Extract from John Thomson’s Atlas of Scotland 1832. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Buildings of Scotland volume covering Moray published in 2015 is a somewhat dismissive of Moray’s hospitals, which, its authors contend, as far as those constructed in the nineteenth century are concerned, tend to be large and rather plain. Leanchoil is considered the best of the bunch, though I am not sure that I would entirely agree. Only one section remains of Elgin’s ‘colossal’ lunatic asylum, ‘now subsumed within Gray’s Hospital. Forres Hydro is a ‘hailed concatenation of gables’ built in 1863-5 and extended at least two times’. When I carried out the survey of Scottish hospitals in the late 1980s, I did not cover the hydropathic establishments. This is an omission I am aiming to address, so they will start to be added in to the gazetteer over the next few weeks. The one at Forres would seem a good place to start – not least because it is directly behind Leanchoil Hospital.


GRAY’S HOSPITAL   Perhaps the most architecturally appealing hospital in Scotland, this elegant classical building was designed in the tradition of the grand civic statement and unsurprisingly is now more successful in this respect than as a modern functioning hospital.

Gray’s Hospital photographed in about 1990 © Harriet Richardson

Alexander Gray, the founder of Gray’s Hospital, was a naval surgeon, the hospital is often erroneously called ‘Dr’ Grays. He was surgeon to the Bengal Establishment of the East India Company and when he died on 26 July 1807 he left 20,000 ‘for the establishment of an Hospital in the town of Elgin for the benefit of the sick and poor of the town and country of Murray…’. He added as a caution:

“In order to prevent abuses incident to such Institutions I direct that no person who has any charge or control of the Institution be employed either directly or indirectly on supplies for the sick.”

His will contained many oddities and was contested by his relatives. In particular his wife rejected his accusation that she was ‘the most abandoned and deliberately infamous wife that ever distinguished the annals of turpitude’. Between 1807‑14 the case was in chancery but the family were unsuccessful. Eventually progress was made in the construction of the hospital.

Detail of the Town Plan of Elgin, 1868, showing the ground-floor layout of the hospital. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

James Gillespie Graham was recommended by the Earl of Moray as architect for the hospital. In 1815, on 11 June, the foundation stone was laid. Reputedly the ceremony was interrupted by news of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo. The building opened on 1 January 1819 and provided accommodation for 30 beds. According to Young’s Annals of Elgin, Gillepsie Graham chose the site for the building which is axially aligned with the church in the centre of Elgin, itself rebuilt by Archibald Simpson some years after Gray’s was completed.

Extract from the 1st edition OS map surveyed in 1868. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

By 1850 the attic storey had been converted into fever wards with separate access from the rest of the hospital. These remained in use until the Town Infectious Diseases Hospital was opened in 1900. It was probably at this time that the windows were enlarged, upsetting the classical proportions of the facade.   During the First World War the hospital was used by the Admiralty and again in the Second World War by the Military and later the Air Force. [Sources: Young, Annals of Elgin]

BILBOHALL HOSPITAL   Elgin Pauper Lunatic Asylum was founded by the managers of Grays Hospital  c.1835 and was the earliest asylum built specifically for paupers in Scotland and indeed, the only pauper lunatic asylum built in Scotland before the Lunacy Act of 1857. This makes it particularly unfortunate that it is now almost impossible to see the original extent of the buildings, designed by Archibald Simpson. In the 1860s extensions by A. & W. Reid began to obscure Simpson’s asylum but now the whole has become lost amongst piece-meal modern additions, none of which has been sympathetic to the older blocks. A & W. Reid‘s extensions comprised a north and south wing each of two storeys and an extension of three storeys to the rear at the centre of the building. This last contained a new dining-hall and kitchen.

Extract from the 1st edition OS map surveyed in 1868. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Detail from the Town Plan of Elgin, 1868, which shows the internal arrangement within  the asylum building. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

A third storey was added to the wings in about the 1880s. [Sources: Elgin Local History Library, plans.]

CRAIGMORY INSTITUTION, ELGIN (demolished)   Built as the Morayshire Union Poorhouse in 1864, to designs by Alexander Reid of A. & W. Reid, Elgin. It opened in June 1865.

Extract from the 1st edition OS map surveyed in 1870. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

It was constructed on the standard plan, with a two-storey front range some 200ft long containing the main accommodation, a single-storey kitchen range behind linking to single-storey ‘offices’ to the rear (wash-house, laundry, workshops etc). It contained accommodation for about 100 paupers. The contractors were Alexander Stewart, builder, Peterhead, mason work – who also laid the foundation stone; Convener Brander, wright; J. Gordon, plumber; and J Wilson, slater – all of Elgin. Mr Malloch was engaged by Reid as his inspector. The stone was mostly from the local Bishopmill quarries wrought by Eric Anderson.  [Sources: The Builder, 10 June 1865: Scottish Record Office, plans, RHP 30870/1‑20: see also]

ELGIN JOINT COUNTY INFECTIOUS DISEASES HOSPITAL The hospital opened in 1900 and was designed by Reid and Wittet of Elgin.

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

It was replaced in 1935 by Spynie Hospital (see below), and was used as an occupation centre in the 1960s.

MARYHILL HOUSE, ELGIN   There was an older house on this site which was greatly altered and enlarged in 1866 by the Elgin architects, A. & W. Reid. It is a particularly fine example of a domestic villa by these architects.

Extract from the 1st edition OS map surveyed in 1868. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The symmetrical principal elevation has a central entrance in a simple porch surmounted by a balustrade. The flanking outer bays have canted bay windows on the ground floor, similarly capped by balustrades all of which have urn finials. The piended roof has a fine line of chimney stacks along the ridge.

The house was probably first used as a hospital during the First World War. After the Second World War it was converted into a small maternity hospital under the National Health Service. This finally closed in c.1987. It was then converted into office accommodation for Grampian Health Board.

SPYNIE HOSPITAL, ELGIN   Built as a new infectious diseases hospital to replace the former hospital across the road. There is a nineteenth‑century house at the core of the site surrounded by simple‑single storey ward pavilions designed by John Wittet.

Extract from the 6-inch OS map published c.1946. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

It opened in 1935 and was renamed Spynie Hospital in the 1950s. Further additions were made on the site in the 1960s and 1980s including a new 30‑bed geriatric long‑stay unit in 1988. The hospital closed in 2004. [Sources: Architect & Building News, 21 Aug. 1931, p.225.]


Altyre Auxiliary Hospital, Forres This was a convalescent home with 110 beds that was functioning under the NHS.

CLUNY HILL HYDROPATHIC ESTABLISHMENT, FORRES   Situated to the north of Leanchoil Hospital, this former hydro is the Cluny Hill College campus of the Findhorn Foundation. It was built in 1863-5 to designs by A. W. Bissett. A wing was added to the west in 1896-7 by John Forrest and further additions were carried out in 1905-7 by Ross & Macbeth.

Cluny Hill College photographed in 2010 © Copyright Jean Aldridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Before it had even opened there was sufficient confidence in its success for John Brodie Innes, of Milton Brodie, to urge the benefits of a ‘hydropathic excursion’ on Charles Darwin. Writing to Darwin’s wife, Emma, in January 1864, Innes declared:

‘The building is nearly completed and certainly is very handsome and will be comfortable. The soil, water, land and sea views are all in its favour. Among other arrivals for it is an equatorial telescope by Dollond. Sir Alexanders home of the toads is close by and much other interest in the immediate neighbourhood. I hope you will come.’

The house of the toads refers to the discovery of live toads deep in the ground, exposed during excavations for the Inverness and Perth railway near Altyre. Alexander Cumming of Altyre was a friend and neighbour of Innes, and had written letters to the press about the toads.

Cluny Hill Hydro,  from J. Watson, Morayshire Described… 1868

In a guide to Moray published three years after the hydro opened the building was described at some length. The rooms were large and airy, the dining-room a magnificent apartment capable of seating 80 persons. Next to the dining-room was a reading and writing room 40 ft by 18 ft. Over the dining-room was a luxuriantly furnished drawing-room, from which plate-glass doors led to an ante-room, 42ft by 18ft, with an entire glass front. On the west side contained the resident physicians rooms and ‘several handsome parlours and bed-rooms’.

Postcard of Cluny Hill Hydro, postmarked 1905 from Forres. It was addressed to Miss Kennedy at Gedloch, Longmorn, by Elgin

Residents had handsomely and comfortably furnished bedrooms placed on either side of a central corridor, the baths were in the eastern section, those for men were on the ground floor and for women on the floor above. There was the usual range of baths: Turkish, plunge, shower, spray, rain, wave, douche, hose etc ‘hot and cold as required’. There was a croquet lawn and a bowling green in the grounds, and in inclement weather exercise and entertainment could be had in a bowling or skittle alley and gymnasium to the north of the main building, and a winter garden or greenhouse.

The Hydro photographed in 1955 when it was the Cluny Hill Hotel. The original section is to the left. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing North/West. This image was marked by AeroPictorial Ltd for photo editing. © Crown Copyright: RCAHMS

During the First World War the hydro was taken over by the military to billet troops. It returned to its original function after the war, but in 1937 became a hotel. By 1975 this was no longer profitable and the building was bought by the Findhorn Foundation for £60,000. [Sources: Buildings of Scotland, Aberdeenshire: North and Moray: J. Brodie Innes to Emma Darwin 16 Jan 1864 in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol.12, pp.18-19 CUP, 2001: G. Gawler, Grace, Grit and Gratitude, 2008p.198]

COUNTY HOSPITAL, DUFFTOWN   Opened in 1905 as the Infectious Diseases Hospital for the Upper District of Banffshire. It was designed by Charles Doig, better known as a designer of Distilleries. The hospital was located to the north-west of town, it can just be seen on the map below, under the T and O of Dufftown, top left.  [Sources: Elgin Local History Library, plans collection.]

Extract from the 6-inch OS map, revised in 1938. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

FLEMING COTTAGE HOSPITAL, ABERLOUR   Mr James Fleming left a deed of mortification registered in 1895 ‘to build and to a certain extent endow a cottage hospital for the sick poor and others in the parishes of Knockando, Inveravon, and Aberlour’. £6,000 was provided, with an additional £3,000 under Trust, Disposition and Settlement. Not more than £3,000 was to be spent on the building and equipping of the hospital and patients were not to include paupers or lunatics, although paupers might be admitted if there were room.

Fleming Cottage Hospital at Aberlour. Photograph taken in December 2009  © Copyright Ann Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence 

The hospital was opened by Mr John Findlay of Aberlour on 30 April 1900. J. L. Findlay, of J. B. Dunn & Findlay the Edinburgh architects, produced the plans for this delightful Arts and Crafts Cottage Hospital which was sadly given unsympathetic new wings more recently.

FORRES CHOLERA HOSPITAL, Inverness Road (demolished)

Forres Town Plan, 1868. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland
Forres Town Plan, 1868. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

LEANCHOIL HOSPITAL, ST LEONARD’S ROAD, FORRES   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 the architect John Rhind of Inverness 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.

Postcard of Leanchoil Hospital. Reproduced by permission of H. Martin.

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.

Sketch of the hospital published in the Dundee Advertiser in June 1892 when the hospital  was officially opened.

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.

Leanchoil Hospital, photographed c.1989, © Harriet Richardson

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 fro 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.

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

It follows the standard cottage‑hospital plan; originally the terminating turrets of the sanitary annexes neatly rounded off the design, but extensions have been 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

The corridors 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, maternity wing, photographed c.1989, ©Harriet Richardson

At the Annual General Meeting of the Governors held in January 1898, the chairman of the governors, Sir George Macpherson Grant, of Ballindalloch, 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.’

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.

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.

[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.]

SEAFIELD HOSPITAL, BUCKIE   The present {1990} building is largely the result of a reconstruction in 1964 of the earlier hospital. Formerly it was a Poor Law Hospital for Rathven Parish, provided as a casual sick house for paupers. When it opened in December 1911 there were eight beds available. It was extended in 1919 and again in 1930 when it was renamed the Seafield Hospital. Its location next to the cemetery was not unusual for local authority hospitals. [Sources: Scottish Record Office, plans, RHP 30880/1‑2.]

Extract from the second edition OS map, revised in 1928. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

STEPHEN COTTAGE HOSPITAL, DUFFTOWN   The Stephen Cottage Hospital was founded by Sir George Stephen, later Lord Mount Stephen, a native of the parish who made his fortune and titles from the Canadian Pacific Railway which he established in 1881. He was knighted in 1886 and became a peer in 1891. With his business partner, Lord Strathcona, he maintained links with several Scottish hospitals and also founded the Victoria Hospital in Montreal. In 1888 he announced his intention of building and endowing a cottage hospital in Dufftown for the benefit of Mortlach parish.

Postcard of the cottage hospital, sent in 1909

The plans were drawn up by A. & W. Reid of Elgin. The foundation stone was laid in 1889 and the hospital opened in the following year. It was built of ‘blue sandstone’ from the Richmond and Tininver quarries with corner stones of the creamy coloured Spynie stone.

Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised in 1902. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

It was constructed on the standard plan with central entrance building containing offices and staff accommodation flanked by two ward pavilions. The hospital was extended in 1899 with further funds donated by Lord Mount Stephen.

Stephen Cottage Hospital, photographed in the late 1980s (©H. Richardson) Apologies for its lopsidedness. 
Memorial Window to Lord Mount Stephen, with a depiction of the cottage hospital in the bottom left-hand corner. (Photographed in the late 1980s, © H. Richardson) The window is in the parish church and is said to be by James Powell & Sons (Whitefriars) Ltd of London, according to the 3rd Statistical Account of Scotland.

Many further extensions followed including more recently a new health centre, but the original building is clearly visible only marred by modern windows. [Sources: Elgin Local History Library, Wittet Collection, plans.]

TURNER MEMORIAL HOSPITAL, TURNER STREET, KEITH   A site was offered by Lord Seafield after a proposal to found a cottage hospital was made in 1877. The hospital was designed by F. D. Robertson and it was erected as a memorial to the late Dr Robert Turner.

Turner Memorial Hospital photographed in 2007© Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Soon after it opened, on 31 December 1880, plans were made to add fever wards, the funds for which were provided by Mr George Kynoch. The Kynoch wards opened in 1895 and a portrait of the patron hung in one of the wards. A portrait of Dr Turner was also hung in the hospital.

Extract from the 2nd edition OS map surveyed in 1903, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1926 further alterations were made to the building and a new wing was completed in 1948.


6 thoughts on “Moray

  1. Pingback: The first Glasgow Royal Infirmary | Historic Hospitals

  2. Thank you for writing this, it provides context to my history. My 3rd great grandmother died at the age of 28 at the Pauper Lunatic Asylum in 1905 of Phthisis. Not much is known about her in the family.

  3. Hello Harriet
    Trust you are well and your studies not too disrupted by the lock downs. I’m researching the hospitals of Badenoch and Strathspey at present (the Ian Charles and St Vincent’s are closing this year to be replaced by a new hospital in Aviemore). I’m trying – and struggling – to find a picture of the Elgin Pauper Lunatic Asylum (later renamed Bilbohall). Do you happen to have come across one?

    Best wishes

    Jim Leslie

    • Hi Jim, lovely to hear from you. I’m fine and managing just about. Finally back in to the N.R.S. in Edinburgh! I must have photographed Bilbohall back in the 1980s, but most of my photographs got lost somewhere at the RCAHMS and I just have a few of my old slide. Grampian Health Board Archives seem to have at least one. I do remember that it was difficult to photograph. Interesting to hear the Ian Charles and St Vincent are due to close soon – and that you are working on Badenoch and Strathspey. You’ll have been struggling too with access to archives, travel restrictions etc. I will email you if I come across anything, I guess Elgin Library is likely to be the best source, and there really should be something at the Moray planning department – but I can’t find anything on the online planning portal.

  4. hiya, very interesting. Just wondering, is the Lunatic Asylum what is now known as Pluscarden Unit, Ward 4 at Gray’s or is this a different building? Many thanks

    • Most of the original Bilbohall lunatic asylum is now gone , save for a few parts at the entrance to Pluscarden Clinic. Ward 4 is a new build and wasn’t part of the old building. The car park was gardens and had an aviary at one point.

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