Ayrshire Central Hospital

‘Deco and Memories’ by Trawts1 Photograph taken in 2008. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

AYRSHIRE CENTRAL HOSPITAL, IRVINE   Comparable to both Inverurie and Hawkhead Hospitals, though lacking the flair of Tait’s buildings at the latter, these three hospitals constitute a interesting and important group of local authority infectious diseases hospitals built in the international modern style, adopting bold cubic shapes and flat roofs.

Ayrshire Central Admin block, photographed in 1997 by RCAHMS

Ayrshire Central, designed in 1935 by William Reid, the County Architect, has a strong impact with its brilliant white finish enhanced by good maintenance and sympathetic extensions. The hospital was built to replace the old, small infectious diseases hospitals scattered over the county, and to meet the local authority’s new responsibility for maternity cases. The site was split into two halves to cater for the different functions. The infectious diseases section opening in 1941, and the maternity section in 1944. The specialities within the hospital altered when cases of tuberculosis declined and hospital confinements increased. Eventually, the infectious section became a general area with the ward pavilions adapted to various new functions.

The nurses’ home, in a central position between the two sections of the hospital, was designed on a U-plan and is a particularly pleasing small-scale example of its type. It has an almost Italian feel with the arcaded ground floor. The glazing and contemporary fire escapes are particularly notable details. [Sources: Ayrshire and Arran Health Board, Souvenir Brochure of Opening, 1941, site plan: Architect & Building News, 18 June 1937, p.359]


By 1933 Ayrshire County Council were considering the provision of a 70-bed maternity hospital to take the place of Seafield Maternity Home in Ayr. Plans for the hospital were drawn up in the office of William Reid, the County Architect, but it seems to have been Robert Govan Lindsay who was responsible for the design. From 1921 he worked for Ayrshire Education Authority which was taken over by the County Council in 1929, here he gained a broad experience in designing municipal institutional buildings. The plans were approved and work commenced in 1935 comprising 250 beds for infectious diseases cases, 70 beds for maternity cases and 46 children’s cots. In June 1937 The Architect and Building News reported that Reid was the architect of ‘new quarters for certain staff members’, costing £11,000. Perhaps this was the Nurses’ Home, which differed somewhat in style from the other buildings on the site. 

The hospital was nearing completion in 1938, but costs had risen dramatically, that and the outbreak of war sufficiently explain the slowness in completing this hospital. Despite the war, there was an official opening for the hospital in October 1941. The cost was given as £400,000 and the number of beds provided had been increased to 436. [Annual Reports, Department of Health for Scotland: Sunday Post, 19 Oct 1941]

Aerial photograph of the site taken in 2014 by RCAHMS. The original blocks are to the left of the picture. Bare ground can be seen marking the sites of demolished pavilions at the centre of the site.

Ayrshire Central Hospital continues to provide  young disabled rehabilitation services, and has a number of assessment beds for Elderly Mental Health Services.  In 2010-12 the grade B listed buildings on the site were refurbished and modernised, although one block, the original maternity section, has been demolished.  A new General Outpatient Department and Rehabilitation Centre has been added to the site, and  in 2014 work commenced on a new 206-bed, acute mental health and community hospital for NHS Ayrshire and Arran designed by Lawrence McPherson Associates. Balfour Beatty are the building contractors (they were awarded the contract after ‘a robust procurement process’).[ref 1] Opening is planned for 2016.