The first Glasgow Royal Infirmary

Glasgow Royal Infirmary, from the Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0

The old buildings of Glasgow Royal Infirmary have long since been demolished. It was there that Joseph Lister pioneered antiseptic surgery in the 1860s. But by then the original part of the infirmary designed by Robert Adam was seventy years old, and had been added to and extended many times.

In comparison with the other Scottish infirmaries which were in existence by the end of the eighteenth century, such as those at Aberdeen or Dumfries, Adam’s design for the Glasgow infirmary was far more ambitious and its impressive principal elevation was a dignified expression of civic pride. Its grandeur and the choice of architect suggest a degree of one-upmanship. However, Robert Adam was not the infirmary managers’ first choice and he was only brought in, almost by chance, following the death of the first appointed architect, William Blackburn. Blackburn had made his name in London when he won a competition to design a national prison in 1782. He became best known as a prison architect, but he was also surveyor to both St Thomas’s and Guy’s hospitals in London. Michael Port succinctly captures Blackburn’s character: ‘Corpulent in figure, medium in height, Presbyterian in religion, Blackburn was noted … for his candour and modesty’.[1] Blackburn was on his way to Glasgow to discuss a new goal there when he died suddenly at Preston, Lancashire. Many of his uncompleted works were taken over by his brother-in-law, William Hobson, but Hobson would not take on the infirmary commission. Fortuitously, Robert Adam was in Glasgow around this time overseeing the construction of the Trades House, in Glassford Street, and was conveniently placed to step into Blackburn’s shoes.

Main elevation of the Trades House, photographed in 2012, by Trades House of Glasgow

As Glasgow grew and found prosperity in the late eighteenth century, the need for an infirmary became pressing. There was the Town’s Hospital on the banks of the Clyde, but there may well have been a desire to have an infirmary closer to the University, the college buildings at this time were near to Cathedral. Amongst those who came together to found the hospital, two key figures were George Jardine, lecturer in Logic and Alexander Stevenson, Professor of Medicine at the university. Support also came from the city’s leading merchants, merchant and trade guilds, and the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons. The first meeting of subscribers to the new institution was held in June 1787.

Robert Adam was requested to produce plans for the infirmary in November 1791, and more particularly to design it in such a way that it could be built in phases, just as his father had been instructed by the managers of the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh in the 1730s.  His first designs were presented in October 1791, but were rejected as being too expensive at a cost of just over £8,725. Adam was asked to make the design plainer. This he succeeded in doing, reducing the cost to £7,185 10s, with the further option of having a rusticated or plain basement. As he offered the rusticated basement at no added cost, that was the version the managers chose. [2]

Glasgow Royal Infirmary, R. Chapman (1812) The picture of Glasgow or a Stranger’s Guide (2nd Ed.) Glasgow, facing p.105. Public Domain

By the end of December estimates were being advertised for the building tradesmen. In February 1792 the Infirmary received its Royal Charter, but in early March Robert Adam died, leaving his younger brother James to continue as architect to the Infirmary. The building contract was awarded to Morrison and Burns, on their estimate of £7,900 and the foundation stone was laid with full Masonic honours in May.

Detail of Fleming’s map of Glasgow of 1807 showing the original extent of the infirmary and its proximity to the cathedral. Note also the circular area in front of the infirmary, which was part of Adam’s original design. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Death continued to shadow the new building as James Adam died in 1794, the year that the first patients were admitted: an ironic echo of Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary, where William Adam had died in 1748, the year that his infirmary building was completed. When the Glasgow infirmary first opened, not all the wards were furnished, and the second report makes it clear that other parts of the hospital were not exactly finished. In 1796 money was spent on conducting water from the Monkland canal by lead pipes, making a reservoir and erecting cisterns. Hot and cold baths were installed, a high stone wall around the grounds behind the infirmary and laying out a kitchen garden there, as well as furnishing new wards, rooms for the physician, clerk and house surgeon.

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Raphael Tuck & Sons postcard, showing the Royal Infirmary to the left of the cathedral.

The end result did not lack the flair that one would expect from Adam. The Scots Magazine in 1809 described it as magnificent, and grandly, if not entirely accurately, claimed that ‘Its front has some resemblance to the Hôtel des Invalides in Paris’. The main façade was symmetrical with a broad, central entrance bay which was slightly advanced with canted returns. Above the entrance a typical Adam-style arched tripartite window was set within a pediment carried on coupled columns.  A dome was placed at the centre, with its drum ornamented with carved swags. The only other infirmary to come near to this in richness was Gillespie Graham’s Grays Hospital in Elgin of 1815.

Detail of Adam’s façade, photographed in 1910. Wellcome Collection CC BY 4.0

The internal arrangements of the infirmary were not dissimilar to William Adam’s Edinburgh infirmary, though in Glasgow the building was one single range rather than the U-shaped plan in Edinburgh. On the ground floor were single cells for ‘lunatics’, and on the upper floors the wards took up the full width of the building and had opposing windows. There were separate stairs to access the wards at each end of the block, allowing for a seemly segregation of male and female patients, as well as separate access for the operating theatre, which, like Edinburgh’s was at the top of the building under the dome with ample seating for students. The 1809 Scots Magazine account was by Dr Joseph Frank who had been shown round the hospital in 1803. He noted that there were eight wards or sick rooms, two on each floor, ‘besides one underground’. The wards had twelve beds in each, standing ‘two and two in the spaces between the windows, quite close to each other’.

Ground plan of the infirmary in 1832, the original building to the left, with the wing added in 1814-15, is to the left, and the fever block to the right. Reproduced from M. S. Buchanan,  The History of Glasgow Royal Infirmary…, 1832.

The entrance led into a handsome porch, but he was less impressed by the rooms in the basement, the kitchen (disgustingly dirty), pantry (in bad order), laboratory (so narrow that there was scarcely room to turn around in it),  apothecary’s shop (small and dark) and the warm and cold baths (the cold bath small and damp). For patients who were too weak to be able to use these baths, there were tin-plate bath tubs, which could be brought to their bedside. These had ‘the appearance of a shoe’. Quite how the the patients managed to get in or out of these contraptions puzzled the writer.

One of the Glasgow infirmary’s  first physicians, Robert Cleghorn, called attention to the superior quality of the sanitary facilities, with water-closets even on the upper floor, and the use of iron bedsteads, rather than the wooden cubicles at Edinburgh. Up-to-date literature on hospitals was influential in the design, including the work of Jacques Tenon who had made a tour of hospitals and prisons in England in the 1780s for the Académie des Sciences in Paris. The report and plans produced by the Académie in 1788 had been supplied to Adam by Cleghorn himself. There are at least superficial parallels between the ward pavilions in the Académie’s plan for the Hotel Dieu in Paris and Adam’s upper-floor plans. In both the end bay contain stairs and ancillary rooms, and project forward from the central part of the range.

The operating theatre under the dome was the piece de resistance. The early historian of the infirmary, Dr Buchanan, writing in the 1830s, waxed lyrical on the beauty of the space:

The centre area is about 42 feet in circumference, and rising in a circular form all around this surgical, and clinical arena, may be remarked five ranges of high-backed steep benches, for the accommodation of at least 200 individuals. The whole of this splendid and commodious operating theatre is crowned by the large central dome … whose vertical lattices, descending to a considerable depth, thus throw the light to great advantage on the table of the operator. This beautiful termination to the edifice, which rises to the height of about 35 feet above the floor of the operation room is supported on twelve chaste pillars of the Ionic order, and by this means, as in the construction of all the other parts of the building, convenience, simplicity, and elegance, are seen mutually to harmonise and assist each other.

The first addition to the infirmary was a wing projecting north from the central bays, added in 1814-15. This provided a staff dining-room, accommodation for female servants, and additional wards for about 80 patients. Each ward had a nurse’s room and water-closet and communicated with the kitchen, apothecary’s shop, mortuary etc. in the main building. A detached block to the north-east of the main building designed as a fever hospital was built in 1828-9, designed by George Murray, architect.

View of the Royal Infirmary from the north west, with the fever hospital to the left. Reproduced from M. S. Buchanan,  The History of Glasgow Royal Infirmary…, 1832.

Dealing with outbreaks of infectious diseases in the rapidly expanding, and increasingly overcrowded city, was one of the main challenges for the infirmary managers. The addition of a separate fever hospital had been anticipated for some years, but funds had not been forthcoming. As the need became more acute, first rented accommodation was used and then a temporary ‘shed’ put up in the grounds. The original plans for the new block were to provide 220 beds at a cost of £2,900. But with rising building costs, these were scaled back to provide 120 beds. During later epidemics temporary accommodation had again to be found.

The west front of the Fever block, probably photographed around 1910. From the Wellcome Collection CC-BY-4.0

By about 1842 the detached fever hospital had been linked to the main infirmary by a further wing, shown on the OS map below. It contained a large clinical lecture room, waiting room, dispensary, inspection room and a pathological museum. David Hamilton designed a west extension built c.1839, but more research is needed to discover whether he also designed the block on the east side.

Extract from the OS large-scale Town Plans, 1857. This shows the extent of the infirmary prior to the addition of the surgical wing on the north side, which was built a little to the north of the wing shown on this map labelled ‘wards’. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Around 1859 work began on the third major addition to the site: the Surgical Hospital. The additional accommodation had been under discussion for some ten to fifteen years, with opinions divided as to whether the original hospital should be further extended or a new one built in a less overcrowded part of the city. A major consideration in remaining on the spot was that a third of the infirmary’s patients came from the old city districts in the immediate vicinity, the remainder fairly evenly from the city suburbs and more distant parts of Scotland.

Typical floor plan of the new surgical hospital, from the Proceedings at the Opening of the New Surgical Hospital of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary…, Glasgow, 1861.

Plans for the new surgical wing were prepared by the architect William Clarke of  Clarke and Bell. It was completed in 1861, and formally opened in May. The contractors were Mr Brownlie, mason, Messrs Lamb & Rankin, wrights, Mr Dalron, plaster work, and Mr Moffat was the clerk of works. Designed in accordance with the ‘most approved modern theories of hospital architecture’, it was an early example in Scotland of the pavilion plan, with two ward wings placed in line on either side of a central block containing the main staircase. Nurses’ rooms, sculleries, side rooms, bath rooms, water closets, and a hoist for raising and lowering patients were all placed at the extremities of the wards, while the wards themselves had opposed windows – seven on each side – destined for 24 patients, but in the first instance fitted up for a more comfortable 16. The operating theatre was, as before, at the top of the building in the centre. It was arranged in a horse-shoe shape and had tiered seats for 214 persons.

Aerial Perspective of the Royal Infirmary, with the new surgical wing to the rear, and the fever hospital to the right, from the Proceedings at the Opening of the New Surgical Hospital of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary…, Glasgow, 1861.

Ventilation and heating were key concerns in the design of large public buildings in the Victorian era. Glasgow Royal Infirmary’s superintendent, Dr McGhie, published an article in the Glasgow Medical Journal in January 1861 on the site and construction of hospitals with particular reference to the Royal in which these themes were fully explored. The new Surgical Hospital was heated by open fires, two per ward placed back-to-back, roughly in the centre of the ward. Vitiated air was carried away through a shaft containing two smoke flues and one ventilating flue for each ward except the top floor which was ventilated by four circular openings in the ceiling. An experimental heating system was fitted in one of the wards which had a heated chamber at the back of the fires into which fresh air from outside was warmed before passing into the ward.

Photograph of the surgical wing and the adjoining fever block, from Lister and the Lister ward in the Royal Infirmary of Glasgow : a centenary contribution, published in 1927, from Wellcome Images

Another innovation in the surgical wing was the provision of a day room on each floor for the benefit of convalescent patients. With three windows facing northwards, each day room was equipped with tables, books and ‘other means of amusement’. David Smith, the chairman of the building committee, pushed for this inclusion, arguing that recovery was facilitated by removing the patients from ‘moribund patients in the same ward’. [3]  Convalescents could also benefit from the pleasure ground laid out to the north of the new building. An acre in extent it was laid out in three terraces from a design by Mr Clarke of the Botanic Gardens. A verandah was built at the upper end of the ground, 150ft by 10ft for shade and shelter.

Extract from the OS Town Plan of Glasgow, 1892-4. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

In 1887-8 a nurses’ home was built to designs by J. Baird and J. Thomson.The contractors were Alex. Muir & Sons, masons; Anderson & Henderson, wrights; Wm Davie, slater; Brown & Young, plumbers and Alex. Brown, plasterwork. The new home was markedly more comfortable than the previous accommodation, and was aimed at attracting a ‘superior class of nurses’. Situated well away from the main infirmary complex, this four storey building had views to the south over the Necropolis and the Cathedral, but was linked to the surgical wing by a covered way some 180ft long and 15ft wide with an arched roof of glass and heating so that it could double as an amenity for convalescent patients.

The Home itself had 85 nurses’ bedrooms, rooms for the superintendents, bathrooms, and a large recreation room. There was a box room to stow the nurses belongings, a wide and airy staircase ‘almost elegantly finished’. Heating was primarily by hot-water pipes, with fireplaces only in the superintendents’ rooms, and ventilation was by Tobin’s tubes. At the back of the building a tennis court was laid out: the infirmary’s Superintendent, Dr Thomas, believed strongly in the game of tennis as a ‘health-giving exercise’.[4]

Extract from the 25-inch OS map of Glasgow, surveyed in 1892-3. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the condition of the older infirmary buildings became an increasing source of concern. There was a general consensus that the oldest blocks needed to be replaced, but much disagreement as to whether the infirmary should be rebuilt on a new site – as had the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in the 1870s – or on its existing site. Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1897 prompted the Lord Provost of Glasgow to launch a campaign to rebuild the infirmary to commemorate the Queen’s long reign. Those in favour of remaining on the the original site won the day, and over the next seventeen years the new infirmary was constructed. The map above shows the site as it was before reconstruction, the two below are from 1910, part way through the rebuilding, and 1933, when it had been completed.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map of Glasgow, surveyed in 1910. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map of Glasgow, surveyed in 1933. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Notes & Sources:

  1. quoted from Michael Port’s entry on William Blackburn in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed online.
  2. Robert Adam’s plans an elevations for the infirmary are held by the Sir John Soane Museum
  3. Glasgow Herald, 22 May 1861, p.4
  4. Glasgow Herald, 30 Aug 1888, p.8

Christine Stevenson Medicine and Magnificence, British Hospital and Asylum Architecture 1660-1815, Yale University Press, 2000: Buildings of Scotland, Glasgow, 1990, p.146‑7: The Builder, 29 Dec. 1900, p.592; 18 May 1907, p.604‑6: Scots Magazine, 1 May 1809, pp 333-4: Paisley Herald and Renfrewshire Advertiser, 25 May 1861, p.2

 

 

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Raigmore Hospital, Inverness

Inverness’s general hospital at Raigmore is the largest and only acute hospital in the NHS Highland’s estate, serving patients from a huge area. It was designed in the post-war era as one of the new National Health Service’s centralised district general hospitals, in this instance to replace the Royal Northern Infirmary and numerous smaller hospitals,  providing a full range of medical and surgical facilities, as well as specialist departments. It was constructed in two main phases in the 1960s—’70s, and ’70s—’80s, but its history begins during the Second World War.

geograph-1247053-by-Richard-DorrellRaigmore Hospital, Inverness, photographed in 2009 © Copyright Richard Dorrell and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence 

Raigmore Hospital began as an Emergency Medical Scheme (EMS) hospital, one of seven large new hospitals built in Scotland for the anticipated casualties during the War. Work on the site started in 1940. The builders were James Campbell & Sons, builders, with MacDonald, joiners, and the first wards were completed in 1941. The hospital followed the standardised EMS design, but restrictions on the use of timber and steel for building construction meant that here the single‑storey, flat-roofed ward blocks were constructed of brick..

Raigmore Hospital, Perth Road, Inverness. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing north-west, taken September 1948 © HES (Aerofilms Collection)

On the 40‑acre site, on the southern outskirts of Inverness, sixteen standard wards and one isolation block were built to provide around 670 beds. Staff quarters were located in the blocks on the north-west side of the complex, with a tennis court just to their south. At the heart of the site, between the staff quarters and the main ward huts was the admin section with the central kitchens, dining rooms, laboratories, matron’s quarters and services. An isolation block, Ward 17, was to the east of the central section. This was converted into a maternity unit in 1947, and then became a children’s ward in 1955. The buildings on the north-east side of the site were part of the Raigmore home farm.

Block plan of Raigmore based on the  OS 1:1,250 map revised in 1961. 

As with the other six war-time hospitals, Raigmore became part of the National Health Service on the appointed day in July 1948. Some new specialist departments were created, wards changed function, and additions were built – including an outpatients department in 1956. Raigmore had already become a General Training School for nursing in 1946.

Plans for a new central general hospital at Inverness formed part of the 1962 Hospital Plan  drawn up by the Department of Health for Scotland. Raigmore was the obvious choice of site. The new hospital was designed to be built in two major phases of construction, and J. Gleave & Partners were appointed as architects. Phase one was commenced in May 1966, and was largely completed and opened in 1970 having cost some £1.42 million. The largest part of the new hospital was situated to the south of the main wards, comprising a low-rise complex providing outpatient, radiotherapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy and records departments.

A standard plan for out-patients departments issued by the Scottish Home and Health department was adopted here. The architect to the Northern Regional Hospitals Board (NRHB),  D. P. Hall, was part of the project team, as he was on the two other contemporary major schemes carried out by outside architects for the Board, Belford Hospital (also designed by Gleave & partners) and Craig Phadrig. All senior officers of the NRHB were also part of the team, ensuring that there was advice from administrators and medical staff. Other additions to the site at this time included a new Inverness Central School of Nursing and Post Graduate Medical Centre, built to the north of the original ward block, and nurses’ accommodation, located to the west of the old central admin area.

The second phase was approved in 1977, comprising the eight-storey ward block with operating theatres, kitchen and dining rooms, an administration block, a chapel and a works department. Work commenced in 1978, and the tower block was opened in March 1985. Further staff accommodation formed a separate contract, with three blocks of 32 bed-sitting rooms, 32 three-apartment houses and a block of two-apartment flats.

Raigmore Hospital today. © OpenStreetMap contributors

Gradually all the war-time buildings were demolished. Part of the cleared ground was allocated to a new maternity unit which opened in January 1988. The last huts went in 1990, the same year that a new isolation unit was completed. The fourth Maggie’s Centre in Scotland opened beside Raigmore in 2005. Situated in a green space to the south of the main hospital complex, the leaf-shaped building was designed by David Page of the Scottish architectural firm Page and Park Architets, with gardens designed by Charles Jencks.

Maggie’s Centre, Raigmore Hospital, photographed in 2007 by TECU consulting UK. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In stark contrast to the EMS hospital, the central feature of Raigmore Hospital today is the multi‑storey ward‑tower, which strikes the view of all who arrive in Inverness by car from the south on the A9.

Sources

Inverness Courier, 2/11/2017 online: Glasgow Herald, 6 June 2005, p.2: Aberdeen Press & Journal, 3 May 1977, p13; 22 Sept 1979, p.2: Builder, 22 July 1960, p.174, 24 July 1964, p.201: Hospital Management, vol.34, 1971, pp 108-10: The Hospital, vol.67, 1971, p.175: PP Estimates Committee 1 (sub-committee B) 1969-70, minutes of evidence, 2382-93, 2422, 2503: J. & S. Leslie, The Hospitals of Inverness, Old Manse Books, 2017

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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.

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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

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Arbroath Infirmary

Arbroath Infirmary consists of a pleasing if mismatched group of buildings in a variety of dates and styles. The oldest is the former Rosebrae House, probably dating to around the 1830s-40s. The original infirmary of the 1840s was demolished to make way for the present main stone building, erected in 1913-16 and added to in the 1920s and 30s. Most recent of the additions is the Queen Mother Wing of the 1960s.

Postcard of Arbroath Infirmary from the 1930s, after the children’s ward had been added (far left of picture). © H. Martin

The original infirmary was built on this site in 1844-5 to designs by David Smith and had been preceded by a dispensary, providing medical aid to out-patients, set up in 1836. During an epidemic of typhus in 1842 a small ward was set aside to take fever patients. Fund raising to build a hospital was boosted by a donation of £1,000 from Lord Panmure. (William Maule, 1st Baron Panmure, of Brechin Castle. He served as MP for Forfarshire for many years before he was raised to the peerage.)

Principal elevation of the 1840s infirmary, reproduced from The Builder

As well as medical and surgical cases, the infirmary was open to accident cases and also to those suffering from contagious diseases. It was a handsome building, in the fashionable simplified Tudor or Jacobean style much in vogue for domestic villas, and apart from its rigid symmetry, was barely distinguishable from a private house.

Return elevation of the 1840s infirmary, reproduced from The Builder

David Murray, mason, Forfar and Messrs Nicol and Wallace, wrights, Arbroath won the building contracts. Local sandstone was the main building material, faced in ashlar on the main elevation and the side returns, but brick was used for internal walls. ‘Arbroath pavement’ was used to floor the service areas, with polished stone for the stairs, and timber for the ward floors – ‘Petersburg battens’ on Memel pine joists. Doors and windows were of American yellow pine, and Easdale slates covered the roof. Natural ventilation was introduced through fresh air flues within the walls, carried behind the skirting boards with vents into the wards. Ornamental openings in the ceilings connected to flues carried through the rear wall to extract foul air.

Ground-floor plan of the 1840s infirmary, reproduced from The Builder. A: Consulting-room B: Housekeeper’s room C: Servants’ room D: Medicine room E: Ward for maimed females F: Ward for maimed males G: Bed closet H: Bath room I: Water-closet J: Store place K: Lobby L: Passages M: Closet under stair N: Kitchen O: Porter’s room P: Wash-house Q: Coal house R: Dead house

First-floor plan. S: Staircase landing T and U: Fever ward for females V: Water closets 

Bristowe and Homes’s account of the Hospitals of the United Kingdom, published in 1866, described the infirmary as it then existed as a single, long building of two floors with the kitchen and offices built out behind. By then the original accommodation had been extended to the west, almost doubling the number of beds that were provided, from thirty-six to sixty.

This postcard shows the extended infirmary, with the new wing to the left in the same style as the original building. Reproduced by permission of D. Robertson.

Extract from the OS Town plan of Arbroath, 1858, with the western addition. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

This old postcard shows the extended infirmary with its encircling wall, railings and entrance gates. Reproduced by permission of D. Robertson.

Despite the additional wing, by the end of the nineteenth century there was a pressing need to provide more accommodation to meet the needs of the growing population of Arbroath. Unusually, the new hospital was largely constructed during the First World War. Plans by the local architect  Hugh Gavin were drawn up by June 1912, but the estimates exceeded the expected upper limit of £12,000 by £2,500. This meant that more money had to be raised, but also prompted some of the infirmary managers to question whether a new building should be built at all, or whether it would be better to find a different site. It was largely for these reasons, and, once they had settled on rebuilding on the existing site, finding a temporary home for the displaced patients and staff, that delayed the start of construction.

In 1913 Greenbank House was purchased to serve as the temporary infirmary, and work looked set to begin until it was decided to seek advice on the plans from Dr Mackintosh, of the Western Infirmary Glasgow. He was the pre-eminent authority on hospital design and administration in Scotland at that time, and whilst this was a laudable decision, it resulted in some early decisions being changed, not always to everyone’s satisfaction. Mackintosh was repeatedly approached for his advice on everything from the best sterilizer to the type of paint to be used. (For the paint he recommended a new process, appropriately called ‘Hygeia’.)

 

Arbroath Infirmary, photographed in April 2018. © H. Richardson

Postcard showing the same view, perhaps around the 1930s when the children’s ward to the left was newly completed. Reproduced by permission of D. Robertson.

Arbroath Infirmary, photographed in April 2018. © H. Richardson. The open sun veranda at the end of the ward to the left has only recently been enclosed at first-floor level.

Estimates submitted by the various tradesmen for the erection of the new building were considered in March 1913 and were awarded as follows: mason works Messrs Christie and Anderson, builders, Arbroath, £3,775; joiner work Mr Rowland, Chapel Farquhar, joiner, Arbroath £1,828 17s 6d; plumber work Mr Thomas Raitt Grant, plumber Arbroath £1,148 15s 11d; slater work Messrs William Brand & Son, Slaters, Arbroath £191 16s 7d;  plaster work Mr Archibald Donald Senior, plasterer, Arbroath  £521 2d 4s; tile work Messrs Robert Brown & Son Limited, Ferguslie Works, Paisley £401 8s 2d.

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The second edition OS map, revised  1921, shows the rebuilt infirmary. Reproduced with permission of the National Library of Scotland

The new infirmary was almost finished before the outbreak of the First World War, but it took two more years before it was ready to receive its first patients, as it became increasingly difficult to source materials and workmen. Furniture was acquired late in 1915 from George Rutherford Thomson and Son, cabinetmakers. Bedsteads were separately supplied by Messrs J. Nesbit-Evans & Co. of Birmingham.

 

The building in the foreground of this old postcard is the toll-house. Behind to the right, up on the hill, is the new infirmary, as completed by the end of the First World War. Reproduced by permission of D. Robertson

Despite hopes that the new infirmary would be ready for patients early in 1916 it was April when it was officially opened, and June before the first patients arrived. With the war still raging, it was clear that beds should be set aside for war wounded. At the outset of the war 30 beds at Greenbank had been offered to the Red Cross Society.

On the left is Rosebrae House and to its right the nurses’ home. Photographed in April 2018 © H. Richardson.

After the war the infirmary directors turned their attention to additions to the buildings. In particular there was a need for accommodation for the nurses and for the resident medical officer. Sketch plans were made by Gavin in 1922 for a new nurses’ home costing around £4,000, and the home was completed by March 1924.

This photograph shows roughly the same view of the toll-house as the earlier postcard, but here the new nurses’ home can be seen to the left, with the boiler-house chimney rising behind it. Reproduced by permission of D. Robertson

This view looking towards the nurses’ home has Rosebrae House on the left and part of the 1913-16 hospital on the right.  Photographed in April 2018 © H. Richardson.

The next addition that was urgently required was a children’s ward. Plans were prepared in 1925, but differences arose between the medical staff and the infirmary directors. In April the medical staff submitted their views to the directors. They agreed that a children’s ward was needed, but pointed out that there was an equal need to provide space for maternity cases, cases of venereal diseases, and out-patients.

‘… year by year the Public are demanding an increasing number of hospital beds for the treatment of general medical and surgical diseases. We are in agreement with the Directors that an extension of the hospital is required, but we view with regret and misgiving a proposal to provide one of those departments, in this instance the Children’s Ward, according to a plan which seems to us to be essentially unsound, and, of even greater importance, which blocks one of the natural paths of extension of the hospital.

We beg to suggest that in the preparation of a plan for ultimately providing a complete hospital service the Directors should secure the advice and assistance of a recognized expert in hospital planning and administration, to the end that the various new departments (which need not be provided simultaneously) may be harmoniously correlated and be neither mutually obstructive nor detrimental to the existing hospital.’

The whole question of extending the infirmary was referred back to the building committee and the position of the new children’s ward revised. However, the deepening economic depression of the 1920s, the Second World War, the building restrictions in the years after the war, and then the transfer of the hospital to the National Health Service in 1948, meant that all the new facilities were only provided with the opening of a new wing in 1961.

The diminutive Rosebrae House on the left, with the south end of the children’s ward block in the foreground. Photographed in April 2018. © H. Richardson.

For the children’s ward, advice was sought from John Wilson, the chief architect to the Scottish Board of Health, who judged a competition for its design in 1928. Thomas W. Clark, architect of Arbroath, came first, James Lochhead of Hamilton was placed second, and  Charles S. Soutar of Dundee third. After criticism from the medical staff, Wilson and Clark amended the plans, and the new wing together with additional accommodation for the nursing staff were built in 1930- 33. Rosebrae House, which adjoined the hospital to the west, had been purchased in 1928 and was used for stores and to accommodate the night nurses. Although the work began under Clark, he resigned part way through the commission, perhaps as a result of conflict with Wilson. James Lochhead, the runner up in the competition, took over the commission.

Extract from the  OS 1:2,500 map surveyed in 1964. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

As to the 1961 wing, this comprised consultative out-patients department, physiotherapy department and maternity unit. The total cost was £90,000 of which £53,000 came from the Board of Management’s Endowment Funds.

The Queen Mother Wing, built 1958-61 to provide for out-patients, maternity and physiotherapy departments. Photographed in April 2018. © H. Richardson.

The architect to the Eastern Regional Hospitals Board, James Deuchars, and the regional engineer, R. G. McPherson, drew up the first set of plans for the wing back in 1952, although the building was only put out to tender in 1958. The building contractor was R. Pert & Sons Ltd of Montrose, the clerk of works, Mr Groves, and the engineer in charge, Mr Moodie. The Angus Hospitals Board of Management blamed delays in construction on a lack of collaboration between Duechars and McPherson, an accusation hotly denied by the Eastern Regional Hospitals Board.

Detail of the Queen Mother Wing. Photographed in April 2018. © H. Richardson.

Later work on site, including a new X-ray department, was designed by  Baxter, Clark and Paul in 1968.

Sources: Coventry Herald, 14 April 1843, p.3: The Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal 1847The Builder, 28 Sept 1844, pp 494-5; 7 March 1896, p.217; 22 March 1957, 28 Feb p.572, 10 Oct 1958, p.423, 633: Glasgow Herald, 21 Jan. 1913; 15 Feb. 1913; 13 March 1913: Dundee University Archives, Minutes of Directors, THB 20/1/1/1-3, Minutes of Board of Management Angus Hospitals, THB 20/1/4; ERHB Magazine, No.9, vol.1 Winter Dec 1964; ERHB Mins THB 18/1/5: The Scotsman, 4 Feb 1933, p.11: Dictionary of Scottish Architects

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Dundee Women’s Hospital

South Front of the former hospital, photographed in 2018 © H. Richardson

On the slopes of Balgay Hill to the west of Dundee sits the former Dundee Women’s Hospital. Since it closed in the 1970s it has been converted into private flats. One was for sale when I visited the site in February this year. On a sunny day it is a pleasing building, in a quiet, understated Scottish Arts & Crafts style, with cream-painted harling and twin gables enclosing a balcony and verandah. It was designed by a local architect, James Findlay, and was opened on 24 February 1915.

Detail view of the central balcony and verandah, photographed in 2018 © H. Richardson

The hospital began as a dispensary for women, established in Dundee in about 1891. In October 1895 a committee was formed to consider establishing a small cottage hospital. In the following year the hospital was opened at 19 Seafield Road, near the Tayfield jute works. It claimed to be the first private hospital in Scotland for the treatment of women by women medical practitioners. Three women were the chief promoters of the scheme: the social reformer Mary Lily Walker, Dr Alice Moorhead and Dr Emily Thomson. The aim was not only to provide hospital treatment for women who wished to be treated by women, but also a private home for women with limited means.

By 1911 it had been decided to build a new hospital. Fund-raising events were held, at first with the idea of enlarging the existing building, but Beatrice Sharp offered £4,000 to build a new hospital. A memorial recording her gift can still be seen set into the boundary wall. Beatrice Sharp was the wife of a wealthy industrialist and together they had commissioned Sir Robert Lorimer to rebuild Wemysshall in Fife, creating Hill of Tarvit House in 1907.

Memorial plaque on boundary wall, photographed in 2018 © H. Richardson

Plans for the new hospital were approved by the Town Council in 1912 and two years later the building was completed. However, on the eve of the hospital’s opening a fire broke out causing major damage and destroying all the woodwork. It took another year or so to restore and rebuild the hospital.

The fire was not accidental. It was reputedly an arson attack by suffragettes – a rather surprising target perhaps. The artist and suffragette, Ethel Moorhead was the sister of Alice Moorhead, one of the founders of the hospital. Ethel Moorhead was connected with a number of arson attacks and other militant acts – from smashing windows in London to throwing an egg at Winston Churchill. But she was also the first suffragette in Scotland to be force fed while in prison in Edinburgh in February 1914. Although she was seriously ill after this, she recovered and continued campaigning. It was suggested that she was with her friend and collaborator Fanny Parker in a failed attempt to blow up Burns Cottage in Alloway in July 1914.

Former Dundee Women’s Hospital,  photographed in 2018 © H. Richardson

Whether or not she was behind the attack on the Dundee Women’s Hospital does not seem to be recorded. Suffragette literature was found in the neighbourhood and a message was left at the scene that read: ‘no peace till we get the vote. Blame the King and the Government’, the same message left at similar incidents all over the country. [1] The fire was spotted by a nurse at the nearby Victoria Hospital who raised the alarm. It was reported that late the previous night and early on the morning of the fire, a grey, or slate-coloured motor car was seen in the district containing several women. The night watchman on duty at the hospital also reported seeing three women having a look at the place early one morning after the fire. He thought that they might be ‘of a mind to return to complete their work’ . It was early dawn and the light uncertain. On seeing the watchman the women quickly disappeared. They appeared to be ‘young and well dressed’. [2] The timing was unfortunate for the hospital-  the attack was made in early June, not long before the outbreak of the First World War, after which the suffragettes suspended their campaign.

Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, revised in 1921. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

While the rebuilding work was carried out, the hospital moved into temporary accommodation at 19 Windsor Street. At the end of February 1915 the new hospital was officially opened. The two storey building set on high ground with commanding views south over the Tay provided twenty beds. On the ground floor at the east end was a sun room: ‘an ideal little nook … where the convalescents can have a sun-bath at their leisure’. [3] The covered verandah and balcony above were deep enough to allow beds to be pushed out onto them. Inside cream distempering set off brown woodwork, while palms and flowering bulbs adorned the corridors.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map surveyed in 1951-2. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. This shows extensions to the original building to the north west. 

James Findlay, the architect of the hospital, was born in Alyth, Perthshire, the son of a successful grocer and baker. He was married to Margaret Ann Donaldson, who died in October 1916. Findlay had been articled to John Murray Robertson in Dundee and took over the practice when Robertson died in 1901. Findlay’s chief assistant was David Smith who had worked in the London County Council’s Architect’s Department in 1902-3. While in London, Smith studied at the influential Regent Street Polytechnic and later joined the office of Leonard Stokes before returning to Dundee. He was responsible for much of the design work in Findlay’s practice. Findlay himself was one of the first people in Dundee to own a motor car. He appears in the local press on several occasions for minor traffic offences – he was fined a guinea for exceeding a 10-mile-per-hour speed limit in 1912.

The contractors, like the architects, were almost all local: building work was carried out by James R Anderson, bricklayer, builder and contractor,  E Esplanade, (whose home address in a 1912 directory was given as 4 Morgan Street); the joiners were Alexander Bruce & Son, Victoria Joinery Works, 129 Clepington Road; the plumbers John Orr & Son, registered plumbers and sanitary engineers, 272 Hawkhill; workshop, 31A Ryehill Lane (home 290 Balckness road): slater and harl work, William Brand & Son, slaters and cement workers, St Vincent Street, Broughty Ferry: glazier work, Lindsay & Scott, glass merchants, glaziers, and zinc and lead window makers, 24 to 28 Bank Street, branch 86 Victoria road: painter work, Allan Boath, painter and decorator, 141 and 143 Nethrgate, home – 171 Perth Road: grates, G. H. Nicoll & Co., furnishing and general ironmongers, 18 and 20 Bank Street: heating, Henry Walker & Son, Newcastle: Verandah ironwork, Thomas Russell, smith and engineer, St Andrew’s Iron works, 50 and 52 St Andrew’s street, home – 8 Nelson Terrace: gates and railings, George Mann, blacksmith, 40 Seafield Road: walls, William Bennet, builder and contractor, 41 Reform street, yard , 11 Parker street, home – 93 Arbroath road: roads, David Horsburgh, carting contractor, 65 Trades lane home – Eden villa, 83 Clepington Rd: grounds, James Laurie & Son, landscape gardeners & valuators, Blackness Nursery.

 

This advertisement for James Laurie & Son, who laid out the grounds of the hospital, appeared in the Dundee Directory for 1911-12, reproduced from the National Library of Scotland

The hospital was transferred to the National Health Service in 1948 and latterly became an annexe of the Royal Infirmary. It closed in 1975 but was retained by Tayside Health Board until the 1980s when it was sold with outline planning permission for redevelopment. Full permission to convert the hospital into flats was granted to the new owners, Hilltown Property Company, in 1988.

Notes: 1. The Suffragette, 5 June 1914: 2. Dundee People’s Journal, 6 June 1914 p.9: 3. Dundee Courier, 25 Feb 1915, p.4.

Sources: Dundee University Archives, plans: Dundee Courier, 9 Dec 1911, p.624 Feb 1915, p.6, 4 Oct 1916, p.6: Wikipedia: Dundee online planning portal: Aberdeen Press & Journal, 23 May 1914, p.7;  Dundee Evening Telegraph, 9 Nov 1904, p.5; 21 Oct 1907, p.3; 13 Sept 1912, 15 Oct 1913, p.2; Dundee People’s Journal, 30 May 1914, p.9; 7 Oct 1916, p.11; Perthshire Advertiser, 10 March 1943, p.8

 

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Galt Hospital, Lethbridge, Alberta

Recently I bought this postcard of a hospital. The seller had it down as English, but I had never seen anything quite like it either in England or Scotland. On closer inspection it didn’t take long to work out why. As the postcard clearly shows, Galt Hospital was in Lethbridge, Alberta, in Canada.

A little bit of research revealed the gist of its history, although there is a fair amount of conflicting information out there, so apologies for any errors. According to an item in the Lethbridge News that appeared in January 1903, subscriptions had been solicited back in 1886 for a hospital but not enough was promised. Instead a small private hospital was established by the Alberta Rail and Irrigation Company (in some sources the Alberta Rail and Coal Company) which was used jointly with the Police. This seems to have had just three beds.

This postcard, post-marked 1909, showing the hospital with nurses’ home to the left, is from the Peel’s Prairie Provinces Collection. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-NC by University of Alberta Libraries.

In 1890 Sir Alexander Galt gave $10,000 to the build a new hospital, and afterwards, with some assistance from friends, another $7,000. ‘Thinking it would be a benefit to the public the hospital was thrown open, the town paying a stipulated sum per day for its patients, which was afterwards changed to a lump sum. In every year except one there had been a deficit ranging from $500 to $3,000.’ [1] Sir Alexander Galt was the founder and owner of the Rail and Coal company and a leading figure in Canada’s history. He was a politician as well as a wealthy industrialist, born in London, the son of John Galt – Scottish novelist and coloniser. My postcard shows the Galt Hospital building of 1890-1 which seems to have had around 15 beds.

A large and smart new wing was built in 1908-10 at the instigation of Sir Alexander Galt’s son, Elliott Torrance Galt, who gave $30,000 towards building costs on condition that the same amount was raised by the City of Lethbridge, plus additional funds for its maintenance. [2] By that time the hospital was struggling financially, and there were fears that it might have to revert to being a private hospital again.

Photograph of the opening of the Galt Hospital, reproduced courtesy of the Galt Museum and Archives

The new building was officially opened by the Prime Minister, Wilfred Laurier, on 1st September 1910. It brought the bed capacity of the hospital up to 65. A School of Nursing was established around the same time.

Photograph of the Galt Hospital in 1925, reproduced courtesy of the Galt Museum and Archives

This view from 1925 shows the 1908-10 building on the right, which survives as a part of the Galt Museum today. To the left is the 1890s hospital block with its two-tier wrap-around verandas and prominent roof-ridge ventilators. In 1930 additions were made to provide a further 35 beds.

Sunbeam Children’s ward, 1940. Reproduced courtesy of the Galt Museum & Archives

In 1955, with the opening of a new municipal hospital, the Galt Hospital became a long-stay rehabilitation centre. The centre lasted until 1965 after which part of the building was occupied by the Lethbridge Health Unit, and a part was given over to the Sir Alexander Galt Museum. [3]

  1. Lethbridge News, 7 Jan 1903, p.2
  2. Lethbridge Daily Herald, 24 Nov 1908 p.2
  3. Galt Museum & Archives Exhibits, Galt Hospital, 100 Years

See also: Canada’s Historic Places Register

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Bristol Royal Infirmary

‘A Perspective View and Plans of the Charitable Infirmary at Bristol as it now is with the addition of two intended wings’ 1742. Image reproduced under licence CC BY 4.0 from the Wellcome Collection

The old Royal Infirmary at Bristol was one of the first to be founded in England outside London. Subscriptions began to be made in November 1736 and the present site was acquired shortly afterwards. The first patients were admitted the following year. It was not until 1782 that the decision to provide a new, purpose-built infirmary was taken. Thomas Paty, a local architect, drew up the plans and building proceeded in three phases. The east wing was erected first between 1784 and 1786. The central block was put up in 1788-92 and the west wing added in 1806-10. It was a large and impressive building of three storeys and basement, to which an attic storey was added later.

Early photograph of the main front, probably early 20th century. From Paul Townsend flickr site. Reproduced under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A chapel with a museum underneath was added in 1858, an unusual combination. In 1911-12 the King Edward VII wing was built to designs by H. Percy Adams and Charles Holden in a stylish, stripped classical style which looks forward to inter-war modernism. In 2017 the original part of the hospital was empty, boarded up and under threat of demolition.

The Royal Infirmary, Bristol, from the 2nd-edition OS 25-inch map revised in 1901. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In November 1736 a subscription was opened for erecting ‘an infirmary in the City of Bristol for the relief of such persons as should be judged proper objects of a Charity of that kind’. [1] A site in Maudlin Lane was acquired which contained various buildings, including tenements, a warehouse and some waste ground. The existing buildings were adapted and a ward built and furnished. Out-patients were admitted to the infirmary from June 1737 and the first in-patients were admitted at the formal opening in December of that year. Initially there were 34 patients, with an equal number of men and women. As one of the first hospitals to be founded in England outside London, the Bristol Infirmary has some claim to historic importance. It vies with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, founded in 1719 although not built until 1740, and Winchester Infirmary, established in 1736.

This view shows the south front of the infirmary as it appeared  in 1765. Public Domain image.

Within a year or so of the infirmary’s opening, plans were made to extend the building by two new wings extending from the south front. The first wing, to the south east, was completed in 1740, the south-west wing had been added by 1750. As well as being able to take in more patients, the infirmary had two cellars – one let to a tenant, the other used for preserving meat – a cold bath, rooms for the apothecary and his apprentices, and in the garrets, along with linen rooms and staff bedrooms, were wards for patients being ‘cut for the stone’. A colonnade was formed along the south front for convalescent patients.

View of the new front, from Munro Smith’s History of The Bristol Royal Infirmary published in 1917. From the Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0

A few additions were made over the next decades, but by the 1780s conditions were poor. The infirmary was always overcrowded, wards were ill-ventilated and infectious diseases frequently claimed the lives of patients and staff. In 1782 it was at last decided that a new building would have to be provided. Some attempt was made to establish the new building on a new site but this was eventually rejected by the Building Committee. Plans were drawn up by Thomas Paty, a local architect, for a U-shaped hospital with the main entrance on the north side facing Marlborough Street. Work was carried on in three stages, one wing at a time. The first to be built was the East Wing, in 1784-6, followed by the central block in 1788-92 and the West Wing, completing the original scheme, was added in 1806-10. Financial difficulties had prompted the managers of the infirmary to build piecemeal, but circumstances were so straitened in 1811 that it was not possible to admit any patients to the newly completed wing. When it finally opened some three years later the infirmary provided a total of 180 beds.

The north front of Bristol Royal Infirmary, photographed in 1993 © H. Richardson

In 1858 plans were drawn up for the addition of a chapel and museum to the infirmary. The museum was to house a collection of specimens which had been presented to the infirmary by Richard Smith. The two were neatly accommodated in one building on the east side of the infirmary, the museum was at ground floor level and the chapel built over it. Work was completed and the building opened in 1860.

The chapel with its tall lancet windows with the museum on the floor below,  photographed in 1993 © H. Richardson

The chapel abuts Whitson Street to the east. Constructed of rubble masonry with ashlar dressings, it is a simple five-bay rectangle without a break for chancel or transepts. The windows are  lancets with cusped heads and plate tracery for the east end. The eaves course is ornamented by a corbel table. The interior is quite plain, but has a good stained glass window depicting Joshua and one of Saint Elizabeth.

Chapel interior, photographed in 1993 © H. Richardson

Various additions were made during the nineteenth century. An out-patients’ department was established which underwent many alterations over the century. In 1866 the west wing was extended and two new wards created. By the turn of the century a nurses’ home had been built on high ground to the west of the hospital on Terrell Street. The largest addition to the infirmary before the advent of the National Health Service was the King Edward VII Memorial Building, situated on the opposite side of Marlborough Street, erected in 1911-12. It was designed by H. Percy Adams and Charles Holden to provide new surgical wards and it was largely through the efforts of Sir George White, the president and Treasurer of the Infirmary since 1904, that it was carried out. White made his fortune working at the Stock Exchange before setting himself up in business. He developed the Bristol Tramways Company and established the Bristol Colonial Aeroplane Company in 1910. He worked hard to clear the infirmary from debt and raise sufficient funds to improve the accommodation.

Postcard showing the new wing, with the original hospital on the right  © H. Martin

A competition was held in 1908 for an extension scheme which comprised the remodelling of the old infirmary building, adding a new ward pavilion with 75 beds, a new casualty and out-patients’ department, and an isolation building with 24 beds for sceptic and infectious cases. [Allibone, J. Adams, Holden Pearson catalogue of plans in RIBA] The competition was assessed by Edwin T. Hall, and twelve firms of architects were invited to take part, amongst whom were the foremost hospital architects of the day. Apart from H. Percy Adams they were: Thomas W. Aldwinckle, W. A. Pite, J. W. Simpson, A. Saxon Snell, Alfred Hessell Tiltman, Young & Hall, all based in London; Arthur Marshall from Nottingham; Everard, Son & Pick from Leicester; Henman & Cooper, from Birmingham; T. Worthington & Son, of Manchester and E. Kirby & Sons of Liverpool. [Building News, 31 July 1908, p. 168]

South front of the King Edward VII Memorial Wing,  photographed in 1993 © H. Richardson

The site itself was awkward, being bisected by Marlborough Street which became Upper Maudlin Street at the corner with Lower Maudlin Street. The winning design by Adams and Holden comprised a large new out-patients’ block with a central waiting hall, situated nearly opposite the old infirmary building, and adjacent to it a ward pavilion, alongside which further extensions could be erected. Behind the ward pavilion was the isolation block. The plans submitted by A. H. Tiltman, which were also published at the time, are notable for comprising circular ward towers.

This detail of the postcard shows patients on the balconies at the ends of the ward wings.

Insufficient funds led to the plans being modified. It was also decided to delay the building of the new out-patients’ block until more money was available. The foundation stone was laid on 14 March 1911 and the new building formally opened by King George V and Queen Mary on 28 June 1912. The nurses’ home was extended at the same time, this pushed the total cost up to £137,000 and left the infirmary with a debt of over £12,000.

The opening of the King Edward VII Memorial Wing. Image from Paul Townsend’s Flickr site, reproduced under Creative Commons CC  BY-NC-SA 2.0

Following the outbreak of the First World War, just two years after the new wing opened,  the Memorial Building was handed over to the military authorities and, along with Southmead Hospital, it became known as the Second Southern General War Hospital (C. Bruce Perry, The Bristol Royal Infirmary 1904-1974, 1980, p.27).

Postcard showing the interior of  King George’s Ward, probably in the King Edward VII Memorial wing. Image from Paul Townsend’s Flickr site, reproduced under Creative Commons CC  BY-NC-SA 2.0

Lack of money continued to darken the administration of the infirmary. After the War costs continued to rise and income diminish. In 1921 over one hundred beds were closed at the infirmary through a shortage of funds and two years later a shortage of nurses caused beds to remain unusable. The managers laid the blame for this deficiency in nursing staff to the inadequate nurses’ home. They were able to go some way to rectifying this by using a generous gift from Henry Herbert Wills to extend the existing home. This opened in 1925, the work having been carried out by the architect Sir George Oatley.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map, revised in 1913. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Further additions were carried out between the Wars. The isolation block was built in 1924, an x-ray department and dental department were added in 1925, and a massage department established in 1926. Henry Hill had been appointed as the infirmary’s clerk of works in 1906 and he drew up plans for two staff accommodation blocks which were completed in 1930 and 1931. During the Second World War the infirmary was lucky to escape serious damage from bombing. Only the mortuary was destroyed. After the war, greatly in debt, the infirmary was transferred to the National Health Service.

References

  1. Minutes of Bristol Royal Infirmary, quoted in C. Saunders, The United Bristol Hospitals, 1965, p. 11

 

 

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