Belvidere Hospital

Practically no trace now remains of Belvidere Hospital, a large housing estate having been built on the site. The Belvidere once played a key role in protecting the population of Glasgow from the ravages of infectious diseases, including smallpox. The hospital was built on the most up-to-date plan, and took shape over a prolonged period of construction beginning with temporary wooden huts that were later replaced by brick buildings.

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Belvidere Hospital, central ancillary building, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

Epidemics of infectious diseases were amongst the major threats to life to the urban poor, living in the overcrowded districts of the rapidly expanding and industrialising city. Although the parochial authorities made some provision for paupers, this was very limited and strictly speaking only paupers were eligible for admission. From 1862 local responsibility for public health in Glasgow rested with the Board of Police, and it was under their auspices that a temporary fever hospital was built in Parliamentary Road in 1865. Proximity to the centre of population and a restricted site rendered the hospital inadequate in the face of a severe epidemic of relapsing fever in 1870. As a result, Belvidere House and its 33 acre estate were purchased to provide a site for a permanent fever hospital.

Low Belvidere House and grounds in the 1850s, later the site of Belvidere Hospital. Extract from OS Town Plan of Glasgow, 1857. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The original house was built by John M’Call, a leading merchant of Glasgow, who died there in 1790. It then passed to his son-in-law Robert M’Nair, a sugar-refiner, who sold up in 1813 to Mungo Nutto Campbell. Campbell sold it on around 1820 to David Wardrop who exploited the coal on the estate, and over the following decades the house and grounds were passed from one industrialist to another. (See The Glasgow Story for more on the history of the house and a photograph by Thomas Annan taken in 1870.)

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Detail of the 1st Edition OS Map, surveyed in 1858, showing Belvidere House. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland 

John Carrick, the Glasgow City Architect, was responsible for drawing up plans for the new hospital. The first ‘ temporary shed’ was occupied on 19 December 1870. Eight timber pavilions were planned, four had been finished and partially occupied by Christmas, and two were expected to be completed before New Year.

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Belvidere Hospital, former smallpox ward blocks, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

In 1871 it was decided to build a separate smallpox hospital at Belvidere. Great lengths were taken to ensure that the most up-to-date features were incorporated in the design and many other hospitals were visited to this end, including the Herbert Hospital in London ‘reputed to be the finest specimen of a pavilion hospital in existence’. The local press had called for the design of the new hospital to reflect ‘the experience and results of modern science’, hoping that the authorities would not adopt the ‘old style of building tall structures’ but rather would follow the model of the recent temporary blocks at Parliamentary Road built on the pavilion principle ‘so strongly advocated by Miss Nightingale, and by writers on the subject of hospital accommodation’. The ‘temporary’ hospital blocks at Parliamentary Road were anticipated to last for around twenty years. There were those in the medical profession who considered that after occupation for that period of time all hospitals should be remodelled, if not entirely razed and rebuilt.

Belvidere Hospital, one of the central buildings, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

Nothing seems to have been done immediately but in 1874 plans were drawn up for the new permanent structures. Five single-storey, brick ward pavilions were built, though still described as ‘partially erected ‘ in December 1875, as well as the necessary ancillary buildings. These works were completed in 1877. The pavilions were aligned roughly north-south, and each was divided into four wards, two for acute cases in the centre, two for convalescents at the ends. The flooring was of close-jointed oak, the inner walls coated with Keen’s cement and the wards warmed by hot-water pipes and open fires. Roof-ridge ventilators  (Boyle’s) were a distinctive feature on the outside of the buildings.

Belvidere Hospital, one of the ancillary buildings, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

To the south-east was a large wash-house. Matrons’ and medical superintendent’s houses and dormitories for the nurses occupied a position at the north-east corner of the grounds, close to which was  the morgue. The original kitchen block stood opposite the north end of the central pavilion, it was surmounted by a small spire, which also served as a bell tower and clock. It was designed to minimise contact between the kitchen staff and the nurses: a platform under a verandah on the southern side of the kitchen allowed the nurses to receive the food which was served through a window.

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Bartholomew’s New Plan of Glasgow… 1882. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The grounds were laid out into plots of shrubs and flowers by Mr M’Lellan, the Superintendent of Glasgow city parks. The team working alongside the architect were James Hannah, clerk of works; John Porter, builder; William Lightbody, joiner; Robert Nelson, plasterer; Wallace & Allan, plumbers and gas-fitters; John M’Ouatt & Sons, slaters; and James Comb & Son, heating engineers.

In 1879 work began on permanent buildings to replace the temporary sheds of the fever hospital on the south-east side of the site. Four brick pavilions were built to begin with. In 1882 the Medical Officer for Health in Glasgow, J. B. Russell, produced a ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, which resulted in the further expansion of the site. Russell’s memorandum itemised the requirements for a large infectious diseases hospital and considered various details of its construction.

Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

Over the course of the next five years pavilion after pavilion was added until there were thirteen altogether, providing 26 wards and a capacity for 390 patients. In addition there were ancillary buildings, providing kitchens and laundries etc, so that the hospital was as self-sufficient as possible, thus limiting the number of visitors to the site. The extended hospital was officially opened on 4 March 1887.

Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised 1892-3. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The simple polychrome of thin, horizontal bands of white amongst the red bricks created a streaky bacon effect. This unusual construction for hospital buildings in Scotland gave them a utilitarian air reminiscent of Glasgow’s industrial buildings.

Aerial photograph taken in 1952, from Britain from Above. The river Clyde is in the foreground, the smallpox hospital to the left and fever hospital to the right. 

In contrast to the polychrome-brick of most of the buildings, stone was used for the large administration block, which also contained the nurses home, recreation hall and senior staff residences. It was a large, somewhat austere building erected on the site of the original Belvidere house. The central range was designed as an echo of the house it replaced.

Belvidere Hospital, administration block and staff accommodation, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson
Belvidere Hospital, detail of the administration block and staff accommodation, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

In 1929 a house was provided for the Medical Superintendent and a new observation ward was opened in 1930. After the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 various additions were made and changes in function introduced. Two important developments at Belvidere were the opening of the first Cobalt Therapy Unit in Scotland in February 1961 and in March 1973, the opening of the second Neutron Therapy Unit in Britain.

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Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson
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Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson
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Belvidere Hospital, photographed around 1990 © H. Richardson

The hospital closed in 1999. After years of neglect the derelict buildings were mostly demolished in 2006 – all except the administration block and nurses’ home. Hypostyle Architects acting for Kier Homes Ltd designed the masterplan for the site development. Divided into three zones: high density urban blocks, urban terraced housing, and low density sub-urban housing. The high density section nearest the London Road comprises four-storey blocks of flats and three-storey town houses. The terraced housing, of two stories, creates a buffer zone between the flats and the low-density housing on the south side of the site. Original plans to convert the listed admin block were subsequently scrapped and permission granted to demolish the remaining shell of the central block for more low-density housing. The original master plan was for 351 residential units: 145 flats, 115 townhouses and 91 houses.


Glasgow Herald, 24 Dec 1870 p.3; 22 Nov 1875, p.5; 3 July 1877 p.2; 5 March 1887, p.9: Strathclyde Regional Archives: Account of Proceedings at Inspection of New Hospital for Infectious Diseases erected at Belvidere, 1877: J. B. Russell, ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, 1882: ‘Report of proceedings at Official Inspection…’, 1887 Corporation of City of Glasgow, Municipal Glasgow, Glasgow, 1914: The Builder, 4 Dec 1875, p.1083; British Architect, 22 July 1887, p.70: Hypostyle Architects website

The Hospitals Investigator 8

The eighth newsletter that Robert Taylor produced from the RCHME Cambridge office was written almost exactly 23 years ago, in November 1992. I was delighted to hear from Robert recently, and to receive his blessing for reproducing his work here. It was good to hear that he would seem to be just as productive in his retirement, and has not lost his interest in hospital buildings in general or the machinations of the Local Government Board in particular.

L0024801 The Cruciform Building, University College Hospital, London: Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images The Cruciform Building, University College Hospital, London: perspective from the south-east. Colour lithograph. Coloured Lithograph Published: [19--] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
University College Hospital, designed by Alfred Waterhouse and built between 1897 and 1906. It is now UCL’s Cruciform Building. Image from the Wellcome Library reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 

This issue largely consisted of lists: hospital designs by Alfred Waterhouse, culled from the list of works in Colin Cunningham’s monograph; locations where Humphreys’ patent iron hospitals were erected as given in an advertisement published in 1915; and plans of hospitals published in the aptly named R. Ward’s 1949 book the Design and Equipment of Hospitals. The list of Humphrey’s hospitals has already featured in a separate post which can be found here, the two others are transcribed below.

Apart from the lists we were informed of the novel re-use of the Oxford Smallpox Hospital, a corrugated-iron building with all the characteristics of one of Mr Humphreys’ constructions (1900 catalogue, no.3), which, no longer needed for patients, was the centre of a flourishing enterprise called Spend-a-Penny Event Hire, from which people holding large parties and public entertainments can borrow certain necessary portable buildings. (I can find no reference to this company today, so perhaps the Oxford Smallpox Hospital has finally gone out of use.)

In other news, the Cambridge team had lately visited their first army hospital dating from before the reforms influenced by the Crimean War, and were fascinated by the planning. (Kathryn Morrison, Robert’s partner in crime in the Cambridge team, went on to write the chapter on military hospitals in English Hospitals, 1660-1948: A Survey of Their Architecture and Design.) Here is Robert’s description of the Peninsula Barracks Hospital at Winchester:

‘On each of three storeys were three wards on either side of a central stair. Only the end wards had cross-ventilation. The hospitals remained in use until December 1985, and the fittings on the walls allowed us to see that there had been eleven beds in each of the larger wards, and ten in the smaller ones. The larger wards were paced at 34ft by 19ft and the smaller wards 29ft by 19ft, which gives floor areas for the wards of 646 and 551 sq ft respectively. The height of the wards was not measured (we do not yet have a successful technique for walking up walls), but allowing for a 13ft height gives cubic volumes of 7,163 and 8,398 cubic ft respectively. Miss Nightingale would have been horrified to work out that this means that the beds in the larger wards had 763 cubic feet each, and those in the smaller wards (which were not cross-ventilated properly) a mere 716 cubic feet. Moreover, as the hospital was apparently built for 130 beds this suggests that the beds were more congested in 1985 than in 1855.’

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Extract from the 2nd edition OS map revised 1894-5, showing the barracks hospital fronting St James’s Street (now Romsey Road). Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. The hospital building has been converted to private flats, but some of the other former barracks buildings now form part of Winchester’s Military Museums.

‘The original sanitation was contained in a small room opening off the half-landings of the staircase, but some time early in the present century a larger room was added to this. In addition, a four-foot square sanitary tower was added between each end ward and its neighbour, with a triangular lobby contrived in the wall between the wards to give unventilated access.’

‘This account hardly inspires faith in the care that the army lavished on its cannon fodder, although we should perhaps bear in mind that this was presumably not for usual hospital cases but complaints such as influenza and sore feet that needed to be taken out of the barrack block near by.’


Works listed in Colin Cunningham and Prudence Waterhouse’s, Alfred Waterhouse, 1830-1905: Biography of a Practice, Clarendon Press, 1992. Although the word hospital is not in the otherwise good index, there is a list of some 647 commissions and works, including nine hospitals. An abstract follows, using the numbers in Cunningham’s list. (Curiously Robert omitted what to me is Waterhouse’s best-known hospital building, the extraordinary cruciform University College Hospital built 1897-1906, replaced by the new UCH on Euston Road, now used by University College London, and shorn of some ugly later additions.)

[111] Manchester Royal Infirmary, Piccadilly, 1861. Renovation and valuation, re-ventilation and design of memorial tablet to J. C. Harter (Office correspondence in private collection).
[146] Cheadle, Royal Lunatic Asylum, 1863. Additional villas, cost £2,620. (Drawings and correspondence at RIBA).
[210] Macclesfield Infirmary competition, 1865. Withdrew, with compensation.
[218] Manchester Royal Infirmary, Piccadilly, 1865. New stables etc. (demolished) cost £340 (Office correspondence etc. in private collection and RIBA).
[293] Cheadle, Royal Lunatic Asylum, 1868-9, chapel. (Office archives in private collection).
[447] London, University College Hospital, Gower Street, 1877. Sketch plan for rebuilding, not executed. (Office archives in private collection).
[488] Liverpool, alterations to old asylum building to form Liverpool University, 1881-3, cost £4,450. (it is not clear from the text what sort of asylum this was).
[532] Liverpool Royal Infirmary, hospital, nurses’ home and medical school, 1886-92. Cost £123,500. (Drawings at RIBA and Infirmary)

Part of Royal Liverpool Infirmary, photographed in 2009 © John Bradley CC-BY-SA-3.0

[571] Manchester, St Mary’s Hospital (demolished), maternity hospital, cost £65,140. Designed 1891, built 1899ff. (Drawings at RIBA).
[599] Liverpool University Medical School, extension, 1895-7, cost £1,795.
[628] Nottingham General Hospital, Jubilee Wing, 1898. Circular ward block with sanitary tower; laundry; out patients’ department; staircases and lift. (Cited by S. A. Smith in Courtauld theses of 1970 but not corroborated by Cunningham).
[630] Rhyl, Royal Alexandra Hospital, 1898. Cost £30,430.
[643] Newbury, Children’s Hospital, 1900. (Cited by S. A. Smith as above, not corroborated by Cunningham). This hospital is also unknown to the Cambridge office, although we may be able to suggest confusion with an earlier scheme by a different architect in a nearby village.

Ward on Hospitals

In 1949 Ronald Ward published his book The Design and Equipment of Hospitals. It is illustrated by both typical designs and by plans drawn from a very small number of real buildings. Here is a list of the plans of real hospitals, and the page number.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital, X-ray department p.199
Birmingham Hospital Centre layout p.27; operating theatre p.216
Brentwood District Hospital p.193
Central Middlesex County Hospital, children’s wards p.253
Coventry Infectious Hospital, general plan p.283; general ward p.285
German Hospital, wards p.164; children’s wards p.255
Guy’s Hospital, psychiatric clinic p.268
Hammersmith Hospital, reception department p.125; ante-natal department p.138
Harefield Hospital, stores p.65; laundry p.111; observation wards p.278; children’s block p.279; men’s or women’s block p.280
Harefield Sanatorium, general plan p.276
Hospital for Sick Children, nurses’ home p.93
Leeds general infirmary, outpatients’ department p.129-30; private wards p.232; kitchen for private wards p.233
Leeds, Institute of Pathology p.149
Maccelsfield Infirmary, nurses’ home p.97
Monkwearmouth Hospital, outpatients’ department p.134
Monkwearmouth and Southwick Hospital, electric department p.202
North Eastern Isolation Hospital, receiving block p.286; general wards p.290, p.292
North Western Hospital, laboratory p.147
Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, operating theatre p.222
Royal Masonic Hospital, power house p.59; nurses’ home pp 95-6; wards p.165; electric department p.210; operating theatre p.217

V0014883 Royal Masonic Hospital, London: three-quarter view of the ad
Royal Masonic Hospital, Burnet, Tait and Lorne architects, 1933 from the Wellcome Library  licensed for reuse CC BY 4.0

St Bartholomew’s Hospital, wards p.177; operating theatre p.220
Scarborough Hospital, layout p.30; nurses’ home p.98; laundry p.110; outpatients’ department p.135; wards p.181; X-ray department p.201; operating theatre p.220; maternity ward p.239; children’s wards p.254
Surbiton Hospital, Kitchen p.79; nurses’ home p.99; mortuary p.116; wards p.178; X-ray department p.200; operating theatre p.222; maternity ward p.243
Tolworth Isolation Hospital, pavilion ward p.287; cubicle ward p.291
Welwyn Cottage Hospital, pp 32-3
West London Hospital, operating theatre p. 219
Westminster Hospital, kitchen p.77; nurses’ home p.92; casualty department p.123; outpatients’ department p.133; wards p.172; operating theatre p.218
Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary, outpatients’ department p.141