Brooksby House, Largs. From Yachting Residence to Seaside Convalescent Home.

For many decades, Brooksby House was the convalescent home for Glasgow’s Victoria Infirmary. The Governors of the Infirmary purchased this substantial villa by the sea-front at Largs in 1896 and it opened the following year with accommodation for 24 patients.

Postcard of Brooksby House, postmarked 1910. Reproduced by permission of H. Martin

Convalescent Homes were a common aspect of health care for about a century. They first emerged in the mid-nineteenth century in an attempt to solve the problem of patients discharged from hospital who did not fully recuperate, either from having to return to work too soon, poor sanitary conditions in the home, or inadequate nourishment. In the late-eighteenth century some general hospitals began to provide convalescent wards and a few of the more enlightened workhouse infirmaries had convalescent wards around the mid-nineteenth century.

The former Metropolitan Convalescent Institution, later Ellesmere Hospital, Walton-on-Thames. Photographed in 1993 © H. Richardson. The hospital closed in 1989, and some time after 1998 was converted into private flats.

The first convalescent home in England seems to have been the Metropolitan Convalescent Institution. It grew from an ad hoc  arrangement between Theodore Monro, a medical student at Barts Hospital in the City of London and his brother, a vicar in Harrow Weald, whereby patients discharged from the hospital were lodged with families in the Harrow Weald to recuperate. Monro wanted to provide an asylum in the country, where pure air, rest and nutritious diet would speed recovery. In 1842  a vacant workhouse in Carshalton provided a more formal home for the nascent institution, but a purpose-built home was erected in 1852-4 near Walton-on-Thames, designed by Joseph Clarke in a handsome Italianate style (later renamed Ellesmere Hospital).

Despite its success, and increasing awareness of the usefulness of convalescent homes, there was a lapse of some years before any more homes were built. This changed during the 1860s, with homes built in Bournemouth (the Herbert Memorial), Wimbledon (the Atkinson Morley), Whitley Bay (Prudhoe Memorial), and various other locations. The first in Scotland was established at Dunoon in 1869 (the Dunoon Homes).

The Prudhoe Memorial Convalescent Home, Whitley Bay, reproduced from the Wellcome Collection, CC BY

The earliest purpose-built homes were designed on hospital-like lines with large nightingale-style wards. Florence Nightingale herself commended a more domestic scale and appearance, and published an ideal plan in 1863 for a convalescent hospital arranged as three cottages, linked by covered ways.

Florence Nightingale’s ideal convalescent home, plan and elevation, from Notes on Hospitals, London, 1863

Like Brooksby House, many convalescent homes were established in converted houses. Brooksby was originally built around 1837-40 as a yachting residence for a Glasgow merchant, Matthew Perston. It is attributed to the architect David Hamilton, or his son James, under the partnership they formed of D & J Hamilton. Designed in a fashionable though restrained Italian Renaissance style, the main elevation faces west, towards the sea, with a verandah, now missing its canopy, in front of the central projecting three bays. The main entrance was on the south side, with a grand porch sheltering the doorway. The house had particularly fine interiors, with plaster ceilings, chimney-pieces and a painted armorial ceiling in the rooms on the ground floor.

Brooksby House, photographed in June 2018 by Ian Rainey. © Copyright Ian Rainey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Perston already had a house in Largs by 1836, when he was the owner of the Yacht ‘Wave’, though his address is not give as Brooksby in the newspapers until 1845. In 1839 he had won a challenge cup with Wave and he had been elected a steward of the Royal Northern Yacht Club by 1844. The Club’s Regatta was held in Largs in that year. In 1846 he was listed as a shareholder of the Glasgow, Largs and Milport Steam-boat Company, but his main business was the Bothwell Street Spinning Company, Glasgow. Perston was bankrupted in 1847, and had to put Brooksby House up for sale or to let. A buyer proved hard to find, and a sale of his wines, port, madeira, sherry etc along with much of his household furniture was held in June 1848. The following year, in October 1849, the house was advertised for sale again, at the reduced price of £3,700, despite having cost £10,000 to build. It was described as a splendid marine residence. It had three reception rooms, seven bedrooms, as well as a bathroom and hot and cold water. It seems that Perston and his family emigrated to Australia.

Extract from the 1st edition OS map, surveyed in 1855. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

By the 1850s Brooksby had become the home of Robert Graham, a Justice of the Peace for Ayrshire. Graham senior had died by the mid-1860s, but his daughter, Gertrude Schuyler Ramsay, wife of George Gilbert Ramsay, Professor of Humanity at the University of Glasgow, and his son, R. C. Graham and his wife, retained the house. In 1897 Brooksby  was acquired by the Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow. The Grahams offered to sell for £4,000, but the Infirmary Governors did not wish to pay more than £3,500. After some haggling, they agreed to meet half way. The acquisition of a convalescent home fulfilled the wishes of the Infirmary’s benefactor, Robert Couper, who had left £40,000 in his will to establish both the infirmary and an associated convalescent home.  It was hoped that the home would allow patients to be discharged earlier, and thus help to lessen the waiting list.

Ceiling in one of the ground-floor rooms, photographed by RHCME in 2012

Brooksby House was attractive because of its seaside location, easy distance from Glasgow, and because the service buildings to the rear, including coach-house and stables, could easily be rented out and provide an income without interfering with the amenity of the home. After a swift refurbishment, the home was formally opened on 26 June 1897 by Lady Watson, wife of the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Sir Henry Watson. Accommodation was provided for 24 patients, later raised to 30.

Painted ceiling in ground-floor room of Brooksby House, photographed in 2012 by RCHME

Under the National Health Service Brooksby initially remained under the same Board of Management as the Victoria Infirmary. Latterly it was mostly used to provide a fortnight’s holiday for long-stay psychiatric patients from Leverndale Hospital, Glasgow. In 1983 it was transferred to Ayrshire and Arran Health Board. It provided continuing care beds until around 2006 and since 2009, has been used as the North West Ayrshire Resource Centre by the NHS.

Sources: 

The Scotsman, 8 Sept 1847, p.4: Glasgow Herald, 18 April 1845, p.2; 6 March 1846, p.4; 25 Feb 1848 p.3; 29 May 1848, p.3: Greenock Advertiser, 14 December 1852 p.2: Morning Advertiser, 11 Aug 1865, p.8: Largs & Millport Weekly, 3 July 1897: NHS, Greater Glasgow & Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary Annual Reports: S. D. Slater & D. A. Dow, The Victoria Infirmary of Glasgow 1890 -1990, 1990, pp.245-7.

Posted in convalescent homes, Scottish Hospitals | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Hospitals on Islay

Islay Hospital, Bowmore. View of the ward block and main entrance from the west. Photographed in May 2019, © H. Richardson

There have been three hospitals on Islay: a poor law institution that provided medical care for paupers and in the early decades of the National Health Service became the island’s general hospital; an infectious diseases hospital, established in the 1890s, and provided with a permanent small building in 1904; and the present Islay Hospital built in 1963-6, pictured above.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 21.23.29

Extract from the 1st-edition OS map, surveyed in 1878, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The earliest of these was the poorhouse, built in 1864-5 on the outskirts of Bowmore on land owned by Charles Morrison. The local Parochial Board decided to get their plans from an Edinburgh architect with experience in such buildings,  J. C. Walker. As can been seen from the map above, the building comprised an H-shaped complex. The main north wing was of two storeys, the rest single-storey. (For a photograph of the poorhouse see the Islay History blogspot)

Gartnatra Hospital, from an old photograph on display at the Columba Centre.

To comply with the Public Health Acts the local authority had to provide accommodation for cases of infectious disease and so a fever hospital was established at Gartnatra, to the east of Bowmore. Although the building pictured above was built in 1904, there had been a hospital hereabouts since at least the mid-1890s. The local Medical Officer for Health, Dr Ross, reported on an outbreak of measles in 1895, the patient being  removed to the hospital. However, as there was no nurse employed by the local authority to attend the hospital, the patient’s mother went to nurse her daughter. Dr Ross had no authority to confine the mother to the hospital, and she went in to the village on many occasions. In a short time the disease spread rapidly throughout Bowmore.

The former fever hospital, now the Columba Centre. Photographed in May 2019, © H. Richardson

The situation was finally remedied with the erection of a new building for which the plans were approved by the Local Government Board for Scotland in 1902. To cover the cost of construction a loan of £1,100 was secured from the Public Works Loan Board. The building is dated 1904, and the Local Government Board sanctioned it for occupation in February 1905. It was built by James MacFayden. The building survives, though the interior has been completely refurbished and a large extension built to the rear. It is now in use as a cultural centre.

The former Gartnatra Hospital, viewed from the east. The old hospital is the gabled block on the left, with the short bay attached (the former sanitary annexe). The rest has been added to form the new cultural centre and cafe. Photographed in May 2019, © H. Richardson

With the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 the administration of Gartnatra Hospital and the poorhouse, latterly known as Gortanvogie House, passed to the Campbeltown and District Hospitals Board of Management, under the Western Regional Hospital Board (WRHB). Under the terms of the National Health Service Act responsibility for the elderly remained with local authorities, so the presence of elderly as well as the sick at Gortanvogie posed problems. In the opinion of the Board of Management, although Gortanvogie left much to be desired, the conditions were probably better than most of the patients enjoyed at home. Given the list of improvements that the Matron had requested, this makes for a depressing view of those conditions. She had asked, without success, for: electric light – the Hydro Electric Board’s supply reached the front door, but the building was not wired; hot water on the ground floor; a bathroom directly off each main ward on the ground floor; a linen cupboard; wooden or other suitable flooring instead of stone floors; a brick side screen with steel windows along the outside of a covered way between the front and back of the building to stop the inmates from passing through the staff dining-room;  essential repairs to the structure of walls and ceilings, and re-slating a large part of the roof. Neglect of building maintenance during the war, common throughout Britain, had left many of the inner walls damp and rotten, with plaster having fallen from many of the ceilings.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 21.36.15Extract from the 2nd-edition OS map, surveyed in 1897, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Gartnatra, on the other hand, was described as well-built with no serious trace of damp except in two W.C.s at the back on either side which were below a flat part of the roof where the rain water had forced a way in during stormy weather.

‘The site of Gartnatra is bleak and exposed to the prevailing westerly wind coming off the bay; there is nothing “cosy” about the building, but Matron remarked that the islanders are used to hearing the wind roar about their houses. Our visit was on a day of cold rain. A shelter belt of trees would obviously be desirable, but we were told that owing to the wind and the salt spray from the sea, there would be little chance of trees growing.’

The former Gartnatra hospital, now the Columba Centre, viewed from the south-east. Photographed in May 2019, © H. Richardson

When the question of modernising the hospital facilities was under discussion, a small team from the mainland visited Islay in May 1952 that included Mr Guthrie, the Regional Hospital Board Architect, Dr Guy, the Medical Officer of Health, and representatives of Argyllshire County Council. The Secretary of the Board of Management for Campbeltown & District Hospitals favoured an extension to Gartnatra but the local doctors argued for a new hospital on a more convenient and sheltered site. Funding was the main problem, but the Department of Health were conscious that spending money on upgrading inferior accommodation was not the best long-term policy.

Plans for extending Gartnatra were drawn up by the WRHB architects, only to be rejected by the Board of Management. With patient numbers dwindling to none, Gartnatra closed in April 1955. The following year the tide had turned towards using Gortanvogie as the hospital and turning Gartnatra over to the local authority as a home for the elderly, and in 1958 sketch plans were drawn up by the WRHB for a new hospital building on the Gortanvogie site. By May 1959 these plans seem to have evolved into something like their final form, encompassing the demolition of Gortanvogie and building in its place two separate buildings, a hospital and a home for the elderly. This was certainly the case by the following May, when some of the problems of shared staff and services were beginning to be discussed.

Islay Hospital,  south-west corner of the main block, showing what was originally planned as the patients’ dining and sitting-room and on the left the end of the link corridor to the Eventide Home. © H. Richardson

By July 1960 detailed plans had been drawn up by the WRHB and submitted to the Department of Health. Forbes Murison, Chief Architect to the WHRB, had been building up a central staff of architects with some success, and did not want to have them sitting around doing nothing. The Islay job was one on which he was keen to let them cut their teeth. In 1960 Douglas Gordon McKellar Adam had joined as Principal Assistant, (he became Assistant Chief Architect in 1962).

Islay Hospital, general view from the entrance looking along the south side of the ward block, photographed in May 2019  © H. Richardson

In the hopes of gaining the necessary approbation from the Department of Health, the WRHB stressed that Gortanvogie was one of the few examples of an old poorhouse still used in the hospital service in the Western Region. It not only had 12 beds for the sick, but 8 for the old and infirm under the charge of the local authority. Despite the nature of its original purpose, the hospital had in recent times been fulfilling the functions of a cottage hospital by the admission of general and maternity patients. The fabric of the building was so poor as to make reconstruction unviable. Many of the floors were laid directly on the ground, and there was practically no sub-floor ventilation. The intention was to provide all the services of a general cottage hospital and make the island as independent of the air services as practicable. Argyll County Council wished to arrange for the provision of a 20-bedded Eventide Home as part of the scheme, and it was agreed that the one architect should design both, and that this should rest with the Regional Board’s architectural staff.

The entrance front of the Eventide Home, photographed in May 2019, © H. Richardson

The new hospital was also originally to provide 20 beds (an additional maternity bed was added later), as well as X-ray, casualty and treatment room, mortuary, boiler-house, kitchen etc, accommodation for the matron and six nurses – considered essential given the location on a ‘remote island’. From the start, the hospital was to be linked to the eventide home by a covered way, and the heating, hot water services and kitchen were to be shared. This raised the question of who should fund what. It also required authorisation from the Treasury as sharing facilities was not authorised by the National Health Service Act. Although combining a hospital with a home for the elderly went against government health policy, as well as introducing the complexity regarding shared funding, mixed institutions were thought to have a place in the more remote parts of the Scottish Islands and Highlands.

Plan of Islay Hospital, based on original dated January 1962, in the National Records of Scotland. © H. Richardson

At this point the estimated cost was £146,000. At the end of October the Department forwarded their comments on the plans. Within the Department of Health these were circulated to a team of advisers on the different elements of hospital design, function and administration, each of whom submitted comments, criticisms and suggested alterations. The list of criticisms was lengthy, ranging from concern over the position of the maternity unit below the staff residential quarters (as babies’ crying was liable to cause disturbance), to suggesting that the entrance to the visitors’ viewing room into the mortuary should be placed opposite the doctor’s room rather than in the main hall.  Some rooms they thought too small, others too large.

Islay Hospital. This block was designed as the maternity wing with staff accommodation on the upper floor © H. Richardson

Treasury approval was granted in November 1960, and the following month the Department was able to give the Regional Board approval in principle to enable planning to proceed. In June 1961 the WRHB sent in revised plans, and raised the issue that the scheme would need to be carried out in two phases, the first phase being the provision of the hospital which could be done without demolishing the existing building, and the second phase being the eventide home following demolition. The revised plan for the eventide home had by then already been agreed to by the County Council, but one of the Department of Health’s architects, R. L. Hume (presumably Robert Leggat Hume, 1899-1980), also discussed the plan with the Regional Board, which seems to have resulted in further revisions.

Islay Hospital, main entrance  © H. Richardson

Some of the criticisms revolved around room allocation, others around safety. The home was designed around a garden court with a pool in the centre – and so there were concerns that the old people might fall in. Hume discussed the plans with Mr Ellis (Kenneth Geoffrey Ellis), one of the Regional Board’s architects who confirmed that the points raised had been attended to, and that the pool was intended to be shallow with low shrubs or flowers planted around it to keep old people away from the edge.  (The plans submitted to the Department were drawn by Ellis, and are dated January 1962.)

Islay Hospital, viewed from the south-east looking towards the maternity and staff quarters’ block. On the left is the rear of the entrance block, and the link range contained treatment rooms and the X-ray room.  © H. Richardson

Although it had been hoped that building would start in the financial year 1961-2,  the already complex bureaucracy was exacerbated by the apportionment of costs between the Department and the County Council. It was not until June 1962 that the Department sanctioned the preparation of final plans.

Islay Hospital,  from the north-east with the ward block in the centre and the eventide home to the right of the picture © H. Richardson

Revised plans were submitted in April 1963, and circulated yet again to the Department’s professional advisers for comment. As comments trickled in they were relayed back to the Regional Board, but the Department was at pains to stress that they would not expect drastic alterations to the proposed layout at this stage.  The main delaying factors were not difficult to identify: the amount of scrutiny that the project was given had led to ‘a good deal of adverse comment on the plans’; the architectural staff of the WRHB were under pressure to cope with the wider building programme; and the awareness of the shortage of capital funds had generated a reluctance to embark on a relatively expensive project for its size. Once the plans were agreed and the costing completed, work began towards the end of 1963.

Islay Hospital, north side, with wards and kitchen block. © H. Richardson

Caution over the estimates was well founded. Within the three years since the original probable costing of around £100,000, it had more than doubled to £236,816. The revised figure took into account the special prices that might be expected to be charged for building on Islay. But everyone involved was aware that costs might still creep up. The main difficulty was attracting a sufficient number of contractors even ‘reasonably interested’ in building on Islay, in order to avoided inflated prices.

The north-east corner of the Eventide Home, with the link corridor between it and the hospital, photographed in May 2019 © H. Richardson

The hospital was built first, then Gortanvogie House demolished and the home built on its site. In 1966 work on the hospital was completed. It had cost about £180,000, and provided 12 chronic sick beds, 6 beds for general medicine and 3 maternity beds.

Sources: 

National Records of Scotland, HH101/1491: Dictionary of Scottish Architects

Posted in General Hospitals, infectious diseases hospital, isolation hospitals, Poorhouse, Post War Hospitals, Scottish Hospitals | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Brechin Infirmary and St Drostan’s House

Prospect of Brechin (detail), by John Slezer from Theatrum Scotiae, 1693. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

On a gloriously sunny day in April I visited Brechin, primarily to see the cathedral with its extraordinary round tower, but while there walked over to Infirmary Street to see what remains of a group of buildings that for so many years took care of the health and welfare of the city: the now-closed Brechin Infirmary, largely of the 1860s, a 1970s Health Centre, the former poorhouse (built in the 1870s) and the remnants of the former infectious diseases hospital (late 1890s). Tucked in behind is a post-war hospital block, added to the site in the early 1960s, and sheltered housing built in the 2000s. This group also lies conveniently between the railway station to the south, and the cemetery to the north.

Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 09.57.31

Extract from the second edition OS map, revised in 1901, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Brechin Infirmary opened as a general voluntary hospital in 1869, but the sick poor in the city had earlier been served by a dispensary, established in about 1824 following a bequest of £50 from a Mrs Speid of Ardovie. The dispensary supplied medicine and medical attendance to the poor for free, and by the mid-1840s was said to be in a prosperous state. But the new Poor Law had placed all sick paupers under superintendence of the local Parochial Board, which had appointed a surgeon to carry out that task. As a result, ‘only some six or eight patients remain upon the dispensary lists’.[1] Over the years the dispensary’s work diminished, until it closed altogether.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 08.08.30

Extract from the OS Town Plan of Brechin, 1852. The Poorhouse is on City Road near the corner with Damacre Road. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The first poor law institution in Brechin was opened in 1853 in City Road, locally usually known either as the almshouse, poor’s house, or parochial lodging house. It was in a large converted tenement which the Board purchased for £300 in 1852 from a Mr Thomson, writer, of Montrose. A later report suggested that the building had originally been built as a cotton factory, but that when this business failed it was sold to Mr Thomas who converted it into a dwelling house. [2]

In July 1864 plans for a hospital were first made public, after the late James Don, Esquire, of Bearhill, bequeathed £1,000 for the purpose of establishing a hospital or infirmary and dispensary in Brechin on condition that a further £1,000 was raised within 18 months by the local community. Subscriptions to the cause quickly mounted to more than £3,000, including £100 from Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, 2nd Baronet, and his brother, the Hon. R. J. Jejeebhoy. (Perhaps they were approached by someone local, the Jejeebhoys wealth and generous philanthropy, and associations with Britain, were well known.)  The Earl of Dalhousie (Fox Maule-Ramsay, the 11th Earl) offered the site – considered open healthy and with convenient access by three different roads –  at an annual feu-duty of £4 per acre.

Main front of Brechin Infirmary, photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The hospital was designed by William Fettis or Fetties, and construction was carried out by local builders and craftsmen: Mr Alexander Crabb, mason; Messrs W. Black & Sons, carpenter work; John Lindsay & Son, slaters; J. & J. Thomson, plasterers; and C. Middleton & Sons, plumbers. Their tenders for the work amounted to just over £1,500. [3]

The foundation stone was laid with full Masonic honours in May 1867 when building work was already well underway, and the first storey all but completed. The infirmary building was described at the time as ‘of the plainest description, being wholly formed of rubble work’ apart from the front wall which was ashlar. The plainness of the building was to be alleviated by the garden in front, which was to be finely laid out as pleasure grounds studded with shrubs. A kitchen garden was destined for the rear half of the garden. [4]

West elevation of the infirmary, with later day room in the foreground, photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

In May 1869 the new infirmary was formally opened by the Earl of Dalhousie. The 1901 map shows the infirmary before it was enlarged in the 1920s, with its principal front facing west, and indicating that the garden had been laid out on that side. (The garden was later built over for the present health centre.) Four wards occupied the long north-south wing, two on each floor on either side of the central entrance and with up-to-date cross-ventilated W.C.s, suggesting an awareness of the relatively recent developments in pavilion-plan hospitals on the lines recommended by Florence Nightingale. Two wards were for accidents and two for fever patients.

View of the infirmary looking west to the rear of the earliest part of the building. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

A major renovation, alterations and additions were carried out in 1928-9, for which the architect was David Wishart Galloway. During the work the patients were moved out to Maulesden House. The cost was largely met by a donation of £10,650 from the trustees of the late Sir James Duncan of Kinnettles. Plans were submitted to the Dean of Guild Court in September 1928. It was at this time that the new main entrance was formed, set in the gabled bay, treated as a pediment with oculus and framed by giant pilasters. The new accommodation included four private wards. The contractors were: joiners, Messrs W. Black & Son, Ltd, Brechin; plumbers, Mr J. Davidson; plasterwork, Messrs Burness Montrose; mason, Mr Rennie Brechin; slater, Mr D. Scott, Brechin. In December 1929, following the death of the architect David Galloway in a motorcycle accident, the infirmary directors appointed Maclaren, Soutar & Salmond, who had taken over Galloway’s practice, to see through the reconstruction. [5]

On the vacant land to the east of the infirmary a new poorhouse was built in 1879-80 to designs by James Baxter, architect, Brechin, to accommodate about 80 paupers, 51 being transferred from the old building but the Parochial Board intended also to move most of those receiving outdoor relief into the poorhouse.

South elevation of St Drostan’s House, the former Brechin poorhouse. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

It is in a similarly plain style to the infirmary, although the Brechin Advertiser was curiously impressed with its appearance, describing it as a ‘magnificent building’ that was an ornament and a credit to the town. The article continued:

Poor-houses have too frequently been poor in every sense of the term – poor in architecture, poor in conveniences, poor in comfort. It will be seen, however, … that the new Poor-house of Brechin possesses not only the external appearance, but all the internal appliances of a modern mansion-house. [6]

According to the same article, the architect’s plan for the poorhouse had been commended for its simplicity of design and conveniences and comfort in its internal arrangements. These comprised a room on either side of the entrance door for the Matron, and beyond these separate stairs to the upper floor.  A corridor ran the length of the building on both floors. On the ground floor, on the north side of the central corridor, were two large sick rooms and two sitting rooms, and on the south side a spacious dining hall. Store rooms and bathrooms were placed at either end, a large kitchens was at the east end of the dining room. On the upper floor were the sleeping wards, and here the corridor had a glazed partition half way along separating the males from the females.

Rear view of St Drostan’s House, looking west, behind is the eastern end of Brechin Infirmary. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The out buildings included a probationary ward, washing-houses, ash pits, and coal cellars. Once the new poorhouse had been completed and the inmates moved from the old building in City Road, the latter was put up for sale. It was bought by Mr J. L. Gordon, the Town Clerk, for £541, on behalf of the Town Council, with the intention of converting it into a model lodging house. [7]

Block to the rear of St Drostan’s House, one of the original out-buildings. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

A further report in the Brechin Advertiser following the opening of the new poorhouse, continued the enthusiastic spirit of the previous account, noting the ‘tasteful and imposing appearance’ of the main frontage, and approving of the introduction of mullioned windows  to relieve the ‘baldness that might otherwise have characterise the house’. The garden had been laid out under the superintendence of Mr Annandale of the nearby Den Nursery, and the contractors were listed as: Mr J. Cribb, mason; Messrs Black & Son, joiners; Mr Masson, plasterer; Messrs Kinnear & Son, plumbers; Mr W. Bruce, painter; and Mr J. Davidson, slater – all of Brechin. [8]

South front of the former poorhouse or Parochial Lodging House, with the mullioned windows on the upper floor in the gabled bays. The bay windows on the ground floor are post-war additions. When new sheltered housing was built to the rear in the early 2000s the  former poorhouse was converted to offices, but is currently empty. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The next development of the medical services in Brechin was the establishment of an isolation hospital in the 1890s. Infectious cases, or ‘fever patients’ had up until then been cared for in the infirmary, but in times of epidemic there was insufficient accommodation there. In February 1893 an outbreak of smallpox at the Forfar and Brechin Railway huts at a time when the fever ward in the infirmary was already full prompted the Police Commission in Brechin – responsible for public health – to meet with the directors of the Infirmary to consider providing either a permanent or temporary hospital for infectious diseases. In 1895 the Brechin Police Commissioners joined forces with the District Committee and were on the search for a site. They discussed commissioning plans and estimates for a new hospital. The site must have been acquired by the end of August 1897 when an advertisement was placed in the Dundee Evening Telegraph for ‘Bricklayers (a Few Good) wanted. Apply New Hospital, Brechin’. [9]

Detail from the 25-inch OS map revised in 1922, showing the infectious diseases hospital to the north-west of the Infirmary. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The plans were drawn up by T. Martin Cappon, architect, Dundee. A caretaker was appointed in 1898, the building work probably completed by then. The hospital comprised three detached blocks, probably the administrative building, which would also have contained some staff accommodation, and two ward blocks.

Probably a block from the former isolation hospital, to the rear of Brechin Infirmary, photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

Another building on its own to the north (pictured above and below), may have been the service block containing disinfecting chambers, with boilers and disinfectors, wash-house, mortuary and stores. Thomas Martin Cappon went on to design the Forfar County Hospital in 1899. [10] 

Surviving building from the former infectious diseases hospital. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

Post-War Changes

By 1940 the infectious diseases hospital had been converted into accommodation for the aged and infirm, but by 1950 it had been closed. The Eastern Regional Hospital Board recommended retaining the buildings for accommodation for nurses and for storage, releasing a hut at the infirmary which might be used for 30 chronic sick patients. [11]

Extract from the 1:1,250 OS map revised in 1965. This shows the 1920s extension to the infirmary, and the large post-war addition pictured below. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

At the infirmary itself the largest addition since the 1920s was made in 1958-60, when the large wing to the north was added. A bequest of nearly £14,000 from Mrs Agnes Pederson, a Brechin woman in America, was used to provide new kitchen premises, out-patients’ and physiotherapy departments, alterations to staff quarters and a day room for geriatric patients between the new accommodation blocks. [12]

A spliced photo showing the south-east front of the post-war hospital extension. Photographed in April 2019 © H. Richardson

The health centre was built in about 1971, and was the first to be built in Angus.[13]

See also RCAHMS, National Monuments Record of Scotland, drawings collection, for the infectious diseases hospital and  www.workhouses.org for St Drostan’s House.

  1. Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire advertiser, 13 Feb 1846, p.5
  2. Brechin Advertiser, 14 Sept 1852, p.2: 2 March 1880, p.2
  3. Dundee Courier, 23 Aug 1864, p.4; 12 Dec 1865, p.4; 19 Dec 1866, p.4: Dundee Advertiser, 29 Dec 1864, p.3
  4. Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin review; and Forfar and Kincardineshire advertiser, 19 April 1867, p.4: Dundee Courier, 6 May 1867, p.4
  5. Brechin Advertiser, 5 June 1928, p.5: Aberdeen Press & Journal, 20 Sept 1928, p.5: Dundee Courier, 10 Oct 1928, p.5; 11 Dec 1929, p.6Dundee Evening Telegraph, 11 Dec 1929, p.10
  6. Brechin Advertiser, 2 March 1880, p.2
  7. Brechin Advertiser,  16 March 1880, p.2
  8. Brechin Advertiser, 16 March 1880, p.3
  9. Dundee Courier, 1 Feb 1893, p.3: Aberdeen Press & Journal, 12 April 1893, p.5; 19 Aug 1896, p.6Dundee Advertiser, 10 April 1895, p.2; 23 Oct 1896, p.2Dundee Evening Telegraph, 25 Aug 1897, p.3
  10. Dundee Courier, 6 July 1897, p.3; 4 Oct 1899, p.4: Peterhead Sentinel and General Advertiser for Buchan District, 28 Aug 1898, p.4
  11. Dundee Courier, 26 Jan 1950, p.4
  12. Brechin Advertiser, 2 Dec 1958, p.5
  13. Aberdeen P&J, 16 Feb 1971, p.31

 

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The Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway, and its forebears

Memorial stained-glass panel in the Western Isles Hospital, depicting the Lewis Hospital on the right and the County Hospital to the left, both closed when the new general hospital opened. © H. Richardson

The Outer Hebrides are served by one general hospital in Stornoway on the Island of Lewis – the Western Isles Hospital. It was designed and built by the Common Services Agency and opened to patients in 1992. The hospital was designed to replace two much older hospitals: the Lewis Hospital and the County Hospital.

The Western Isles Hospital, photographed in January 2019, © H. Richardson

The County Hospital had been built by the Red Cross during the First World War as the Lewis Sanatorium, and after the war was transferred to the local authority. The Lewis Hospital was built in 1893-6 on Goathill Road. Before the advent of the National Health Service, there was also Mossend Fever Hospital, built by Stornoway Town Council in 1876, which contained 12 beds, and the Lewis Combination Poorhouse, opened in 1897, which took in sick paupers and manageable cases of the mentally infirm.

Memorial plaques from the Lewis Hospital preserved in the present hospital. © H. Richardson

In 1904 the Lewis Hospital also contained twelve beds, but its capacity was increased to twenty when the building was enlarged in 1912. A consultant surgeon was appointed in 1924, partly funded by the Scottish Board of Health under the Highlands and Islands Medical Service. A further grant from the Board helped to fund an extension to the hospital that opened in 1928. At the time, this was heralded as the first step in the realisation of a perfect hospital service for the Outer Hebrides as envisaged by the Dewar Commission of 1912, which first outlined the Highlands and Islands Medical Service. Seen by many as a precursor of the National Health Service itself, the Service extended state-funding of health care beyond the responsibilities for the care of the destitute sick, the mentally ill and the control of infectious diseases.

The former County Hospital, photographed in September 1993, reproduced by permission of Kathryn Morrison © K. Morrison

The works done in the 1920s included improvements to the water and electricity supplies, the installation of central heating to replace peat and coal fires, X-ray plant, a new operating theatre, light treatment – including artificial sunlight treatment – enlarged kitchens and improvements to staff accommodation.

With a population of over 32,000 on Lewis and Harris, scattered over a wide area, the difficulties of communications and the different way of life of the people presented the singular circumstances necessitating state intervention. According to the reporter for The Scotsman:

 ‘Until the advent of the motor car, medical practice in these parts was on a very limited scale, and to this day the superstitious practices of former generations still linger in the hereditary healers and village bone-setters. Until quite recent days the idea of an hospital universally held was that of a place where people went only to die. As a result, the mere suggestion of hospital treatment was opposed with the same vigour that city patients resist the poorhouse.’ [1]

This may have been true, but the annual report of the hospital back in 1899 painted a rather different picture; 70 patients had been treated during the past year, of whom only three died. The yearly number of admittances was increasing, most being from the island, but 18 patients were ‘strangers … whose home residence extended from Reikjavik, in Iceland, to Sidmouth, on the Devonshire coast’. Nearly all of these were fishermen or sailors. In 1923 fewer than 100 cases were admitted to hospital, but in the following year, after the appointment of the consultant surgeon, 375 patients were treated and 350 operations performed.

The former Lewis Hospital, photographed in September 1993, reproduced by permission of Kathryn Morrison © K. Morrison

In 1964 the Secretary of State for Scotland appointed a committee to review the general medical services in the Highlands and Islands. Under the NHS the areas formerly covered by the Highlands and Islands Medical Scheme were now administered by three separate regional hospital boards: the North Eastern, based on Aberdeen, took care of Orkney and Shetland; the Western, based in Glasgow, oversaw the counties of Argyll and Bute; and the Northern, centred on Inverness, took care of everywhere else. The Regional Hospital Boards appointed boards of management to run groups of hospitals (or, in some cases, individual hospitals). The Lews and Harris board of management was responsible for the Lewis and County Hospitals in Stornoway.

The County Hospital,  from the 1:1,250 OS Map revised in 1964. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Then, as now, one of the biggest challenges to the health service was providing for the elderly, and one of the inherent flaws of the NHS was (and still is) the division of responsibility between the NHS and local authorities. In 1966 the Chairman of the Northern Regional Hospital Board commented on ‘the nebulous boundary’ between the two, noting that where responsibility is shared between two types of authority ‘each of whom would have no difficulty in finding good alternative uses for any resources currently required for care of the elderly, there is a natural inclination for each to feel that the other ought to carry more of the burden’. [2]

The Lewis Hospital as extended, from the 1:1,250 OS Map revised in 1964. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Between 1948 and 1960 around £100,000 was spent on additions to the Lewis Hospital. In 1950 work had begun on a new maternity unit, nursing staff quarters and an out-patient department. In the mid-1960s Lewis Hospital had 83 beds, 46 for general surgery, 24 for general medicine and 13 for maternity cases. the County Hospital had 89 beds, 50 for the chronic sick, 35 for respiratory tuberculosis and four for infectious diseases.

Following the re-orgnisation of the NHS in 1974  which abolished the old regions and introduced a larger number of new area health boards, the islands of Harris and Lewis were managed by the Western Isles Health Board. In 1978 the Board outlined the need for a new district general hospital, on the site of the Lewis Hospital, but recognising that this was likely to be a long-term goal, it proposed that in the mean time a new operating theatre should be built. The Common Services Agency (CSA) had by then already drawn up a development plan for the Lewis Hospital, but the medical staff in Lewis criticised some of its elements: the theatre was not on the same level as the main surgical ward, the out-patient department was too small, and generally the plans left no room for further expansion. The Aberdeen Press & Journal reported that the CSA apologised for the plans, explaining they were only basic block plans aimed at demonstrating that it was possible to add the required facilities to the existing site, incurring as little interference to the ongoing work of the hospital as possible. The CSA ‘were not proud of the plans but were open to suggestions’. [3]

By May 1980 the Health Board had drawn up a list of their requirements for the new hospital, suggesting at least 280 beds be provided, comprising 30 medical beds – including provision for infectious diseases and intensive nursing; 48 surgical beds, including 8 for orthopaedic cases, 10 gynaecological beds, 8 for children plus four cots, two for the staff sick bay, 14 maternity, 90 geriatric beds and 30 beds for acute psychiatric patients.

The inclusion of beds for psychiatric patients reflected current NHS policy and the terms of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act of 1960 (and the Mental Health Act of 1959 covering England and Wales), . The new network of district general hospitals were to cater for general medical, surgical and psychiatric patients. This policy had evolved from a recognition that the existing mental hospitals did not provide the best environment for new cases. This was in part due to the institutional character of the large Victorian mental hospitals, but also the difficulties of attracting good mental health nursing staff, together with the stigma attached to mental illness in general and the old ‘lunatic asylums’ in particular. In the Western Isles the problems were exacerbated by the distance to the only psychiatric hospital serving the whole of the Highlands and Islands: Craig Dunain Hospital at Inverness. In 1979 more than 100 patients from the islands were in care at Craig Dunain. The new hospital in Stornoway was therefore to include a psychiatric unit, though links to Craig Dunain were to be retained given the number of specialist psychiatric fields.

Main entrance of the Western Isles Hospital, photographed in January 2019 © H. Richardson

Formal approval to build the new hospital complex was granted in 1986, and work was underway by 1991. It took two years to build and cost £32m.  Although the first patients were admitted in September 1992, the official opening took place the following March, performed by Prince Charles (as Lord of the Isles). The Prince was welcomed to the hospital by the chairman of the Western Isles Health Board, Marie MacMillan, and was given a comprehensive tour of the facilties and chatted to staff and patients. He then unveiled a plaque in the main concourse area. [4]

References:

  1. The Scotsman, 4 May 1928, p.8
  2. Parliamentary Papers: Scottish Home and Health Department, General Medical Services in the Highlands and Islands, Report of a committee appointed by the secretary of State for Scotland, June 1967. Cmnd. 3257
  3. Aberdeen Press & Journal, 24 May 1978, p.26
  4. Slàinte, NHS Western Isles Staff Magazine, Winter 2012, p.4

Sources:

North Star and Farmers’ Chronicle, 23 Feb 1899, p.6: Dundee Courier, 3 Feb 1904, p.1:: Department of Health for Scotland, Annual Reports:Aberdeen Press & Journal, 21 Feb 1979, p.27; 16 May 1979: The Guardian, 15 Oct 1986, p.31: Nicola MacArthur,  ‘The origins and development of the Lewis Hospitals’, Hektoen International, A journal of Medical Humanities, Spring 2017: NHS Eileanan Siar Western Isles 70 Years

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Netherlea Hospital, Newport-on-Tay

Netherlea Hospital will soon be no more, and so here is a slightly revised post from 2017.

In March 2017 the Dundee Courier announced plans to demolish the former Netherlea Hospital in Newport, Fife, and replace it with a development of luxury houses and flats. Planning permission was granted in August 2018, and work clearing the site was underway in February 2019.  The Law Property Group, on behalf of the developers, suggested that the development would be attractive to locals wishing to downsize. But with the upper price of £650,000 this seems disingenuous. A local councillor was quoted as being ‘surprised’ by the proposed price range. On a development promising between 35 and 45 homes, the cheapest property, a two-bed flat, would cost £275,000.

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

Netherlea was built as a domestic villa, for the local shipowner, Andrew Leitch, in about 1893 to designs by the Dundee architect Thomas Martin Cappon. It is a large red sandstone building in simple Tudor style, of two storeys and attics, with stick on half-timbering in the gables.

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

Andrew Leitch was a prominent figure in Dundee, and was particularly associated with the development of the harbour. Born in Fife, he started out as a colliery clerk, later moving to Dundee as the agent for Halbeath Colliery. From there he progressed to being a coal merchant, then exporter, also establishing the Dundee Loch Line Steam Shipping Company. He married in 1859 Isabella Thomson, with whom he had eleven children. She died, at Struan Inn, Banks of Garry, following a carriage accident in July 1897. Andrew Leitch remarried when he was sixty years old in 1902. His second wife, Janet Elizabeth née Smith, became a notable local figure, a supporter of women’s rights, the National Union of Women Workers and many philanthropic causes. She was also the first woman to be elected to the local School Board in Newport. She died in 1913, and her husband outlived her by just three years.

In 1917 the contents of the house were auctioned, at that time the house comprised: drawing-room, parlour, dining room, billiard room and hall, 10 bed and dressing-rooms, as well as laundry and kitchen apartments. By 1936 Netherlea was the home of David Hamilton  Brackenridge, who, like Leitch, was a member of the Dundee Harbour Trust. Brackenridge was born in Cupar in 1871, and was educated at Madras College, St Andrews, and Dundee High School. He spent 21 years in Calcutta as representative of the Dundee jute merchants, J. C. Duffus & Company. On his return from India he became the local agent for Duffus. He died at Netherlea in January 1939 and a month later his widow had put the house up for sale. The accommodation was listed as comprising: on the ground floor, four public rooms, billiard room, cloakroom and lavatory, kitchen and usual offices; on the first floor, five bedrooms, two bathrooms and maids’ sitting-room and bathroom; on the second floor, three maids’ bedrooms and box room. It also had a modern garage, greenhouse and outhouses, was in excellent condition, electrically fitted throughout, and the grounds tastefully laid out. 

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

Presumably the house failed to find a buyer, the contents were sold about a year later, but in 1945 Netherlea was offered to Fife County Council, and its future as a hospital discussed by the Public Health Committee. Before then, during the Second World War, it had been occupied by officers of the Norwegian Air Force.  It became a maternity hospital under the NHS with 17 beds, an isolation room and nursery, plus 13 staff bedrooms, the conversion to a hospital was carried out by the architect Frank Pride, of Walker and Pride to plans drawn up in 1946.

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

Although officially opened on 21 July 1948, by the end of September it had yet to admit any expectant mothers. Lieutenant Colonel Noel Baxter of New Gilston, the county convenor for the East Fife Hospital Group Board of Management, visited the hospital expecting it to be up and running and was shocked to find this was not the case. Although Netherlea had a doctor, matron and nursing staff, it could not open to patients because there was no cook. Until one could be appointed, patients were being sent to Dundee, Perthshire or even Edinburgh – ‘all over the shop’ according to the County Medical Officer of Health. It opened not very long afterwards, presumably once a suitable cook had been found.

In 1974 Netherlea became a long-stay hospital for the elderly. Designated a community hospital in 1997, it closed in 2011. Since then it has been boarded up and its condition steadily deteriorated. There were some who wished to see the building retained, but despite its significance in the local history of the area, it will soon be demolished. 

Sources:
Dundee Advertiser, 3 Feb 1893, p.5: St Andrew’s Citizen, 17 July 1897, p.8: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 10 May 1916, p.2; 4 June 1936, p.5; 30 Jan 1939, p.5, 4 Sept 1945, p.8:  Dundee People’s Journal, 13 May 1916 p.8, has a photograph of Andrew Leitch: Dundee Courier, 5 Dec 1913, p. 6; 17 April 1917, p.1: 30 Dec 1931, p.8; 24 March 1939, p.16; 28 Sept 1948, p.2: The Courier, 31 March 2017

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Charnwood Forest Convalescent Homes

As convalescent homes were not strictly speaking medical buildings, and most of the patients sent to convalescence were able to get up during the day, many were established in private houses which required little alteration to fit them to their purpose. If they proved popular and were well supported, they might be replaced by a purpose-built establishment. Location was important, somewhere where the patients could benefit from clean air away from the cities or towns where they were likely to have been living. Many general hospitals set up convalescent homes in the surrounding countryside or by the sea. Others were independent, but both types were run as charitable ventures, supported by donations, subscriptions and fund-raising events.

Old postcard of the Charnwood Forest Convalescent Home. © H. Martin

Charnwood Lodge, near Loughborough, is now a residential home for people with autism and complex behaviour run by Priory Adult Care, but it was originally built as a convalescent home. The foundation stone of was laid on 2 August 1893 by the Duchess of Rutland, and the home was designed by local Loughborough architect, George H. Barrowcliff.  A convalescent home for Loughborough patients had first been established in rented rooms in a cottage at Woodhouse Eaves in 1875. Its success led to the opening of a second convalescent home in 1879, intended for Leicester patients. The two homes were merged in 1883 from which time they were officially known as Charnwood Forest Convalescent Homes.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map revised in 1901. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The new building, pictured in the postcard and marked on the map above, was described in the Nottingham Evening Post when the foundation stone was laid in 1893:

The building is situated on the west side of the Buck Hill road, in the heart of Charnwood Forest, being midway between Nanpantan and Woodhouse, … It is sheltered by the Outwoods from the east, by the rough rising rocks known as Easom’s Piece from the west, and by the rising ground at the rear on the north. This site, selected by the committee after most careful consideration, contains an area of four acres, a part of which is covered by a spinney, and it is proposed that the remainder shall be laid out as ornamental grounds. The building, which is of a domestic character, is being erected of the local forest stone, and faced with red sand faced bricks to the doors, windows and corners, and with a brick lining on the inner side, all the external walls to the main building being erected with a two-inch cavity between the stonework and the inner lining. On the front of the building a verandah 7ft 6in wide runs the entire length. This is partly covered with glass, so as not to diminish the light in the rooms. The building will consist of ground, first and second floors, with a spacious corridor running the entire length of each. The entrance hall is approached from the centre of the verandah, and will be available as a committee-room or for the patients to receive their friends, and is divided from the men’s and women’s corridors by swing doors. The remainder of the front consists of three sitting rooms … and a matron’s room 16ft by 13ft. The back portion of the main building ground floor consists of dining hall, … capable of seating 56 persons; sitting room, … china and store rooms. Main staircases at either end lead to the men’s and women’s bedrooms. At the rear are kitchen … scullery, larder, and other offices opening into large paved yard, at the side of which a coach-house is being erected. Suitable lavatory accommodation, lined with white glazed bricks, and isolated from the main buildings, is provided for both sexes at either end of the building. The ventilation and sanitary arrangements are as perfect as can be attained. … The house is designed for 45 patients, and for the entire separation of the sexes except when taking meals, when they will meet in the common dining hall. The sitting and bedrooms will be heated by open fire grates, and the corridors and dining hall by hot water. … The architect after careful consideration has selected the Brindle tile for the roofs from Mr J. Peake, Tunstall bricks for facings from Messrs Tucker and Son of Loughborough, the stone from Messrs. Brabble & Co. Farley Darley Dale quarry. The cost of the structure complete including purchase of land, water supply furnishing etc will be about £6, 000, and the contract is being carried out by Messrs W. Moss & Son of Loughborough, under the direction of the architect, Mr George H. Barrowcliff, of Loughborough.

The home was formally opened by the Duke of Rutland in 1894, and in 1896 a lodge was added to accommodate the gardener who also acted as caretaker to the home while it was closed over the winter.

Detail of the postcard, showing a group of convalescents posing in front of the building. 

Although the bedrooms of the men and women were separated in the home, they were able to mix at meal times. Patients were allowed to entertain visitors, and musical entertainments were sometimes put on. There is a suggestion that early on some of the convalescents may have enjoyed their stay rather too much. At the annual meeting of the management committee one of the members, a Mrs Edwin de Lisle, moved that the rules of the home be amended to exclude ‘persons of intemperate habits’. She thought patients ought to be prevented from getting more intoxicating liquors than was sometimes good for them.

Following the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899 the management committee offered the War Office the use of the home during the winter months for wounded soldiers, though whether the offer was taken up is not clear. Wounded soldiers were accommodated during the First World War, mostly transferred from larger war time hospitals – such as the 5th Northern Hospital at Leicester.

Extract from the 25-inch OS map revised in 1901. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In 1900 a new building was erected as a children’s convalescent home to replace the small house in Maplewell Road at Woodhouse Eaves. This was entirely funded by the Revd W. H. Cooper of Burleigh Hall, Loughborough, in memory of his wife and was named the Cooper Memorial home for children. It was built on Brand Hill, at the upper corner of Hunger Hill Wood, at Woodhouse Eaves, a well wooded site with fine views on the estate of Mrs Perry Herrick.  The home, originally built to house 26 children, was designed by Barrowcliff and Allcock in conjunction with Alfred W. N. Burder. Moss & Sons of Loughborough were the building contractors, and the heating and ventilation were provided by Messenger & Co. Ltd. It provided two large day rooms, one a dining-room the other a play room, sitting rooms for the matron and nurses, and four wards upstairs for the children, one of which was arranged as an isolation ward with nurse’s bedroom attached. A brass memorial plaque was placed in the entrance hall commemorating the home’s benefactor and his late wife.

Both homes continued in use up until the 1950s, the independent charity continuing after the inception of the National Health Service. The Children’s home was sold to the Church of England Children’s  Society in 1987, and two years later was converted into a home for the elderly. It is now called Charnwood House, and has been converted into private flats.

[Sources: Leicester Chronicle, 26 April 1884 p.6; 16 Oct 1897, p.11; 24 March 1900, p.11; 27 Oct 1900, p.6: Nottingham Evening Post, 2 Aug 1893, p.4; 14 July 1894, p.2: Nottinghamshire Guardian, 24 Dec 1898, p.3: Nottingham Journal,  2 Dec 1899, p.8: Melton Mowbray Mercury and Oakham and Uppingham News, 14 July 1910, p.8; 1 Oct 1914, p.5; 31 Dec 1914, p.5: Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office, contract files for Messenger and Co. Ltd. : Childrenshomes.org.uk.]

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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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