invited.
Although the erection of this large new poorhouse was by no means unanimously supported by the members of the Parochial Board, the building went up briskly and in September 1854 was sufficiently advanced for the Board to advertise for a Governor. [Sources: Aberdeen Herald and Daily Advertiser, 6 Aug 1853, p.6: Aberdeen Journal, 12 October 1853; 6 Sept 1854, p.6: see also workhouses.org ]
ROYAL ABERDEEN HOSPITAL FOR SICK CHILDREN, FORESTERHILL The original hospital at Foresterhill opened in 1928 and was the first new hospitals on this site and the only one of the 1930s development not designed by J. B. Nicol. The plans were drawn up by William Kelly who had been associated with many Grampian hospitals, including the Jubilee extensions at Woolmanhill.
The first children’s hospital in Aberdeen opened in 1877 with fourteen beds in a private house. Before the First World War plans were considered for a new hospital on a new site and an appeal made for funds. This scheme was abandoned when war broke out. During the war the hospital was evacuated to Kepplestone House until the new building was completed at Foresterhill. The new accommodation consisted of four single‑storey pavilions of 32 beds each plus operating theatre, isolation pavilion, out‑ patients’ and radiological departments. These were linked to the administration and kitchen departments. Various additions were carried out during the 1930s, 50s and 60s including a new out‑ patients’ department in 1964. The foundation stone for the new out-patient department was laid in May 1962.
All the original buildings have since been replaced, their site now largely given over to carparks, Argyll House and the Life Science Innovation buildings. A new children’s hospital was built on the Foresterhill campus further west, which opened in 2004. [Sources: British Medical Association, Book of Aberdeen: The Hospital, vol.58, no.7 July 1962, p.491]
ROYAL CORNHILL HOSPITAL, ABERDEEN (original buildings largely demolished) In 1797 lands at Clerkseat were purchased and a small asylum was opened there in November 1800. Additional cells were soon provided, and improvements made in the segregation of male and female patients in 1809. By 1818 there were 63 patients in the asylum and larger premises were needed. An adiditonal three acres were purchased and a new building for 150 patients erected, designed by Archibald Simpson.
The Hospital continued to expand gradually. Clerkseat House was built in 1852 as the medical superintendent’s house, but it soon became necessary to house patients there due to overcrowding in the main building. In 1855 a chapel was built. The managers of the asylum had decided, after the 1857 Lunacy Act, to provide accommodation for the whole of the paupers in the county, thereby acting as the District Asylum. The increasing number of patients lead to the establishment of Elmhill House in 1862 following the acquisition of the adjoining estate. In 1888 the estate of Glack, in Daviot parish, was purchased with 283 acres of land and two mansion houses and a country branch of the asylum was set up.
Elmhill House, designed by William Rammage, was set in extensive pleasure grounds, laid out with terraces and drives. The accommodation combined security with the appearance of freedom, and was varied to provide some suites of apartments.
In 1888 two mansions, the old and new houses of Glack at Daviot, were acquired as an annexe to the hospital (see under House of Daviot in Aberdeenshire). With the removal there of 100 patients the Asylum managers turned their attention to the original site and the buildings were upgraded in 1892, and a new hospital for sick and acute cases built to the north in 1896. Furhter additions were made in 1898, with a new laundry and female day room and dormitories.
During the 1920s TB pavilions were introduced and verandas added to some of the existing buildings. In 1931 Wellwood House at Cults opened under the direction of the asylum for early and transient uncertified patients (see separate entry below). During the 1930s the hospital was remodelled and Elmhill house converted into a nurses’ home.
When Kingseat Hospital was requisitioned by the Admiralty during the Second World War, many of the patients were transferred to Cornhill. The Cornhill site sustained bomb damage in 1943, with four fatalities. Elmhill House was severely damaged as well as wards and the laundry at the main site.
The hospital was taken over by the National Health Service in 1948, and a regional psychiatric out patient centre, the Ross Clinic, opened in 1959. In 1975 it was decided to replace the old building with a new hospital, though work did not commence until the late 1980s. The redevelopment was completed in 1994 and provided 180 acute psychiatric beds, 90 long-stay beds, out-patients, forensic unit and the Fulton Clinic. The Daviot site continued in use until 1995. [Sources: British Medical Association, Aberdeen 1914, A Handbook and Guide, Aberdeen, 1914: Grampian Health Board Archives, Annual Reports.]
ST NICHOLAS POORHOUSE, NELSON STREET (demolished)
This large H-plan poorhouse to the north of Aberdeen was designed by Thomas Mathews and James Mackenzie, adapted from their model plan of a poorhouse of 1847 for the Board of Supervision.
SUMMERFIELD HOSPITAL, ABERDEEN (demolished) Summerfield Hospital functioned as an annexe of Woodend Hospital.
It was built for patients of the Aberdeen district of the county and was originally situated well outside the town – just to the north-east of the poorhouse. It opened on 24 August 1900. When the city boundaries were extended in 1934, Aberdeen Corporation took over the hospital and carried out extensive renovations, reopening it in 1937. However, it became a maternity hospital under the National Health Service. It closed in 1991 and has since been demolished, on the site now stands offices of NHS Grampian.
THORNGROVE HOME, ABERDEEN A converted private house on the outskirts of Aberdeen for abandoned and convalescent children. Aberdeen Town Council took possession of the house at Whitsunday 1933. Initially it was used for the accommodation of unmarried mothers in their first pregnancy.
WELLWOOD UNIT, CULTS Wellwood house was purchased by the Board of Management of the Royal Cornhill Hospital and opened in 1931 as a private psychiatric nursing home to provide early treatment for non‑certified patients suffering from psycho‑neurosis and psychosis.The House itself was built around 1840 and has an asymmetrical plan, its Jacobethan details forming a picturesque appearance in the wooded Deeside setting.Its conversion was carried out by T. F. Henderson. In 1964 it was adapted as a rehabilitation centre for mentally handicapped patients. [Sources: Architect & Building News, July-Dec 1930 (2), p.161]
WEST POORHOUSE, FONTHILL ROAD see Old Machar Poorhouse above
WOODEND HOSPITAL, ABERDEEN Woodend Hospital was constructed as a Poor Law Institution. Designed by the local firm of Brown & Watt, it opened on 15 May 1907 and was one of the last poorhouses to be built in Scotland.
It was originally known as Old Mill Poorhouse and a separate infirmary block was provided behind the main building with accommodation for 220 beds and there was a further Special Hospital for infectious diseases.
The complex compares with Edinburgh’s Craiglockhart Poorhouse and Glasgow’s Govan Poorhouse (Southern General Hospital) in the general size and degree of classification provided for the different groups of paupers, although lunatics were not included at Oldmill. There are similarities in the general layout and composition with the dominant central water‑tower in a long two‑storey range and separate hospital and children’s departments.
The original buildings on the site form an impressive group which have retained many of their contemporary features. The grey granite is enlivened on the hospital block by the glazing patterns of the upper sashes. The water‑tower on the poorhouse block is elaborately turreted and decorated with a diminutive cupola and the projecting bays are linked at ground level by an arcade at the centre and verandas elsewhere.
During the First World War the institution was taken over as a Military Hospital (from 24th May 1915 to 1st June 1919). In 1926 the hospital sections were taken over by Aberdeen Town Council and re‑opened as the Woodend Municipal Hospital in October 1927.
From the beginning there was a separate nurses’ home, which was a mark of the progress in poor law medical provision. This was replaced c.1936 by a new larger nurses’ home in an austere cubic manner. It was designed by A. Gardner, the city architect, to accommodate 130 nurses. [Sources: Grampian Health Board, Common Services Agency, plans. See also workhouses.org]
WOODLANDS HOSPITAL, CULTS Woodlands House, of about the 1860s, was purchased by Aberdeen Corporation in May 1947. Plans for alterations and additions were prepared by Charles Clark Wright in 1951. It is a substantial but plain house given individuality by a corner drum tower with a decorative ironwork circlet. It was initially used as a home for 50 mentally handicapped children, opening in 1948 after having transferred to the National Health Service. It was the only institution of its type in the North-East region and was extended in 1952 (Rocklands Cottage, adapted for 12 boys) and 1954 (50-bed extension).
Rocklands Cottage was turned into a staff house in 1964 in which year plans for further extensions were agreed but delayed by a lack of funds. The plans were revised in 1969, but finally shelved with the move to care in the community. Instead a further revised scheme was drawn up to provide for those requiring total nursing. Phased construction from 1979 saw the opening of six 20-bed units in 1981, a new school in 1982 and phase three of the redevelopment completed in 1983. The house itself was converted for office accommodation. The hospital was declared surplus by 2003 and had closed by the end of 2004. The site has been redeveloped for housing. [Sources: The Builder, 27 July 1951, p.137: Grampian Health Board Archives]