The cottage hospital at Oban was founded by a wealthy widow, Mrs Agnes Parr of Killiechronan, Mull, and was officially opened by her in September 1896. A competition was held for the design, which was won by the Oban-based architect and engineer George Woulfe Brenan.
Agnes Parr had first offered £2,000 to build a cottage hospital for Oban in 1892. Such a hospital was much needed. In the 1880s an article in the influential journal The Hospital noted that Oban was not only the destination of thousands of tourists and pleasure-seekers, but the head-quarters of the fishing industry on the north-west coast, and it was to Oban that accidents at sea were most frequently brought. The only local institution for accident cases or the sick was the local poorhouse, so most patients made the long and uncomfortable journey to Glasgow.
In 1890 it seemed that Oban was to have its cottage hospital. Plans were prepared by Robert Mortimer of Westminster for an L-shaped building, funds having been provided by an anonymous donor. But two years later the Glasgow Evening Post noted that the scheme had apparently fallen through. Perhaps Agnes Parr had been involved in the earlier scheme, or was prompted by the failure of the earlier plan to take up the cause. At that point she was recently widowed, her husband, Thomas Philip Parr, having died in October 1891 at their London home in Upper Belgrave Street, Westminster, leaving her a substantial fortune.
Progress on the revised scheme was less than rapid. The plans by Robert Mortimer were laid aside and a competition held for new designs. It took a few years to raise additional funds to provide an endowment to cover the hospital’s running costs, but finally the new hospital was completed in 1896.
Colonel Edward Malcolm of Poltalloch presided over the opening ceremony. He noted that the hospital committee had considered twenty-three different schemes for the hospital. The architectural competition was supposed to be anonymous, but, as so often was the case, it was won by a local architect. The hospital had two wards with five beds in each and two private wards. The plans also allowed for subsequent enlargement ‘to a considerable extent’, with the minimum of interference with the design. Heating and ventilation were supplied by E. H. Shorland & Brother of Manchester in the form of their patent grates, exhaust roof ventilators and inlet tubes.
Woulfe Brenan’s plans for enlargement were soon required, with the work put out to tender in June 1898. Further extensions were carried out in 1911 and 1934‑6, the latter by Lake Falconer who had taken over Woulfe Brenen’s practice. The 1930s work comprised an extension of one of the existing wards to provide a further six beds, and nurses’ accommodation. Lord Trent of Ardnamurchan declared the new wing open in June 1936, remarking that the hospitals was now so comfortable that illness or convalescence was now ‘almost a pleasant thing’.
It was at the West Highland Cottage Hospital that Unity Mitford died in May 1948. She had been taken ill at Inch Kenneth, and when her condition worsened she was taken across to Mull, but having missed the ferry to Oban undertook a five hour journey on a motorboat, arriving at the hospital at one in the morning. She died a few hours later.
The hospital closed in 1995, a year short of its centenary. It was replaced by the Lorn & Islands District General Hospital (Reiach and Hall, architects), as were the other small local hospitals: Dalintart, the Mackelvie, the County hospital, and the maternity hospital at Gleneuchar House. A small group of houses now stands on the site, on Polvinster gardens.
For more information on the hospitals in Oban and the surrounding area see Argyll and Bute
H. C. Burdett (ed.), Hospitals and Charities Year Book, 1925: Campbeltown Courier and Argyll Herald, 26 Sept. 1896: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 19 Sept 1896, p.2: Glasgow Evening POst, 4 March 1892, p.4: Edinburgh Evening News, 6 May 1893, p.2: The Scotsman, 19 Sept 1896, p.6: The Hospital, 18 Dec 1886, p.201:16 Aug 1890, p.296: British Architect, 17 July 1896: Building News, 24 June 1898, p.909: Scotsman, 15 July 1933, p.11: Dundee Courier, 15 May 1934, p.4: Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 19 June 1936, p.7
The old Royal Infirmary at Bristol was one of the first to be founded in England outside London. Subscriptions began to be made in November 1736 and the present site was acquired shortly afterwards. The first patients were admitted the following year. It was not until 1782 that the decision to provide a new, purpose-built infirmary was taken. Thomas Paty, a local architect, drew up the plans and building proceeded in three phases. The east wing was erected first between 1784 and 1786. The central block was put up in 1788-92 and the west wing added in 1806-10. It was a large and impressive building of three storeys and basement, to which an attic storey was added later.
A chapel with a museum underneath was added in 1858, an unusual combination. In 1911-12 the King Edward VII wing was built to designs by H. Percy Adams and Charles Holden in a stylish, stripped classical style which looks forward to inter-war modernism. In 2017 the original part of the hospital was empty, boarded up and under threat of demolition.
In November 1736 a subscription was opened for erecting ‘an infirmary in the City of Bristol for the relief of such persons as should be judged proper objects of a Charity of that kind’.  A site in Maudlin Lane was acquired which contained various buildings, including tenements, a warehouse and some waste ground. The existing buildings were adapted and a ward built and furnished. Out-patients were admitted to the infirmary from June 1737 and the first in-patients were admitted at the formal opening in December of that year. Initially there were 34 patients, with an equal number of men and women. As one of the first hospitals to be founded in England outside London, the Bristol Infirmary has some claim to historic importance. It vies with Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, founded in 1719 although not built until 1740, and Winchester Infirmary, established in 1736.
Within a year or so of the infirmary’s opening, plans were made to extend the building by two new wings extending from the south front. The first wing, to the south east, was completed in 1740, the south-west wing had been added by 1750. As well as being able to take in more patients, the infirmary had two cellars – one let to a tenant, the other used for preserving meat – a cold bath, rooms for the apothecary and his apprentices, and in the garrets, along with linen rooms and staff bedrooms, were wards for patients being ‘cut for the stone’. A colonnade was formed along the south front for convalescent patients.
A few additions were made over the next decades, but by the 1780s conditions were poor. The infirmary was always overcrowded, wards were ill-ventilated and infectious diseases frequently claimed the lives of patients and staff. In 1782 it was at last decided that a new building would have to be provided. Some attempt was made to establish the new building on a new site but this was eventually rejected by the Building Committee. Plans were drawn up by Thomas Paty, a local architect, for a U-shaped hospital with the main entrance on the north side facing Marlborough Street. Work was carried on in three stages, one wing at a time. The first to be built was the East Wing, in 1784-6, followed by the central block in 1788-92 and the West Wing, completing the original scheme, was added in 1806-10. Financial difficulties had prompted the managers of the infirmary to build piecemeal, but circumstances were so straitened in 1811 that it was not possible to admit any patients to the newly completed wing. When it finally opened some three years later the infirmary provided a total of 180 beds.
In 1858 plans were drawn up for the addition of a chapel and museum to the infirmary. The museum was to house a collection of specimens which had been presented to the infirmary by Richard Smith. The two were neatly accommodated in one building on the east side of the infirmary, the museum was at ground floor level and the chapel built over it. Work was completed and the building opened in 1860.
The chapel abuts Whitson Street to the east. Constructed of rubble masonry with ashlar dressings, it is a simple five-bay rectangle without a break for chancel or transepts. The windows are lancets with cusped heads and plate tracery for the east end. The eaves course is ornamented by a corbel table. The interior is quite plain, but has a good stained glass window depicting Joshua and one of Saint Elizabeth.
Various additions were made during the nineteenth century. An out-patients’ department was established which underwent many alterations over the century. In 1866 the west wing was extended and two new wards created. By the turn of the century a nurses’ home had been built on high ground to the west of the hospital on Terrell Street. The largest addition to the infirmary before the advent of the National Health Service was the King Edward VII Memorial Building, situated on the opposite side of Marlborough Street, erected in 1911-12. It was designed by H. Percy Adams and Charles Holden to provide new surgical wards and it was largely through the efforts of Sir George White, the president and Treasurer of the Infirmary since 1904, that it was carried out. White made his fortune working at the Stock Exchange before setting himself up in business. He developed the Bristol Tramways Company and established the Bristol Colonial Aeroplane Company in 1910. He worked hard to clear the infirmary from debt and raise sufficient funds to improve the accommodation.
A competition was held in 1908 for an extension scheme which comprised the remodelling of the old infirmary building, adding a new ward pavilion with 75 beds, a new casualty and out-patients’ department, and an isolation building with 24 beds for sceptic and infectious cases. [Allibone, J. Adams, Holden Pearson catalogue of plans in RIBA] The competition was assessed by Edwin T. Hall, and twelve firms of architects were invited to take part, amongst whom were the foremost hospital architects of the day. Apart from H. Percy Adams they were: Thomas W. Aldwinckle, W. A. Pite, J. W. Simpson, A. Saxon Snell, Alfred Hessell Tiltman, Young & Hall, all based in London; Arthur Marshall from Nottingham; Everard, Son & Pick from Leicester; Henman & Cooper, from Birmingham; T. Worthington & Son, of Manchester and E. Kirby & Sons of Liverpool. [Building News, 31 July 1908, p. 168]
The site itself was awkward, being bisected by Marlborough Street which became Upper Maudlin Street at the corner with Lower Maudlin Street. The winning design by Adams and Holden comprised a large new out-patients’ block with a central waiting hall, situated nearly opposite the old infirmary building, and adjacent to it a ward pavilion, alongside which further extensions could be erected. Behind the ward pavilion was the isolation block. The plans submitted by A. H. Tiltman, which were also published at the time, are notable for comprising circular ward towers.
Insufficient funds led to the plans being modified. It was also decided to delay the building of the new out-patients’ block until more money was available. The foundation stone was laid on 14 March 1911 and the new building formally opened by King George V and Queen Mary on 28 June 1912. The nurses’ home was extended at the same time, this pushed the total cost up to £137,000 and left the infirmary with a debt of over £12,000.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, just two years after the new wing opened, the Memorial Building was handed over to the military authorities and, along with Southmead Hospital, it became known as the Second Southern General War Hospital (C. Bruce Perry, The Bristol Royal Infirmary 1904-1974, 1980, p.27).
Lack of money continued to darken the administration of the infirmary. After the War costs continued to rise and income diminish. In 1921 over one hundred beds were closed at the infirmary through a shortage of funds and two years later a shortage of nurses caused beds to remain unusable. The managers laid the blame for this deficiency in nursing staff to the inadequate nurses’ home. They were able to go some way to rectifying this by using a generous gift from Henry Herbert Wills to extend the existing home. This opened in 1925, the work having been carried out by the architect Sir George Oatley.
Further additions were carried out between the Wars. The isolation block was built in 1924, an x-ray department and dental department were added in 1925, and a massage department established in 1926. Henry Hill had been appointed as the infirmary’s clerk of works in 1906 and he drew up plans for two staff accommodation blocks which were completed in 1930 and 1931. During the Second World War the infirmary was lucky to escape serious damage from bombing. Only the mortuary was destroyed. After the war, greatly in debt, the infirmary was transferred to the National Health Service.
Minutes of Bristol Royal Infirmary, quoted in C. Saunders, The United Bristol Hospitals, 1965, p. 11
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.
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.
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
(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.
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.
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.
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 Geograph.org.uk, 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.
Inverness District Asylum, otherwise known as the Northern Counties Asylum, opened in 1864. Latterly it was renamed Craig Dunain Hospital and treated patients suffering from mental illness until 2000. Since then parts of the building have been converted to housing, while the rest awaits restoration.
The imposing main building, mostly of three storeys, is enlivened by gabled bays and, at the centre, bold twin square towers. It was designed by James Matthews of Aberdeen, who had also established an office in Inverness some ten years earlier. The Inverness office was run by Willliam Lawrie, and Lawrie assisted Mathews in the asylum commission. Mathews had experience in designing poorhouses, and was also architect to the Royal Northern Infirmary in Inverness.
As early as 1836 attempts were made to set up a lunatic asylum in Inverness. In that year the management Committee of the Royal Northern Infirmary recommended a separate establishment for the mentally ill, recognising the unsuitability of housing such patients in the infirmary. In 1843 a committee was established to promote the erection of a lunatic asylum at Inverness for the Northern Counties and in 1845 the movement gained Royal favour and would have produced the eighth Royal Asylum in Scotland. £4,500 was raised but this was not sufficient to build and endow such a hospital.
After the Lunacy (Scotland) Act of 1857 the scheme was proposed once more, this time by the District Lunacy Board. In 1859 the Board purchased the site, 180 acres on the hillside above Inverness, and a restricted competition was held for the architectural plans. Designs were invited from James Matthews, who secured the commission, Peddie and Kinnear of Edinburgh and the York architect George Fowler Jones.
Construction took several years, beginning in 1859. The contractors were Greig & Co. of Aberdeen, masons; A. Duff, Inverness, carpenter; J Gordon of Elgin, plumber; John Russell of Inverness, slater; Mr Hogg of Montrose, plasterer; and Smith & MacKay of Inverness, ironwork. The stone used was rubble whinstone and dressed stone from Tarradale on the Black Isle. The building was opened in May 1864 and was the third District Asylum in Scotland, being preceded by the District Asylums of Argyll and Bute at Lochgilphead, and Perth at Murthly. The first medical superintendent was Dr Aitken, who was accommodated in a ‘commodious and pleasantly-situated house near the Asylum’. This was to the south of institution, screened from view by a belt of trees.
George Anderson, solicitor, was Clerk to the Board of Lunacy, the Matron was Mrs Probyn. Mr C. W. Laing was the house-steward, Mr Macrae the head male attendant, Mr Logan the engineer, Mr Finlay the grieve, or steward. 
The asylum was a palatial building, standing on a magnificent raised site. It was built to the standard scale and plan at this date, being a development of the corridor plan. There was the usual central kitchen and dining‑hall and the whole complex was symmetrical with a basic division of females to one side and males to the other. There was an extensive view taking in the Moray Firth, the light-houses of Lossiemouth and Tarbetness. All round the asylum the hillside was ‘gorgeously covered with gorse or whin’ – but was destined to be turned into farmland to serve the institution.
The central section separated the female (east side) and male (west side) divisions. Nearest to the centre were convalescent wards, then at right angles to these were single rooms for the severest cases. Beyond these was an infirmary ward, with a degree of separation from the rest of the building to contain the spread of infectious diseases
At the back of the building ran the main staff corridor, which meant that visitors and staff didn’t have to pass through the patients’ day rooms to get from one part of the asylum to another. This was one of the many attempts around this time to design asylums that would provide a more home-like appearance, while still keeping the patients supervised. ‘Everything tending to indicate seclusion or imprisonment is carefully avoided. The windows resemble those of an ordinary dwelling house; there are no cross-bars, and no enclosure walls, beyond those which surround the airing-yards for the worst of cases’. 
The gas-brackets were designed in such a way that if they were broken the gas supply could be isolated, thus keeping the rest of the system in operation. (The gas was manufactured on the premises.) Other safety precautions included blunt table-knives, which could thus be ‘harmlessly seized by the blade, and wrested from the grasp of nay excited patient’.
As part of the important measures to guard against the hazards of fire, the asylum was constructed with a series of barriers, 80 to 90 feet apart, consisting of a thick, stone party wall with iron sliding doors to allow access from one section to another, but which could be drawn closed in the event of fire.
The day rooms were supplied with books and newspapers, and there was a piano from the outset, though the one in the photograph above may have been a later instrument. Patients slept in a mix of wards or dormitories and single rooms. The latter were for the sick, aged or refractory. Dormitories had from ten to ‘upwards of thirty’ beds in each and occupied the full width of the building, making them light and airy. The attendants were accommodated in the same rooms.
The laundry, farm-offices and gas works were situated away from the main building. The whole of the work was intended to be done by the patients. The laundry was fitted up with ‘the most approved mechanical contrivances for washing, drying, and mangling’. 
The original kitchen was positioned in the central part of the building and communicated with the dining hall ‘by two large windows’, copying the arrangement in English asylums. ‘The patients assemble in the dining-hall and their food having been arranged and placed in vessels for the purpose, is handed through the windows or apertures to the warders, whose duty it is to see that each inmates is duly supplied.’ Dirty plates were passed through another window into the scullery. 
The hospital claimed to be one of the first to remove its airing courts in 1874. This progressive act was somewhat belittled by the constant complaints of the Commissioners in Lunacy, when they inspected the hospital, of the lack of warmth in the buildings and the poor diet of the patients.
Overcrowding had soon become a problem and additions were eventually made in 1881, with Matthews again acting as the architect. Extensions were erected in 1898 to the designs of Ross and Macbeth for male and female hospital wards which were constructed at each end of the building. Ross & Macbeth had earlier added a byre to the site (1891), stables and a gas house (1895). Later they added piggeries and a slaughterhouse (1901); dining-rooms (1902), and a mortuary (1907). In the 1920s and 30s the hospital expanded further.
In 1927 a large new recreation hall was provided, designed to blend in with the original building but constructed from pre‑cast concrete as well as red sandstone rubble, instead of the dressed stone used on the original buildings. The hall was large enough to take 400 patients and staff, and could be used as a theatre, cinema or dance hall as well as for less formal gatherings. The projecting bay on the photograph below contained a small kitchen.
In 1936 a new nurses’ home was built in a chunky manner with Baronial traces. It was deliberately constructed from materials which would blend in with the principal block. It provided accommodation for 100 nursing and domestic staff. Two isolation blocks were built around the same time for TB and Typhoid.
The last major building scheme was the construction of a chapel which was dedicated in 1963. It was designed by W. W. Mitchell of Alexander Ross & Son to accommodate 300 people. It is very simple in style, owing its origin to plain seventeenth‑ and eighteenth‑century kirks. Indeed, its birdcage bellcote could have come from such a building, though this church was interdenominational.
Craig Dunain Hospital was earmarked for closure in 1989. This took some years to accomplish, and the hospital only finally closed in 2000. Listed-building consent was applied for soon afterwards to redevelop the site for mixed use, including the demolition of several buildings on the site – including the 1960s chapel. The site was acquired by the developers, Robertson Residential and work began in 2006 to convert the original range into apartments.
But in 2007 an arson attack caused serious damage. Development shifted to less badly damaged parts of the old hospital, but many of the buildings had deteriorated and had for some time been on the register of historic Buildings at Risk. By 2013 only one part of the old building had been converted and occupied, although new housing had been built in the grounds, and works ground to a halt on the redevelopment of the historic core. To the north, New Craigs Psychiatric Hospital was built to replace both Craig Dunain and Craig Phadraig Hospital.
References 1. Inverness Courier, 16 June 1864, p.3
Sources: Records of the former Inverness District Asylum can be seen at the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness The Builder, 6 Aug. 1859, p.527: Architect & Building News, 8 April 1932, p.56: Highland Health Board Archives, Booklet on hospital.
The Royal Alexandra Infirmary was built to designs by T. G. Abercrombie and was, as the recent Pevsner Guide noted, the largest and most prestigious of his Paisley buildings.It was replaced by the present Royal Alexandra Hospital in the 1980s, and whilst some of the former infirmary buildings have been converted to new uses, large parts of this fine building are in a ruinous state.
The foundation stone was laid on 15 May 1897. The building was richly endowed by the trustees of William B. Barbour who gifted £15,000 to the building fund, and by the local mill owner, Peter Coats, who additionally gifted the nurses’ home. The Clark family were also particularly generous in their financial support. In all the new buildings were to cost some £73,000, providing 150 beds and ten rooms for private patients. The plan of the infirmary is of particular interest from its incorporation of circular wards in a three storey block to the north. Another distinctive feature were the ward pavilions to the south which terminated in semi‑circular open verandas or balconies.
Whilst T. G. Abercrombie’s monumental building has been superseded, it too superseded an earlier infirmary in Paisley. In 1788 a public dispensary was founded in the town from which a House of Recovery was established in 1795. A variety of hospital buildings grew on the site at the west end of Abbey Bridge. Fever wards were provided and for a time cholera was treated here.
In 1878 grounds adjacent to the house were acquired by the parish council which built an epidemic hospital on the site for 60 patients although it was managed by the infirmary. By that time there were already calls to move the infirmary to Calside, but sufficient funds were not forthcoming.
In 1886 a convalescent home was opened in West Kilbride. The question of moving to a new site was raised again by the Revd Dr Brown, he urged the benefits of a more open site, where ‘the sound of green leaves, the song of birds, and the freshness of the country might float into the rooms’. [Glasgow Herald, 10 Feb 1894 p.9]
Still nothing was done. Various sums were offered to kickstart a building fund: Dr Fraser offered £1,000 with the condition that he would double if if a new building were erected. William Barbour added £500 to the fund. But the directors dragged their heels. Finally, in 1894 the trustees of William Barbour announced their intention of donating £15,000 to build a new hospital.
The old hospital was overcrowded, out-dated and its proximity to the fever hospital was not a point in its favour. There was not even an operating theatre, operations were carried out at the patients’ bed – merely with a curtain drawn around it. Following W. Barbour’s generous donation, a site was offered for the new hospital at Calside comprising Egypt Park and Blackland Place.
The first part of the new complex to be built was the nurses’ home, which had been funded entirely by Peter Coats. Occupying the north-west corner of the site, it was formally opened in July 1896. Now converted into flats, the three-storey building is constructed of red sandstone from Locherbriggs quarries in Scottish Baronial style.
The front entrance was set in an open porch with a broad arched opening topped by a balcony. Originally the ground floor comprised the probationer nurses’ dining-room and kitchen, cloak rooms and seven bedrooms, while on the first and second floors were a sitting and writing rooms as well as more bedrooms. It was ‘sumptuously furnished’ and provided accommodation for about 40 nurses. [Glasgow Herald, 4 July 1896, p.8]
A gate lodge with dispensary were built on Neilston Road in 1898-1900 (pictured below), and further ancillary buildings were constructed on the south-east corner of the site.
The Infirmary closed in 1987 when the new hospital was opened in Craw Road. Part of the main range of the old Infirmary was then used as a care home, the rest was converted into flats in about 1995. The former nurses’ home was converted into flats in 2005-6 by Aitken Turnbull Architecture. After the care home closed in about 2008, this part of the former Infirmary began to deteriorate and was placed on the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland in 2010.
Inadequately secured by its owners the unoccupied parts of the old hospital have attracted the attention of urbexers, so many photographs of the derelict building can be found online. However, these areas have also suffered badly from vandals who are the main cause of the building’s rapid decline. This is such a fine building. It should be saved, sympathetically restored and converted to housing, and treasured for its fine architecture and the skill of the masons and builders who erected it. [Selected Sources: D. Dow, Paisley Hospitals, Glasgow, 1988: records at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives: Paisley Library, plans: Pevsner Guide, Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire, 2016. See also Renfrewshire for other hospitals in and around Paisley.]
On 13 October 2016 the former Glen o’Dee Hospital was destroyed by fire. A few days later two 13-year-old boys were charged by the police in connection with the blaze.
Glen o’Dee was quite possibly the historic hospital that I most admired. The memory of stumbling across it, without knowing what to expect, has never quite lost its charm. Its future had for long been uncertain and the building lain empty since at least 1998, steadily deteriorating.
A new community hospital was built behind it in the 1990s, complicating plans for re-using the original building. Planning permission was granted in 2010 for redevelopment as housing, but nothing was done, and it remained on the register of Buildings at Risk in Scotland.
Glen o’Dee was the first Sanatorium to be built in Scotland on the fresh‑air principle. It was designed by George Coutts of Aberdeen and opened in 1900. It was constructed mainly of timber with a central tower of Hill of Fare granite. Balconies and verandas were provided for all the rooms, facing south across the Dee, and access corridors ran along the north side. The recreation pavilion added to the south‑east below the dining‑hall was built in the same style with windows running all around it.
Stylistically it was closer to the sanatoria in Germany than any others that were subsequently built in Scotland. But it was also very similar to Mundesley Sanatorium, in Norfolk, which had opened the year before.
Glen o’Dee was originally called Nordrach‑on‑Dee, changing to Glen o’Dee when the building became a hotel for a time in 1934. It had been founded as a private sanatorium which treated TB on the Nordrach System pioneered at Nordrach in Baden, established in 1888 by Dr Otto Walther. This treatment mostly consisted of rest in the open air. Nordrach‑on‑Dee was founded by Dr David Lawson of Banchory, who had a distinguished career, pioneering work in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. Before the Hospital was built, much discussion took place as to the site. In 1899 Lawson published an article outlining the criteria and giving details of the eminent committee formed to acquire a suitable site. This committee consisted of, amongst others, Professors of Medicine from Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities. According to their research Deeside’s record for minimum rainfall and maximum sunshine were favourable.
The site for Nordrach-on-Dee was purchased from Sir Thomas Burnett of Crathes for between £5,000 and £6,000. The building itself was estimated to cost £12,000. Initially there were 40 bedrooms though later additions were made. In 1928 Nordrach‑on‑Dee closed and was unused until its re‑opening as a luxurious hotel in 1934.
Brochures surviving in NHS Grampian Archives from both its incarnations give a similar picture of the regimes at the Sanatoria and Hotel. In the earlier document the text describes how each room was constructed so as to admit a maximum of pure sunlight and fresh air. ‘The windows occupy over two‑thirds of the outside wall space and are so arranged as to permit of their being kept open during all weathers.”
It was one of the first sanatoria to use x‑rays in the treatment of TB. In 1941 the Hotel was requisitioned by the army and at the end of the war it was purchased by the Scottish Red Cross Society, who re‑fitted it as a sanatorium for ex‑service men and women suffering from TB. It was opened as such by the Queen in 1949.
In 1955 it was transferred to the National Health Service and was latterly devoted to the care of geriatric patients. Two single‑storey ward blocks were constructed to the rear, the most recent on the site of the former nurses’ home. In 1990 Grampian Health Board had plans to demolish part of the original sanatorium. Whilst its timber construction made it understandable that the building presented difficulties with both maintenance and fire prevention, its undoubted historic importance makes its loss regrettable.
Selected Sources: Grampian Health Board Archives, booklets on Sanatorium and Hotel. The Hospital, 1 June 1901, p.152‑3]; BBC news, online report: NHS Grampian archives website has a history and images of the hospital
The future of this fine old building is under threat. It has stood empty for many years and there are fears that it may be demolished, despite its important place in the local history of Grantham and in the wider history of hospital architecture in England.
A day of public celebration, parade and partying accompanied the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of Grantham Hospital on 29 October 1874. The band of the Royal South Lincoln Militia lead a procession, followed by the architect and builder, local dignitaries, and interested parties, that marched from Grantham Guildhall to the site of the new hospital on the Manthorpe Road to the north of the town centre.
Countess Brownlow, who was closely associated with the project from its inception, conducted the actual ceremony, once she had listened to an address by the chairman of the building committee, a short service by the Vicar, and been presented with a silver trowel. A public luncheon was given at the Guildhall presided over by Earl Brownlow. Tickets for this event could be purchased for 2s 6d. Earl Brownlow and his wife donated funds towards the hospital and took an interest in the plans, and the Earl of Dysart gave £1,000 to the building fund. [Grantham Journal, 24 Oct 1874, p.4]
Grantham Cottage Hospital was designed by the London architect Richard Adolphus Came (1848-1919), who went on to lay out the development of Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire where he later settled, designing many of its buildings. He appears in the 1901 census as the proprietor of the Royal Hydro Hotel there. Came freely adapted a basic pavilion plan to create a picturesque elevation. Unusually, the wards were T-shaped, an arrangement which was commended by the great champion of hospital architecture in the late 19th century, Henry C. Burdett. He thought the wards were novel, pleasing and noteworthy, presenting a cheerful and airy appearance ‘which fills the visitor with pleasure’.[H. C. Burdett, Cottage Hospitals, 2nd edition 1880 p.412]
Baroness Brownlow also officiated at the official opening on 5 January 1876. ‘As it now stands approaching completion, the building with its neatly arranged grounds, and trim Gothic porch, forms a somewhat picturesque object’, reported the Grantham Journal.
The hospital, which is Gothic in character, is constructed of local stone with Ancaster dressings, and consists of three distinct blocks of buildings. The main building, which faces the road … is composed of a central block of two stories, providing a waiting-room, entrance lobby, surgeons’ sitting-room and operating-room, kitchen, offices and store-rooms, &c. on the ground floor; convalescent and board rooms, and four bedrooms on the first floor; and two bedrooms and lumber room in attics. There are wings stretching right and left of this block, forming the wards for male and female patients, and containing seven beds each, together with nurses’ room, bathroom, and other offices. The Gothic timber porch, which certainly contributes much to the appearance of the building, has been erected at the expense of the Earl Brownlow. Some distance in the rear of the main building, the fever hospital has been erected, and will contain five beds, bathroom, nurses’ room, kitchen &c., the working of this department being kept entirely separate from the other part of the hospital. A convenient laundry is also provided, with the addition of washing and ironing rooms, drying closet, and other similar accommodation. [Grantham Journal, 8 Jan 1876, p.4]
A major extension to Grantham Hospital was built in the mid-1930s to designs by the local architect F. J. Lenton, of Traylen & Lenton. The plans were approved by the British Hospitals Association, the Ministry of Health and the County Council. It was partly as a result of Kesteven County Council’s obligation to provide hospital accommodation that Grantham Hospital was extended, and the enlarged hospital was to take patients from the county as a whole. This raised the number of beds provided in the hospital from 33 to 76 initially. A new entrance was formed to the south of the original building. New ward blocks ‘of the latest verandah type’ were built for men, women and children. There was also separate provision for private patients, a new isolation block and operating theatre unit.
Verandah wards with folding windows, usually occupying the length of one side, originated in Denmark, and were introduced to England by Charles Ernest Elcock at the County Hospital, Hertford. Beds were placed parallel to the the side walls in groups of four, separated by glass partitions, instead of the old pattern in Nightingale-style wards where the beds were placed in rows at right-angles to the side walls. Each ward had five groups of four beds and two separate observation wards. The south-facing children’s ward had a paved terrace in front of the folding windows to allow cots to be wheeled out into the open air.
Verandah wards were hailed as revolutionizing hospital planning by providing improved access to fresh air and sunshine, and the psychological effect of smaller groups of beds (‘cosy communities’). It is interesting to note that the local paper praised the hospital for its functional design. ‘Rigid economy’ was observed in order to be able to provide the most up-to-date equipment: ‘In past days Hospitals were so often designed for external effect first and foremost’… ‘present-day designers always have in mind that their building should not be monumental, but sufficient for the present, and of a type that can be readily altered or adapted to the possible requirements of the future. [Grantham Journal, 27 Jan 1934, p.5]
In the new hospital, the private wards occupied a separate unit to the west of the complex which had its own enclosed garden. It had six private wards, with bedrooms for special nurses and separate ward kitchens. A subterranean boiler house was constructed at the edge of the site to provide heating and hot-water, operating on the panel-heating system by low pressure hot water, accelerated by electric pumps. All pipework was concealed in the ceilings. This was supplemented in the wards either with conventional open coal fires or gas fires. The building contractors for the extension were Bernard Pumphrey Ltd of Gainsborough. [Grantham Journal, 22 Sept 1934, p.5]
The new buildings were completed early in March 1935, after which the old hospital was refurbished to provide accommodation for the nursing and domestic staffs. At the same time a maternity unit was created in the old south ward wing of and the old theatre converted into a special labour ward. These alterations brought the hospital’s capacity up to 100 beds. [Nottingham Evening Post, 24 March 1936.]
Further additions were made following transfer to the NHS, including a new maternity unit which opened in 1972. Grantham Hospital has retained huge local support, as witnessed by the demonstrations that took place earlier this year to protest against the drastic reduction of the opening hours of the A&E department.
This leafy residential development near St Albans, within sight of the M25, has been established on the site of Napsbury Hospital, incorporating many of the former hospital buildings. Re-named Napsbury Park, the development took place largely between 2002 and 2008.
The asylum was designed by Rowland Plumbe in 1900 to serve the county of Middlesex. Following the Local Government Act of 1889 and the formation of the London County Council, the former Middlesex County Asylums at Hanwell and Colney Hatch were taken over by the LCC, while the former Surrey County Asylum in Wandsworth (Springfield Hospital) was transferred to Middlesex. The need for a new institution was soon recognized and in 1898 the estate of Napsbury Manor Farm was acquired. In the same year the architect Rowland Plumbe and the Medical Superintendent of Springfield Hospital, Dr Gardiner-Hill, visited asylums in Scotland where a new type of asylum plan was evolving, inspired by the continental colony system.
Plumbe’s design that he presented to the County’s Asylums Committee introduced elements from the Scottish system, such as the separate hospital section and detached villas, as well as a typical English-style échelon-plan main complex. In part this was a necessary compromise, as English asylums tended to be considerably larger than their Scottish counterparts and so detached colony-sytle buildings for all patients were uneconomic – Napsbury was designed for 1,152 patients.
The foundation stone was laid on 26 February 1901; the building contractors were Charles Wall Ltd of Chelsea, a firm with considerable experience in hospital construction. An arrangement was made with the Midland Railway Company to provide a station on the Company’s line, to the north west. A branch line was constructed from there directly to the heart of the main asylum complex, with sidings near the boiler house for bringing in coal.
William Goldring was commissioned to design the landscape setting, having earlier been brought in to take over the landscape design for Kesteven Asylum (later Rauceby Hospital) near Sleaford. The OS map below shows the network of curved paths amongst trees and shrubs laid out around the main complex.
Each ward block had its own garden area in front, and picturesque circular shelters were provided, as focal points and providing somewhere to sit.
As well as garden grounds, there was a cricket pitch with pavilion on the south side of the main complex.
On 3 June 1905 the new asylum opened. The main complex provided accommodation for 650 patients, its dog-leg échelon plan allowing for a higher proportion of female patients to males. Patient ward blocks, designed as far as possible in the style of large detached villas, were linked by single-storey corridors, and each block was allocated to a different class of patient depending on their diagnosis. In the terminology of the time these were: sick, infirm, epileptic, chronic, chronic refractory and working patients.
Each ward block comprised day rooms, dormitories and single rooms for the patients in addition to attendants’ rooms. These were floored with pitch pine coated with ‘Ronuk’ polish. Doulton and Company’s faience open fires, supplemented by hot-water radiators, provided the heating, and the sanitary annexes, containing the baths, wash basins and WCs, were separated from the main patient areas by cross ventilated corridors in the usual manner.
The ward blocks each had a fire escape and goods lift and were designed so that any outbreak of fire could not spread to the adjacent blocks. As part of this fire-proof construction, the main stairs were of cement concrete with York stone treads.
A large common dining hall was situated at the centre, dividing the male and female sides of the complex. To the north of the dining hall was the kitchen, kitchen offices and stores. On the male side were the boiler house, workshops and water tower. The laundry was on the female side.
On the north, counterbalancing the dining hall, was the administration block. This imposing gabled building of two storeys had a squat square tower over the main hall and a stubby porte-cochère before the main entrance. It contained the committee rooms, offices and quarters for the assistant medical officers.
The separate hospital for admissions and cases requiring observation and medical treatment was situated to the east of the main asylum complex and was completely detached from it and independent, except for a subway carrying steam pipes. It had its own water supply, laundry, kitchen, dining and recreation hall.
The administration block was on the north side, in a similar style with a multi-gabled façade and mullion and transomed windows. It was of two storeys and attic with a central entrance leading to the main entrance hall and fernery. In addition to office accommodation, it also contained rooms for photography, a museum and research laboratory. The hospital provided 250 beds in single-storey ward blocks. Convalescent and nursing cases occupied the blocks on the south side, the sick and infirm those to the east and west.
Dotted about the park were five detached villas, these were originally designed to accommodate working patients, convalescent patients soon to be discharged and private patients (‘paying guests and artisans’). Each could house fifty or fifty-two patients, sleeping in small dormitories, with sitting rooms and dining rooms.
There was also a small isolation hospital, on the edge of the site near the railway line, with its own separate services. It was extended in the 1920s and 30s. Other ancillary buildings included a post-mortem department, medical officer’s house, staff housing, chapel and farm buildings.
Only a few years after the hospital opened Rowland Plumbe was asked to prepare plans for additions and alterations – accommodation was needed for another 600 patients and improvements had to be made to the drainage.
During the First World War the hospital was taken over by the Army. By 1915 the Army had realised that it needed considerably more accommodation for those suffering from ‘war strain’, and entered into negotiations with Middlesex County for the use of parts of its asylums at Wandsworth and Napsbury. The acute hospital at Napsbury and two of the villas (for convalescents) were transferred to the Army in 1916. Napsbury War Hospital provided 350 beds and was allocated to the severest cases. In May of the same year, the remainder of Napsbury Hospital was also handed over to the Army for general medical and surgical cases, with 1,600 beds for soldiers invalided home from the front.
The largest addition to the site after the First World War was a new nurses’ home built to the south of the main complex and west of the cricket ground.
By the early 1920s one of the detached villas, that nearest the hospital section, had been taken over as a nurses’ home.
When we visited the site in 1992 as part of the RCHME Hospitals Survey it was still a hospital for those suffering from mental illnesses. The staff were very welcoming, allowing us to go over the site and photograph the outsides of the buildings, although one person was disturbed by the sight of the camera (the phrase ‘tupenny-ha’penny photographer’ was thrown in our direction).
The hospital closed in 1998, although a small psychiatric unit remained on site until around 2002. The grounds were designated by English Heritage as a Grade II historic park in 2001, recognizing the importance of this rare survival of a public landscape designed by William Goldring. The hospital buildings were listed, also Grade II, in 1998. Crest Nicholson acquired the site in about 2002. Around 545 residences have been created in a mix of apartments in the converted buildings alongside new detached and terraced houses the masterplan and detailed designs were drawn up by Design Group 3 architects. Much has been demolished – all the service buildings at the core of the main asylum complex, apart from the water tower, the ward blocks of the hospital section and some of the villas, but the footprint has been retained – paths or roads replacing the distinctive corridor that linked together the ward blocks. The new buildings have been designed to match the old in the use of warm orange-red brick, and in style they take their cue from Rowland Plumbe’s buildings. Generally it is one of the better examples of the re-use of a former asylum complex.
The Builder, 31 August 1901, p.198; 17 June 1905, pp.651-2; 1 Feb. 1908, p.127: Building News, 2 June 1905, p.780: Hertford Library, H362.11, brochure for the opening of Middlesex County Asylum: PP XXVIII.381 c.899, 1920, History of the Asylum War Hospitals in England and Wales
Storthes Hall was the fourth, and last, pauper lunatic asylum for the West Riding of Yorkshire. The first section, designed as an acute hospital, opened in June 1904. This was similar to the earlier acute block added to the Wakefield asylum in 1899. Only the gate lodge and the administration block of this section now survive, the remainder of the buildings providing the footprint for Huddersfield University’s student village that now occupies the site. The larger section to the south-west (pictured above), has also been demolished with just the administration block remaining in a ruinous state.
The West Riding Asylums Committee decided to build their fourth pauper lunatic institution around 1897 and purchased Storthes Hall, together with a large part of the estate, from Thomas Norton in 1898. By January 1899 the county surveyor, Joseph Vickers Edwards, had visited the most recent asylums built in England and Scotland and presented a report to the Asylums Committee. The Commissioners in Lunacy advised that they would not approve an asylum designed on the village or colony principle, a type that was emerging as an ideal form for mental hospitals around this time. They agreed to sanction plans for the acute hospital provided that it was entirely separate from the general asylum complex. Originally this section was to have 200 beds (100 each of male and female patients), the general asylum was to accommodate 1,200 patients and be capable of enlargement. 
The acute hospital was symmetrically arranged with two blocks or wards on either side of the central administrative section, each for 50 patients, one for sick and infirm, the other for recent or acute cases. Flanking the hospital were two detached blocks, or ‘cottage homes’, designed to house 36 chronic, healthy patients each, who would form part of the labour force for the asylum.  To the south-west of the acute hospital was the central boiler house and laundry, with laundry residence, these sections were constructed in 1902-3 by John Radcliffe & Sons, Huddersfield (acute hospital) and William Nicholson & Sons, Leeds (laundry and boiler house).  The rest of the complex was commenced in 1904 once the acute hospital was completed, with Radcliffe & Sons as the building contractors.
Joseph Vickers Edwards, who designed the asylum, was the County Architect. He also designed High Royds Hospital, the third West Riding asylum, in 1885 (built in 1887-9), and the hospital blocks at Scalebor Park, which opened in 1902 as an asylum for paying patients. Edwards was born in Liverpool around 1852, and trained as a civil engineer. He had been the borough engineer for Burnley before he was appointed as the deputy surveyor and architect to the West Riding in the late 1870s under Bernard Hartley. As County Architect he initially had responsibility for roads and bridges as well as all the other local authority buildings. He designed a number of public and council buildings: additions to County Hall, the police headquarters at Wakefield, the teacher-training college at Bingley, and inebriates’ reformatory at Cattal. He was remembered as a genial man, popular with his staff and ‘moderately fond’ of sports – mostly cricket. 
Later additions to the site included: 1909 post-mortem room; 1915 isolation hospital; 1934 tenders for Assistant Medical Officers residence, W. H. Burton, architect; 1935 Clerk of Works house, extension to the nurses’ home also by Burton; 1939 Medical Superintendent’s house.
Storthes Hall itself, a private house to the north east of the hospital site, was used as an institution for the mentally handicapped, and was known as the Mansion Hospital. After it closed in 1991 it reverted to a private residence. In 2005 outline planning permission was granted for building a retirement community on the site of the former general asylum complex. An extension to the time limit was granted in 2012, considerable delays had ensued with arguments over the inclusion of affordable housing in the scheme. Revised plans were approved in 2016 which include converting the derelict admin block into a residential care home.
For more images of the asylum and details of its history see highroydshospital.com, the website for Storthes Hall Park student accommodation has photographs, mostly interiors, of the Huddersfield University’s student village. Historic England Archives holds a file on the hospital, ref: BF102003. Recent bird’s-eye aerial photography of the site can be seen on Bing.com/maps.
Huddersfield Chronicle, 12 Jan 1899, p.4
Huddersfield Chronicle, 5 July 1900, p.3: Building News, 21 July 1900, p.61
Leeds Mercury, 1o Oct 1901, p.2
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer, 6 May 1913, p.7
The dark, austere tower block that is Inverclyde Hospital opened in 1979. It superseded the Greenock Royal Infirmary, Eye Infirmary, Gateside Hospital, Duncan Macpherson and Broadstone Jubilee Hospitals which were all disposed of by the local Health Board in 1982. It was built just to the north of Larkfield Hospital, and that too was later replaced by the present Larkfield Unit. Later the last of Greenock’s pre-war hospitals, the Rankin Memorial, also closed and has since been demolished. This post gives a brief account of Greenock’s past hospitals, mostly demolished but a couple still stand in other use. Information on the lunatic asylum, poorhouses, and hospitals nearby can be found on the Inverclyde page of this website. Grateful thanks must go to the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives for kindly allowing me to use images from their online collections website (which I highly recommend).
Though Inverclyde hospital is perhaps not the most heart-warming in terms of architectural delight, Greenock can nevertheless be proud of its historic hospitals and of the people who built, funded, staffed and administered them. The earliest of these now-lost hospitals was the Royal Infirmary in Inverkip Street.
A dispensary had been established for the sick poor in 1801, but an outbreak of fever in 1806, the source of which was thought to be the crew of a Russian prize-vessel brought into the harbour that year, demonstrated the limitations of the dispensary and the necessity for a hospital. Plans for establishing an infirmary were put in train in 1807, the foundation stone was laid in 1808, and the building opened on 14 June 1809 – the dispensary becoming part of the new infirmary. In most instances the first generation of voluntary hospitals built in Scottish towns were designed by local architects. Greenock was no exception, although John Aird, who furnished the plans, was the local harbour engineer rather than an architect per se and it appears to be the only known building that he designed.
The original infirmary was a good size for the time and the size of the town, providing 32 beds. Sir John Shaw Stewart, Lord of the Manor, gave the site, originally on the outskirts of the town, and the building costs amounted to around £1,815. It operated as a voluntary hospital funded by subscriptions, and was intended for cases of fever as well as general medical or surgical cases. Additional ground was given in 1815 to provide a larger airing ground or garden.
The image above shows a detail of Wood’s map, the infirmary is marked by the letter ‘n’ and is towards the bottom left of the map. To its north ‘o’ marks the United Session Church and ‘p’ is the Greenock brewery. Further to the east ‘r’ marks the relief chapel and ‘s’ the tabernacle. On the right hand side are the bridewell – ‘x’ and the Renfrewshire bank – ‘y’. At the top ‘c’ is the gaelic chapel. All this can be seen much more clearly on the National Library Maps collection site, which also has a link to the description of Greenock that accompanied Wood’s Atlas.
Outbreaks of fever (i.e. an infectious disease) remained common in this harbour town, and were often severe. In 1829 the hospital was stretched beyond its capacity during an epidemic, resulting in the erection of a temporary fever hospital and plans made to extend the building. Two wings were added in 1830. By the mid-1840s the capacity of the infirmary had been increased to around 100 beds. An extraordinary number for the building depicted in the 1857 OS map (above).
One of the specialisms that developed at the infirmary was the treatment of diseases of the eye. In 1865 James Ferguson, merchant of Inverkip, had bequeathed £6,000 to provide an eye hospital but legal action ensued and it was not until 1879 that the trustees rented a consulting room in Greenock Infirmary and in the following year appointed an oculist. At last the Eye Infirmary was built in 1893 on Nelson Street.
The Eye Infirmary was designed by James B. Stewart with funds donated by Mr Anderson Rodger, a Port Glasgow ship builder. It also catered for ear, nose and throat patients until 1921. It is a handsome building, and survives, latterly as the Ardgowan Hospice.
Public Health legislation in the late nineteenth century eventually made the provision of municipal hospitals for infectious diseases compulsory. For Greenock this resulted in the erection of Gateside Hospital, otherwise known as the Greenock and District Combination Hospital for infectious diseases. Built well outside the town, it was designed by Alexander Cullen of Hamilton and opened in 1908.
With the decline in need for hospitals for infectious diseases Gateside took on orthopaedic surgery, paediatric medicine and general medicine, before finally closing in 1979, superseded by Inverclyde Hospital.
The photograph above shows the matron Miss Margaret Russell Gay, seated to the left of Dr Phillips. She was matron at Gateside for over 25 years, having been appointed when the hospital first opened. From Greenock, she trained at Greenock Royal Infirmary, and before taking up her appointment at Gateside was matron at Largs hospital. She also spent time in America as a private nurse, and was in San Francisco during the 1906 earthquake. She died in 1941 aged about 70.
A Children’s Convalescent Home was built c.1900 on the edge of the smart western suburb of Greenock, on the corner of South and Forsyth Streets. It was opened by Mrs Andrew Carnegie – who had gifted £500 towards the home – in October 1902. It was still running during the Second World War. The building survives, now as private housing.
During the inter-war years Greenock’s hospital services increased greatly, but just before the end of the First World War, in 1917, Togo House was presented to the burgh of Greenock by Baillie Daniel Orr for use as a maternity hospital. This house was presumably on the site of present-day Togo Place, just off Dempster Road near the corner with Ann Street. It only had space for six patients, but in 1925 plans were approved to build a single-storey extension that would provide a proper maternity ward with 18 beds, and turn the house itself over to office and administrative use.
It was during this period that a convalescent home was built in association with the Royal Infirmary at Larkfield. Designed by Abercrombie & Maitland, it opened on 21 December 1929. At the opening ceremony, a Birmingham-made ceremonial silver key in a gold-coloured casket was presented to Miss Maggie Donald Rankin. The casket and key are now in the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives. Miss Rankin and her brother, Mathew, were major benefactors of Greenock. Mathew Rankin was partner in the local firm Rankin and Blackmore, engineers.
The home provided two, ten‑bed wards and eighteen private rooms. By 1943 it had become an auxiliary hospital treating all medical cases. It has considerable historic importance in terms of the development of hospital planning after the Second World War for having the first experimental ward designed by the Nuffield Provincial Hospitals Trust, built in 1951-6, and followed by one in Belfast at Musgrave Park built in 1956-9. The Trust began to develop a new type of ward unit in the early years after the war, looking abroad for inspiration where the old Nightingale style wards had made way for groups of patients’ rooms on one side of a corridor with ancillary facilities on the other – bathrooms, treatment rooms, sluice rooms etc. The Trust studied the daily routine of nurses and aimed to devise a new layout that would reduce the amount of walking for nurses, improve privacy for patients but not lose the necessary level of supervision of patients by the nursing staff. The ward unit that they came up with still provided a basic 32 beds (about the size of the largest Nightingale ward) but arranged with a combination of four-bed bays and single rooms on either side of a central corridor. (An illustration can be seen on the University of Cambridge School of Architecture website, and a plan is reproduced in Jonathan Hughes’ article in Medical History.)
Larkfield Hospital closed in 1979. That same year the new Inverclyde Royal Hospital was opened, built just to the north-west. The Larkfield unit for geriatric patients has since been built on the site.
Two more hospitals were built in Greenock in the later 1930s. The Ear, Nose & Throat Hospital in Eldon Street wasbuilt in 1937 by James Miller. It originally had accommodation for 20 beds and an out‑patients’ department. Eear nose and throat patients were initially taken into the Royal Infirmary and then moved out to the Eye Infirmary when it opened in 1894. In 1921 the old prison buildings in Nelson Street were acquired as a temporary measure until the new hospital was provided in Eldon Street. The Eldon Street hospital was demolished some time after 1990 and has been replaced by blocks of flats.
Housing has also been built on the site of the Rankin Memorial Hospital. This hospital opened on 17 August 1938 replacing the Togo House Maternity Hospital and the children’s hospital at Shaw Place (about the latter, I have found no information). Maggie Donald Rankin donated £41,000 to build and equip the new combined hospital.
The architect was James Watson Ritchie, for H.M. Office of Works. It was designed as a long low, two‑storey building in three sections with maternity to the west and children to the east of the central administration section. All the blocks were rough‑cast. There was accommodation for 28 women and 28 children, and the 13 1/2-acre site was laid out by Greenock Corporation Parks Department.
A ceremonial silver key, made by Hendry & Co. of Birmingham, England, was presented to Miss Rankin on the opening of the hospital by the Burgh of Greenock Corporation. Like the other key presented to her on the opening of Larkfield Hospital, it has been preserved in the McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives.
Following transfer to the National Health Service in 1948 plans were drawn up for extensions and a nurses’ home, and a special baby-care unit designed in 1979 by Ross, Doak and Whitelaw. The Rankin closed in 1994. (There was also a Rankine Memorial Hospital, established around 1901, in Yichang, China, named after Dr David Rankine, its founder. The nursing staff were deaconesses from the Church of Scotland.)
Sources: Greenock Royal Infirmary: Dictionary of Scottish Architects: The New Statistical Account of Scotland: Renfrew, Argyle… 1845, pp 474-6. Gateside Hospital:Common Services Agency, Glasgow, plans collection: Glasgow Herald, 29 Dec 1941, p.6. Greenock Eye Infirmary: F. Walker, South Clyde Estuary, Edinburgh, 1986. Togo House Maternity Hospital: Glasgow Herald, 20 May 1925, p.6. Ear, Nose & Throat Hospital: Architect & Building News, 1937. Rankin Memorial Hospital: McLean Museum and Inverclyde Archives: Dictionary of Scottish Architects: The Builder, 23 Jan 1948, p.125; 27 Feb 1948, p.264; 11 Jan 1952, p.101; 30 April 1934, p.786: The Scotsman, 18 Aug 1938, p.6: Aberdeen Journal, 2 May 1907, p.3 for the Chinese Rankin Memorial Hospital.