Survey of London’s post on Harley Street

Harley Street has long been synonymous with the top echelon of the medical profession, a Harley Street consultant the apogee of the profession. This reputation was forged in the second half of the nineteenth century, and although it dimmed a little in the years after the Second World War, it enjoyed a resurgence in the…

via Harley Street — The Survey of London

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Two London hospitals – St Stephen’s and the Chelsea Westminster

I’m starting this week’s post with a few pictures by our new best friend Bill Figg who sometimes strayed as far north as the Fulham Road Although this view is about 25 years years old I still remember St Stephen’s Hospital pretty well. I went there several times, including one memorable occasion not […]

via Two hospitals — The Library Time Machine

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St Margaret’s Hospital, Auchterarder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Dundee Royal Infirmary, now Regents Gardens

Postcard showing the principal south elevation of the Royal Infirmary

Dundee Royal Infirmary closed in 1998, commemorative plaques and other items from the infirmary were transferred to Ninewells Hospital which replaced the infirmary as Dundee’s general and teaching hospital. Since then the original building and the main later additions have been converted into housing, renamed Regents Gardens, completed in 2008 by H & H Properties. The original planning brief for the site was approved before the infirmary had even closed, in 1996. The masterplan was approved in 2000, amended the following year. The architects for the conversion were the local firm of Kerr Duncan MacAllister.


Aerial photograph of the site in 2010 from RCAHMS

Listed Grade A, the original infirmary, now Regents House, was the last of the former hospital buildings to be tackled. It was reconfigured to provide 63 apartments, with ground-floor flats some having individual main door entrances, and the high-ceilinged flats on the upper two floors featuring galleries looking over the living-rooms. Caird House (listed Grade B, built in 1902-7 as the cancer wing), was turned into 22 apartments and 5 pent-house flats; Dalgleish House, the 1890s nurses’ home, provided 19 apartments; Loftus house, which was originally the Caird Maternity Home and later a nurses’ home, was converted into six town houses; and the small Gilroy House was converted into two houses.

This view of Dundee Royal Infirmary from the Law shows the former Cancer Wing, photographed in 2005 by TheCreator, public domain image on Spanish Wikipedia’s entry for Dundee.

The old wash-house and drying green to the east of the infirmary was built up with housing as part of the redevelopment of the infirmary site. The wash-house itself had been demolished and replaced by the Constitution Campus tower of Dundee College in the 1960s (opened in 1970). By 2015 this was closed and awaiting redevelopment as flats with a cinema, gym, office space etc., known as Vox Dundee (why? who comes up with these names? I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation).

Extract from the 1st Edition OS Map surveyed in 1872. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Dundee Royal Infirmary was officially opened on 7 February 1855, having been completed towards the end of 1854. It was designed by Coe & Goodwin of London. This building replaced the earlier infirmary built in the 1790s in King Street. By 1849 a committee had been appointed to select a site for the new infirmary and a competition was held for the plans. The eminent medical Professors James Syme and Robert Christison of Edinburgh were consulted in the selection of the winning design, and had also supplied a block plan of the necessary arrangements when designs were first invited. Although 30 sets of plans had been submitted by the summer of 1851, only three were considered acceptable and put on display. The Northern Warder was scathing in its criticism of the majority of the plans, which it thought must have been produced by ‘aspiring joiners’ hoping to win the £50 prize for the winning design.


The main front of the hospital photographed around 1875 from Dundee Valentine Album, RCAHMS

Coe and Goodwin’s design was for a hospital of three storeys on a U‑shaped plan. It was of the corridor type of plan which was generally current before the introduction of the pavilion‑plan. Indeed, it was built in the declining years of corridor-plan hospitals, lending irony to Professor Syme’s description of it as ‘a model after which institutions similar in kind might well be constructed’. It is a bold essay in the Tudor style applied to a large public building (claimed to be the largest public building in Dundee at that time).  David Robertson, a local builder was appointed to erect the building and work was commenced in 1852.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 17.09.37

This more detailed plan is from the OS Town Plans, also of 1871. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Many extensions were built and sister institutions provided, one of the first was a convalescent home at Barnhill built in 1873-7  (since demolished). Problems associated with the plan had to be rectified – the chief of these being the sanitary facilities. One of the key aspects of pavilion-plan hospitals was the placement of the WCs, sinks and baths in rooms that were separated from the ward by a short lobby with windows on each side. This created a through-draught and was designed to prevent ‘offensive effluvia’ from being carried into the ward – bad smells or miasmas that were believed to cause disease. Plans to improve these and to build a new wash-house and laundry were prepared, and other similar institutions visited so as to provide the best and most up-to-date conveniences.

Plan of Dundee, 1906, by William Mackison, Burgh Engineer. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The plan of Dundee above marks the principal additions built to the north of the original hospital in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These have been retained and converted to housing. To the left is the nurses’ home, built in 1896-7 and named after Sir William Ogilvy Dalgliesh, president of the hospital and benefactor of the University’s Medical School. On the right hand side is the Caird Maternity Hospital, designed in 1897 and opened in 1900, named after its benefactor, the jute baron (Sir) James Key Caird. Though marked here as a maternity hospital it served a dual function, with one block for maternity cases and one for diseases of women; the third, central block contained administrative offices and staff residences. It was designed by Murray Robertson. Caird also funded  the cancer wing, built in 1902-7 to designs by James Findlay.

Detail from the OS plan of Dundee surveyed in 1952, showing the extent of the infill building. At this time the public wash-house and allotment gardens still occupied the site to the east. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The map above shows the extent of the extensions and additions to the site up to the 1950s, many of these were demolished following the closure of the infirmary. These included an extension to the west rear wing of 1895 providing a new operating theatre. Another building removed was the maternity wing, which had been opened in 1930, erected and equipped by R. B. Sharp and his brother F. B. Sharp of Hill of Tarvit, Fife (pictured below, and labelled maternity hospital on the map above). The architects were D. W. Baxter & Son. After it was built the former Caird Maternity Hospital was turned into nurses’ accommodation. A further addition providing new dispensary and pathology departments was opened in 1935, named the Sir James Duncan building.

This rather gloomy photograph shows the maternity wing in about 1989-91. It was a plain enough building but the assorted bits of piping, ducting and plant added to the roof and meandering over the wall surface do it no favours. Photograph © Harriet Richardson

This view shows the main front with the maternity wing to the right. Photograph taken c.1990 © Harriet Richardson

The grand centrepiece of the original infirmary with steps leading up to the main entrance. Photograph taken c.1990 © Harriet Richardson

Detail of main infirmary building, showing the end bays of main front with angle turret on the return. Photograph taken c.1990 © Harriet Richardson

Looking west along the main front towards the entrance. Photograph taken c.1990 © Harriet Richardson

Sources: Henry J. C. Gibson, Dundee Royal Infirmary 1798-1948… 1948: Dundee City Archives: The Builder, 23 Aug. 1851, p.529, 16 Oct 1897, p.312; Dundee Courier, 13 April 1895, p.3; 10 March 1896, p.6; 11 Dec 1977, p.4; Dundee Evening Post, 9 Dec 1901, p.4; Dundee Evening Telegraph, 13 Sept 1897, p.2: Dictionary of Scottish Architects; Unlocking the Medicine Chest: PGL ForfarshireThe Scotsman, 23 March 1900, p.4; 16 July 1935, p.7:

For more information on Sir James Caird see the James Caird Society


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Stracathro Hospital

Stracathro House, from Gershom Cumming, Forfarshire Illustrated, 1843

Stracathro House was built in 1827 to designs by Archibald Simpson for Alexander Cruickshank Esq whose fortune came from plantations in the West Indies. Cruickshank owned estates in British Guiana and St Vincent, and was awarded over £30,000 in compensation for freed slaves in 1836. Nevertheless, by the 1840s he was facing financial embarrassment and he returned to Demerara where he died in 1846.


Stracathro House photographed by RCAHMS in 2003

Stracathro House was built into a sloping site, thus the principal front is of two storeys without basement and the garden front to the rear has a raised basement. The main nine‑bay façade comprises slightly advanced outer bays capped by a stone balustrade and between these five bays set behind a screen of fluted Corinthian columns in antis. This screen breaks forwards in front of the centre three bays forming a tetrastyle portico.


Postcard with views of Brechin, including, top left, the mansion house at Stracathro Hospital, © H. Martin, reproduced with permission.

Following Cruickshank’s death Strathcathro House and estate were put up for sale at auction in July 1847. It failed to sell on that occasion. The house was fully furnished, the estate extended to 1,939 acres, of which 447 were wooded and 161 laid out as park and pleasure grounds, the rest being farmland. Eventually it was bought by Sir James Campbell, former Lord Provost of Glasgow, when it was put up for sale again in December at a reduced price of £40,000, reckoned to be about half the amount that it had cost Cruickshank. Campbell’s second son was Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, liberal MP and Prime Minister 1905-8. His eldest son, James Alexander Campbell, who inherited Stracathro, married Ann Peto, daughter of the railway baron, Sir S. Morton Peto. James died within weeks of his brother in 1908. James Morton Peto Campbell inherited, but died in 1926 after a prolonged illness at Careston Castle, Brechin, the home of his sister and brother-in-law, William Shaw Adamson. Stracathro House passed to the Shaw Adamsons. William’s son, William Campbell Adamson, was in the Royal Flying Corps and was killed in action in France in 1915. His son, William John Campbell Adamson inherited from his grandfather in 1936 when he was only about 22 years of age.

Rear view of the house. The wings were added later. Photographed in 2012 by Cisco, reproduced under creative commons license CC-BY-SA-3.0

During the First World War Stracathro was used as a military hospital, and was afterwards returned to the Campbells. The young William Campbell Adamson leased the house to the Department of Health for Scotland in 1938, when it was earmarked as a site for an emergency hospital. This was one of seven Emergency Medical Scheme hospitals built in Scotland. Hutted ward blocks were erected in the grounds to take the anticipated civilian casualties from air raids, while the house was used for staff accommodation.


Extract from the OS 1:25,000 map published in 1957. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The hospital was ready for occupation by the summer of 1940. Guidelines for the design and construction were given by the Department of Health to local architectural and/or engineering firms to erect EMS hospitals. For Stracathro the scheme was carried through by the firm of Maclaren, Soutar and Salmond, a Dundee practice which had an office in Brechin at that time.

Postcard with aerial photograph of the hospital

Nationally the programme for building these hutment hospitals, either on new sites or adjoining existing hospitals, was designed to provide 35,000 beds in England and Wales by the end of December 1939, and 10,000 additional beds in hutments (i.e. ward huts – single storey detached blocks) in Scotland on twenty sites.

This postcard showing the admin block of the hospital is not dated, but looks to me to be of the 1950s or 60s

Stracathro provided 999 beds, and took troops, local residents and later casualties. After the war it became a local general hospital, and was transferred to the National Health Service in 1948 under the Eastern Regional Hospital Board.

Another postcard with an aerial photograph of the hospital. On the right are flat-roofed ward blocks, the rest of the blocks having pitched roofs, suggesting that they are a different building phase. 


One of the few surviving war-time ward blocks at Stracathro Hospital, photographed in 2013 © Copyright Anne Burgess and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Stracathro is the only one of the seven independent EMS hospitals built in Scotland to have so far retained any of its original ward blocks. Most on the site have been largely, if not completely rebuilt, although the original footprint of much of the hospital remains. In 2011 the Susan Carnegie Centre, for patients with mental illnesses, opened here, designed to replace Sunnyside Hospital. Stracathro House itself was sold by Tayside Health Board in 2003 and was converted back into a private residence.


Legacies of British Slave Ownership, profile of Alexander Cruickshank: The Garden History Society in Scotland, Survey of Gardens and Designed Landscapes: Stracathro HousePP: 10th Annual Report of the Department of Health for Scotland, 1938 Montrose, Arbroath and Brechin Review, 7 May 1847; 29 Aug 1847; 31 Dec 1847; 31 Dec 1847: London Daily News, 16 Feb 1847, p.8:  The Scotsman, 10 July 1940: Hansard, Commons Sitting 1 August 1939: University of Dundee Archive Services, records of the Eastern Regional Hospital Board; Museum Services, Hospitals at War

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Hospitals Investigator 11 revised

In February 1993, Robert Taylor from the Cambridge team of the RCHME Hospitals Project, produced his eleventh newsletter. Here are snippets on prefabricated hospitals by Humphreys, early prison infirmaries, provision of accommodation for tuberculosis in workhouses, the Metropolitan Asylums Board, Portal Frames and Wimborne Cottage Hospital (with a few digressions from me).

More Humphreys’ Hospitals

Another advertisement for Humphreys’ Iron Hospitals lists places where hospitals have been provided, but this time of 1895. All but three of the hospitals are also on the list published in 1915. As Humprheys provided buildings for the Metropolitan Asylums Board, is there any chance that they made the iron buildings of about 1894 at Colney Hatch asylum that burnt with such dramatic effect in 1903?

The three mentioned on the earlier list but not on the later one were: New Calverley, Romney, and Nottingham. ‘London’ is also listed. There are 102 places listed altogether.

Howard and Prisons

That a shortened version of John Howard’s The State of the Prisons should have been considered a sufficient work of literature to be added to the Everyman Library in 1929 is almost as amazing as the record of cruelty and discomfort contained within the book. The Everyman edition is taken from the third edition of Howard’s book, published in 1784.

Gateway to the County Gaol at Southwark, from Survey of London vol.25

By 1784 few prisons had an infirmary. The impression gained from skipping through Howard is that there were normally two rooms, one for each sex, but that these rooms were commonly on an upper storey and that they were not very large. At the Manchester County Bridewell, built in 1774, there were two rooms 14ft by 12ft. The Chelmsford County Gaol, completed in about 1778, had only one room, described by Howard as ‘close’ and therefore not used. The two rooms at the recently built Southwark County Gaol were also described as close, with only one small window each, and they too appear to have been little used because of this unsuitability. Whether the infirmaries were on the upper floor to get superior ventilation above the noisome cells is not clear; it could be that they were less convenient and so devoted to a less important function.

Howard himself considered that dryness and ventilation should be the principal factors. Howard also paid attention to the extent to which building were lime-washed. This he regarded in keeping with contemporary theory, as the one remedy for both infectious diseases and ‘bugs’ (vermin). Lime-washing as often as twice a year would kill disease and infestation. Many years later, in 1832, lime-washing houses was often tried as a precaution against cholera.

The fourth edition of Howard’s book published in 1792 was illustrated, and included a model plan and elevations.

Howard listed the most important features of an infirmary or sick ward in a prison as:
1. It should be in an airy part of the court
2. It should be detached from the rest of the gaol
3. It should be raised on arcades
4. The centre of the ward floor should have a grating for ventilation, 12 to 14 inches square
5. Perhaps there should be hand ventiltors

Some of these features can be seen in his model plan for a county gaol published in the 1792 edition of the State of Prisons.

TB in the Workhouse

By the beginning of 1904 some 27 English Poor Law Unions admitted to having adapted wards in their workhouse for consumptive patients, so that they could be separated from the rest of the occupants. Until then consumptives were mixed indiscriminately with the rest of the inmates, and remained so mixed at other workhouses for some time. Just how little work this involved will only emerge from further investigation, but my suspicion is that a French window and a balcony was probably a generous amount of alteration. At that time, open-air treatment for tuberculosis at Sheffield Royal Infirmary consisted simply of leaving half of the windows in the ward permanently open, and it seems that many or most unions took the same approach.

The unions are as follows:
Chester – two rooms in the hospital block
Plymouth – wards (unidentified)
South Shields – 1 ward
Portsmouth – 2-storey south-facing wards adapted by insertion of French windows and balconies. Electric fans were installed but little used.
Southampton –wards (unidentified)
Bishops Stortford – 1 ward in infirmary
Medway –wards
Blackburn –men have 2nd storey of infirmary, women to have new wards then building
Prescot –ward for 20 men
Camberwell –infirmary wards
City of London –south block of infirmary
Fulham -2 infirmary wards
Hampstead – south facing wards
Kensington – 2 wards adapted
St Mary Islington –top floor of infirmary
Wandsworth –iron buildings at Tooting annex
Atcham –top ward of infirmary for 20 men
Axbridge -4 dayrooms and 4 bedrooms
Bath –two 10-bed wards adapted, windows altered, shelters and dining-room built
Frome –wards built
Stoke – 2 wards with balconies
Richmond (Surrey) -2 wards
Brighton – 3-bed ward and balcony for men; women under consideration
Stourbridge –wards with end verandas adapted
Ecclesall – wards
Sheffield –small 20-bed block being adapted

Source: L. A. Weatherley, ‘Boards of Guardians and the Crusade against Consumption’ in Tuberculosis, 3, 1904-6, p.66

L0060820 Photograph showing the roof garden<br /> Credit: The RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome Library. Wellcome Images<br /><br /><br /> Photograph: "This is a picture of the sun roof showing the huts and St. Paul's church in the distant left corner"<br /> Credit: The RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome Library<br /> c. 1915 Royal Army Medical Corps Muniment Collection<br /> Album of photographs of the King George V Military Hospital, Stamford Street, London, First World War<br /> Published: c. 1915<br /> Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Photograph showing the roof garden c.1915 with revolving shelters, probably for convalescents rather than Tb patients. From the RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome Library. Reproduced under Creative Commons licence CC BY 4.0

(The mention of shelters at Bath put me in mind of this photograph of the King George V military hospital, for more on this hospital see the excellent Lost Hospitals of London website.)


A brief paragraph in Paul Davies’ book The Old Royal Surrey County Hospital tells us that ‘the Metropolitan Asylums Board designated King George V Hospital, Godalming, and two other of their hospitals as ‘plant propagation centres’. This is a change of use that does not appear in any of the directories, and suggests that the M. A. B. operated a very successful cover-up. Presumably they also ran a very successful and profitable business, far more profitable than curing Londoners of their physical and mental ills.

Portal Frames

Robert Taylor succinctly described the portal frame as ‘a modern version of a jointed cruck’ but was struggling to date this type of construction until stumbling over an article in The Builder from the 1940s.

Cruck Framed Barn on Aldford Village Green photographed in 2014. This thatched, oak cruck framed barn was built in 2013 in a joint project between the Eaton Estate and Chester Renaissance. The purpose was to keep heritage skills alive by using modern and old-style building materials and methods. The barn is used as a public shelter and has a brick barbecue built into the chimney. © Copyright Jeff Buck and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Ministry of Works and Planning carried out experiments between 1939 and 1942 to design a cheap, quickly erected hut that was largely prefabricated, infinitely adaptable, and durable. By 1942 they had developed the M.O.W.P. Standard Hut with reinforced concrete jointed crucks (two bracketed posts bolted to a pair of rafters, for the benefit of readers who are not members of the Vernacular Architecture Group) as its main feature. The trusses at each end were different, having two posts carrying a tie-beam with a wooden frame above to which corrugated asbestos was nailed. The corner posts are of a distinctive shape, with a quarter-round hollow. The trusses are usually at 6-foot centres, and the building is just under 20 feet wide overall. Wall panels and roof covering are whatever is available.

These huts crop up on every type of hospital site, usually as ancillary buildings such as laboratories, if indeed any function can be ascribed to them. At Ipswich workhouse they were used to create an H-shaped addition to the infirmary with operating theatre in the central range. It seems therefore that they are unlikely to be earlier than 1942. How late this design, with concave corner posts, remained in use is not known.

This answers an old question, where the name portal frame came from. The minister of Works and Planning from 1942 to 1944 was Sir Wyndham Portal, 3rd baronet, created a baronet in 1935 and viscount in 1945. Like an earlier minister of transport he gave his name to something he did not invent, but unlike Mr Hore-Belisha’s beacon the invention took place before he became minister.

Whilst the idea that the Ministry of Works named its design after their minister, Sir Wyndham Portal, it has been gently pointed out to me that the term ‘portal frame’ was in use long before 1942. Indeed, a very quick search on the British Newspaper Archive provides evidence of its use in 1902. An article from Engineering News  reported on a novel suspension bridge constructed in Freiburg, Switzerland, designed by the Swiss engineer M. Grimaud. The bridge was supported on a timber portal frame. (Source: the article was covered in the Irish News & Belfast Morning News, 4 Oct 1902, p.6)


In 1892 the committee of Wimborne Cottage Hospital in Dorset discussed the propriety of treating pauper patients. One of the doctors said that they should not be admitted because the workhouse infirmary was better equipped to deal with operations.

Wimborne, Victoria Hospital, the original building photographed in 2015  © Copyright Mike Searle and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The hospital historian’s comment on this in 1948 was that as neither the cottage hospital or the workhouse infirmary had any equipment for operations, this probably meant that the workhouse had a bigger kitchen table. We should also remember that at this time the theatre doubled as a bathroom.

Mike Searle’s photograph above from, is captioned with this brief account of the building’s history: 

The hospital was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The land was owned by Sir John Hanham of Deans Court who leased it at a peppercorn rent on condition that the poor would be treated there. Many local people donated money towards the cost of the building including Sir Richard Glyn of the Gaunt’s estate who gave £700. It opened initially with only thirty beds, and was limited to accepting local parishioners only, but as it grew, this was extended to outlying villages. It came under the authority of the NHS in 1947 when it ceased to be a voluntary hospital.

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Netherlea Hospital, Newport-on-Tay

On Friday the Dundee Courier announced that there are plans afoot to demolish the former Netherlea Hospital in Newport, Fife, and replace it with a development of luxury houses and flats, with eye-wateringly high price tags. 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. A bargain for a flat overlooking the Thames, but somewhat on the high side for a flat in Newport overlooking the Tay, now matter how silvery.

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 1931, Netherlea was the home of Mr G. L. Wilson, a member of the Cupar Liberal Club, but by 1936 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. 

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.

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. I’m afraid I can’t post a photographs yet of Netherlea, as I can’t find one that is in the public domain – but if you follow the link to the Courier article, there is a photograph there, which also turns up searching on Google images.

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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