Craighouse, Edinburgh: former private asylum, future housing development

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These blue remembered hills… Craighouse in the middle distance, ‘Morningside and Craighouse’ by Pascal Blachier, taken in 2007, imaged licensed under CC BY 2.0

A year ago planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of Craighouse, Edinburgh, latterly the campus of Edinburgh Napier University. The impressive group of Victorian buildings erected in the grounds of Old Craig House were originally a private psychiatric hospital, created as an annex to the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, and possibly the most luxurious private mental hospital ever built in Britain.

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Craighouse, photographed in 2015  © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The hospital closed in the early 1990s and was subsequently bought by Napier University. With a hefty Historic Buildings Grant, the University refurbished the buildings on the site as a new campus. But in 2011 the University took the decision to close the campus. Plans were submitted to redevelop the site for housing. Despite vigorous opposition from heritage bodies and local community groups permission was granted in September 2014. Oberlanders Architects drew up plans for the development for The Craighouse Partnership, which comprise the conversion of New Craig House into 64 homes. New blocks on the site include Kings Craig, a four-storey terrace of town houses, directly to the south of New Craighouse; a similar block, West Craig, in front of Queen’s Craig villa; another on the east of the site, Burton Villa, and a lower block north of New Craighouse, name North Craig. The new buildings, in a style reminiscent to my eye of 1960s university campuses, mimic the colours of the nineteenth century buildings, in the way that always seems to pass muster these days where there is a desire to be sympathetic to the character of existing  buildings. Very often a pointless exercise, as it seldom seems successful.

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Craighouse, photographed in 2015 © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

A year on, the campaign to modify the plans and lessen the impact of the housing scheme continues and work had not yet commenced. The Craighouse scheme makes an interesting comparison with Holloway Sanatorium, Egham – Craighouses’ nearest rival in terms of a private asylum that was highly decorative and lavishly appointed – which was converted into luxury homes in the 1990s.

When Craighouse was newly opened, the architectural photographer Bedford Lemere was commissioned to record the buildings. This photographic record – eerily devoid of people -preserved at the National Monuments Record of Scotland, provides a glimpse of the surroundings that were thought beneficial in curing those suffering from mental illness at the end of the nineteenth century. The photographs reproduced below are of the communal spaces within the hospital – the grandest of these being the Great Hall.

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Great Hall, Craig House photographed by RCAHMS

In 1894, the Journal of Decorative Art quoted: ‘It is one of Dr Clouston’s leading principles that in the treatment of the insane, their surroundings should be made as bright and as pleasant as possible’.

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Great Hall, Craig House, photographed in 1895 by Bedford Lemere, from RCAHMS
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High-level view of the Great Hall (from RCAHMS)
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Another view of the Great Hall (from RCAHMS)
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Detail of fireplace and doorway in the Great Hall, Craig House, photographed in 1895 by Bedford Lemere, from RCAHMS

The hall was designed as an ‘uplifting’ environment for patients. It was used for social functions including musical evenings, theatrical productions and orchestral recitals.

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General view of Craig House (from RCAHMS)
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North elevation of New Craig House, Sydney Mitchell & Wilson, 1889 – the Great Hall is just to the left of the tower – recognisable from the tall venetian window (from RCAHMS)

Other interiors photographed by Bedford Lemere included the dining-room and sitting-room in one of the detached villas beside New Craig House. South Craig Villa, one of three detached villas designed in 1889 by Sydney Mitchell, accommodated 15 female private paying patients, many of whom were accompanied by their personal staff of servants and attendants. The ladies were classified as first- or second-class patients, depending on how much they could afford to pay, and were allocated a dining room accordingly.

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Dining-Room in South Craig Villa, photographed in 1895 by Bedford Lemere from RCAHMS
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A sitting-room in South Craig Villa (from RCAHMS)
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This plan is labelled as South East Villa, New Craig House – but seems to equate to South Craig Villa (from RCAHMS)

There were less formal rooms within New Craig House, the billiard room photographed here could just as easily be from a country house, there is nothing institutional about the room.

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Billiard Room, Craig House, photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
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A sitting-room in Craig House, photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
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A sitting-room in Craig House, photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
The same room, looking the other way, or a similar one? This one also described as a sitting-room in Craig House (from RCAHMS).

The room pictured below may have been belonged to a patients. It is labelled as ‘McGregor’s room’ but I do not know whether McGregor was male or female, a patient or a member of staff.

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identified only as ‘McGregor’s room’, one of the set of photographs of Craig House Clinic taken by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS

Victorian asylums were notorious for their miles of long corridors, in the earlier nineteenth century these were often broad and doubled as day rooms for the patients. The subject of asylum corridors was often hotly debated amongst architects and physicians, perhaps this is why so many of the corridors at Craighouse seem to have been recorded.

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A corridor in Craig House,  photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
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Another, grander, corridor, described as parlour, East Wing corridor, Craig House (from RCAHMS)
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perhaps looking the other way? This is also described as a corridor in East Wing, Craig House (from RCAHMS)
and another corridor in Craig House (from RCAHMS)

Below is a short history of the site extracted from the Edinburgh page of this site.

ROYAL EDINBURGH HOSPITAL, THOMAS CLOUSTON CLINIC, CRAIGHOUSE, CRAIGHOUSE ROAD Old Craighouse dates from 1565, the date appearing over the original entrance doorway. Macgibbon and Ross noted that the house appeared to have been built by the Symsones. A new wing was added in 1746. In 1877 Craighouse estate was purchased by the Royal Edinburgh Asylum and adapted for the accommodation of higher class patients.

Extract from the 2nd edition OS Map revised 1905-6. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

From 1889 to 1894 work on the new buildings was carried out to designs by Sydney Mitchell, these comprised the New Craighouse, East and West Hospital blocks, Queen’s Craig, South Craig and Bevan House. Dr Thomas Clouston was the key figure in the development of Craighouse. He had been appointed as Physician Superintendent to the Royal Edinburgh Asylum in 1873 and in his first Annual Report commented on the state of the buildings:

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Aerial photograph taken by RCAHMS in 2015 of Old Craighouse (top right) and New Craighouse.

As regards our structural arrangements we are undoubtedly behindhand somewhat. We need more accommodation for those who wish the benefits of the institution and can pay high boards… we should be prepared to extend our benefits to the wealthiest …our poorhouses are palatial buildings and in the new asylums for paupers through the country no expense has been spared to make them cheerful and comfortable.

Once Clouston had established patients at Old Craighouse in 1878 he began planning the development of the site in a new and bold way:

Craighouse site affords ample room for many villas of various kinds, surrounding a central block for recent acute cases, kitchens, dining and public rooms. In the construction of these a principle might be adopted which has never yet been fully carried out in asylums, viz of adaptation of each house or part of house to the varied needs and mental conditions of its inhabitants … an asylum so constructed should contain all the medical appliances that would be likely to do good, it should have a billiard room, gymnasium, swimming‑bath and work rooms.

The scheme was long in the forming, in the Annual Report for 1885 Clouston comments that he has been devoting his attention to the principles of construction of hospitals for the better classes of the insane in the last years. He had visited asylums in America and other parts of Britain. In particular the Royal Asylums at Montrose, Dundee, Perth, Glasgow and Dumfries and in England the asylums at Northampton, Cheadle, Gloucester and St Ann’s Health Registered Hospital, the Bethlem Royal Hospital and two private asylums in London. By 1887 Sydney Mitchell had been appointed as architect. Work began in 1889 and the foundation stone of New Craighouse was laid on 16 July 1890 by the Earl of Stair.

There were five principal buildings. The main building or New Craighouse was situated to the west of Old Craighouse and further west again was the west hospital block, Queen’s Craig. To the south of these were the East Hospital, Bevan House and South Craig. New Craighouse was formally opened on 26 October 1894 by the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. South Craig Villa, Bevan House and the Ladies Hospital had already been occupied for some time. The achievement was phenomenal, and on such a vast scale that it remains unrivalled in hospital architecture in Scotland. Variety was the key to the design, variety of style, colour and texture achieved through the finishes, the materials, the varied roof line and every conceivable means. Inside it was sumptuously furnished and fitted up. After 1972 the buildings became the Thomas Clouston Clinic, named after the individual whose personal ideals were embodied in the site. [Sources: Lothian Health Board Archives, Annual Reports of Royal Edinburgh Hospital: RCAHMS, National Monuments Record of Scotland, drawings collection: The Builder, 7 Jan. 1888, p.16; 15 June 1889, p.442; 10 March, 1894, p.203.]

Doecker portable hospitals

In the Hospitals Investigator number 5 the following list of suppliers of temporary hospital buildings was given: Humphrey’s of Knightsbridge;  Boulton and Paul of Norwich; Portable Building Company of Manchester; Hygienic Constructions and Portable Buildings Ltd; Wire Wove Roofing Company of London; G. W. Beattie of Putney; and Kenman and Sons of Dublin. To this list should be added Spiers and Co. of Glasgow, prolific providers of isolation hospitals pretty much throughout Scotland.

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A Doecker hospital hut at Netley Hospital during the Boer War, from Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images http://wellcomeimages.org V0015643

The Hygienic Constructions and Portable Buildings Ltd were the agents for temporary buildings constructed on the Doecker system  invented by Captain Döcker (usually rendered Doecker in English) of the Royal Danish Army. Johann Gerhard Clemens Döcker (1828-1904) first patented his portable building system in 1880. (He filed patents in France and Germany in October 1880,  in Denmark and Austria-Hungary in 1881, in Norway, England, Spain, Belgium, and Italy in 1882;  in Russia, Sweden and Victoria in 1883; and in New Zealand and the United States in 1884.) The full text of the patent he submitted in the United States can be read online here http://www.google.com/patents/US308833.

Three sheets of drawings provided details of his system:

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Sheet 1 from Doecker’s USA patent 1884. [Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov]

‘My improved portable and impermeable structure is composed of a series of light frames which may be made of wood or metal, and for general purposes such frames are polygonal in shape. Each frame a is covered with a sheet of impermeable material,  permanently connected therewith in any suitable manner, as by nailing, riveting, or gluing. Two such frames are permanently hinged together by means of any suitable form of hinge, and a pair of such frames constitute a panel.

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Sheet 2 from Doecker’s USA patent of 1884. [Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov]

‘The frames are hinged together so as to fold inwardly toward each other, so that their covering will not come in contact when folded. I prefer to cover the frames with strips of felt, which may be rendered water-proof either before or after being attached to the frames, and I prefer the latter method, especially when the felt is attached by means of nails or rivets, for the reason that the points of attachment will then be covered by the waterproofing substance applied, and produce water-proof joints, which would not be the case when the felt is applied after being rendered impermeable. This impermeability may be imparted to the felt by any one of the many waterproofing compositions or water and fire proofing compositions, or by means of oil-paints. I prefer to use felt, owing to its density and non-conductive properties, it being better adapted than any other material to shield the occupants of the structure both from heat and cold.’

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Sheet 3 of Doecker’s USA patent of 1884. [Source: United States Patent and Trademark Office, www.uspto.gov]

The term Doecker hospital was sometimes used generally for portable hospital buildings, whether or not they were in fact of Doecker construction. Doecker buildings were largely used on the continent, and in Britain were also used for elementary and open-air schools.  There were two types: strong or light. The strong type were intended asa a substitute for permanent brick or stone buildings, while the light were for temporary and/or portable buildings, which could be put up quickly and cheaply.

For both types the buildings were made in sections roughly 3ft x 3ft (a little less than a metre squared). These sections could be fastened together with iron hooks and studs, allowing for de-construction and re-erection on another site. The strong type comprised timber frames weather-boarded on the outer side and covered on the inside with a composition called ‘Doecker material’ – a non-inflammable, water- and acid-proof. These two layers provided a cavity that was filled with insulating material, though the walls were only 4 1/2 inches thick (about 11 cm). The roof was covered with a flexible and water-proof material (‘ruberoyd’).

The light construction had a lighter frame covered on both sides by Doecker material. The whole building was made in sections, and the packing formed the floor ‘thus saving weight, space, and freight in transit’. No foundations were required, the building sat on adjustable wooden feet. Constructed these light buildings measured 50ft x 16ft (15.24m x 4.8m) and could be erected in one day by unskilled labour. Their insulation properties were commended: ‘Portable hospitals of this construction were used by the German Red Cross Society during the cold of a Manchurian winter in the Russo-Japanese war, and they have also been used in the tropical heat of South-West Africa’.

V0015642 Boer War: the Doecker Hospital Huts at Netley with patients

An image from 1900 of Doecker hospital huts, Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images http://wellcomeimages.org V0015642

Doecker system hospital buildings, along with other prefabricated buildings, featured in H. Franklin Parson’s book Isolation Hospitals, originally published in 1914 and revised in 1922 by R. Bruce Low.

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This hospital pavilion, with is sun-catching angled wards, was a type provided by the Hygienic Constructions and Portable Buildings Ltd, Stockholm Road, South Bermondsey.

The 1922 second edition formed part of a series of books on public health and hygiene (the Cambridge Public Health series) designed to advise those working for the government and the medical profession. It addressed the way in which infectious diseases were contained and treated, and defended the government’s decision to spend a significant amount of money on isolation hospitals. Parsons and Low discussed the most advantageous designs and locations for these institutions, the containment of diseases such as small pox and tuberculosis, and the issues that arose around both the staffing of isolation hospitals and the changing provisions made for those patients affected by severe poverty.

 

 

 

former Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, now Quartermile

The present Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was built in 1996-2002 as a PFI project, to designs by Keppie Design of Glasgow on a large green-field site south-east of the city, close to the A7 at Little France, by Craigmillar Castle, in a large area of open countryside. If you follow the A7 northwards, and cross over the A701, you reach its predecessor on the north side of the Meadows, fronting Lauriston Place.

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Main entrance from Lauriston Place, taken in 1999 (c) Diane King, from the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association collection, RCAHMS
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Architectural perspective showing the north elevation of the infirmary fronting Lauriston Place, from RCAHMS

At the end of May 2004 The Scotsman reported that demolition work had begun on the old Edinburgh Royal Infirmary complex in Lauriston Place to make way for the £400m development. Contractors moved on to the site earlier that week to begin knocking down the Florence Nightingale nurse home, the boiler house and the dermatology ward (known as The Skins). The original developer was Southside Capital, which bought the site from Lothian University Hospitals Trust in 2001, and comprised a consortium with the Bank of Scotland, Taylor Woodrow and the Kilmartin Property Group. Planning permission was granted in December 2003, ‘after a battle with heritage watchdogs’, which included formal objections by Historic Scotland.  By 2009 the development was being undertaken by a joint venture of Gladedale Capital and the Bank of Scotland.

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This aerial photograph was taken in 2007 and shows the empty space where the Simpson Memorial Maternity pavilion and the nurses home formerly stood on the right, from RCAHMS

Quartermile is a mixed development, combining residential and commercial premises over the 19-acre site. The design team was headed by Foster + Partners as the masterplanners and Architects working with Richard Murphy Architects; Hurd Rolland Architects; CDA – Architects and EDAW – Landscape Architects.

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Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in the snow, from the Meadows in the late 1980s. (photograph (c) Harriet Richardson)

After years of adapting itself to the needs of modern medicine, and having enjoyed decades of Crown immunity which enabled additions to be made to the buildings without deference to the usual planning procedures, the Infirmary was a bit of a mess. All these accretions have been cleared away and the ranks of ward pavilions are as imposing and uncluttered as the day they were first completed. But much more than just the clutter of late twentieth century lift towers and sundry infill buildings have been removed, other casualties include the listed Simpson’s Memorial Maternity Pavilion, the Queen Mary Nursing Home and the George Watson’s wing of the Surgical Hospital.

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The same view, pretty much, taken in April 2015. (Photograph (c) Harriet Richardson)

Walking round the site in April this year (2015), there are positive aspects to the works that have been done. Clearing away the accretions around the ward pavilions allows them to be appreciated, with open balconies once more, where residents can sit out and take the air, and communal gardens laid out between the pavilions. The unity of style of the new glass curtain-walled buildings acts as a foil or counter-balance to the stone-built Victorian hospital blocks, retaining the Simpson Pavilion might have interrupted Foster’s flow, but as it was on the edge of the site it could have provided an impressive termination, and provided a gentler transition between the new development and the tenements beyond.

Perhaps the most surprising loss is the eighteenth-century William Adam school building, George Watson’s Hospital, that had been retained by Bryce and about which he had designed his large infirmary complex.

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Plans and elevation of George Watson’s Hospital, William Adam, from RCAHMS

It was not demolished without comment or protest. Even after the protests had failed to keep the building on the site, James Simpson made a plea for the building to be taken down stone by stone so that it might be rebuilt at some distant time.

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The heart of the site today, a cavernous view between grey-glass curtain walls to the back end of the old infirmary admin block, with the clock tower rising beyond. (photograph (c) Harriet Richardson)

The OS map of 1882 shows what was then the recently completed Royal Infirmary on that site designed by David Bryce and built between 1870 and 1879.

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Extract from 2nd Edition OS Map reproduced by permission of National Library of Scotland

It was one of the first in Scotland to adopt the pavilion plan, widely adopted for new hospital buildings from the 1860s. Though it was pipped to the post by the Western Infirmary in Glasgow by John Burnet senior, designed in 1867 and built in 1871-4, Edinburgh’s infirmary was far bigger. The Western Infirmary in Glasgow was hampered by a lack of funds, which both delayed building work and reduced the scale of the project, so that it could only provide 150 beds at first. The new Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh had 600 beds, placed in eight 3-storey ward pavilions, with one large ward per floor.

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This aerial perspective of the infirmary, from RCAHMS,  makes an interesting comparison with the map of 1882 as it makes the hospital look as if it is almost in the middle of the countryside. It is apparently surrounded on all sides by green space, which of course was not actually the case.
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This early photograph from across the Meadows, with its artfully posed sheep, similarly evokes the image of the hospital set in a rural idyl, from RCAHMS

At the heart of the new hospital, Bryce incorporated a part of William Adam’s school building, George Watson’s Hospital, built in 1738 the same year that the previous royal infirmary building was begun to Adam’s designs. It is easily identified on the ground plan below at the centre, being the range that is slightly askew in relation to the alignment of the rest of the buildings. It was adapted to house some of the administrative offices and the hospital chapel. To its north and south the ward pavilions were disported, linked by single-storey corridors, with surgical wards to the north facing Lauriston Place, and the medical section on the south side. What the pavilion plan enabled were the primary requirements of separation and classification. Each ward was a self-contained unit, its occupants having no connection with any other ward, and thus hopefully preventing the spread of infection.

L0011802 Plan of Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, 1893.
Plan of Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, Wellcome Library, London (L0011802). Engraving from H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and asylums of the world, 1893

The ward itself featured windows placed opposite each other to promote the all important cross-ventilation, there were single rooms at the corridor end, which could be fitted up for a patient, the supervising nurse, a ward kitchen and sluice room.

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This photograph shows the interior of one of the top-floor wards, taken during the First World War, c.1917, from RCAHMS

The turrets at the opposite end were to contain water-closets and a bath. These sanitary towers evolved over the second half of the nineteenth century to become ever more separate from the ward itself, with the introduction of a small lobby, again, cross-ventilated, between ward and water-closet. Often a balcony was strung between the towers, offering a small space to sit out for ambulant patients.

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One of the southern, medical ward pavilions photographed in 2015 after conversion to private flats. (photograph (c) Harriet Richardson)

Each pavilion could serve a different classification of patient. As mentioned, here Bryce located the surgical cases to the northern pavilions and the medical cases to the south, further classification allowed men and women to be separated, but the possibilities were endless. It was this adaptability of the plan which made it ubiquitous for almost all types of hospital for decades: in hospitals for infectious diseases the separation was made more complete between the pavilions by omitting the connecting corridors.

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Elevation drawing of 1872 showing the southern medical ward pavilions connected by an arcaded link corridor, from RCAHMS

Despite the apparent vastness of the new Infirmary it was not long before additions and alterations were necessary. Sydney Mitchell & Wilson added a nurses’ home in 1890, the laundry in 1896, and the Diamond Jubilee Pavilion in 1897. In 1900 they designed two new pavilions for ear, nose and throat and ophthalmic patients.

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Drawing of 1896 for additions to the infirmary, this was the Jubilee pavilion and has been retained. It sits alongside the southern ward pavilions on the west side, from RCAHMS
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Photograph from RCAHMS.

 The photograph above is of Sydney Mitchell’s Nurses Home of 1890, fondly known as the Red Home. A courtyard plan, offered an internal garden where the nursing staff could escape for some peace and quiet. It was originally intended to retain this handsome building, but the developers were given permission to demolish. It was argued that the building did not make a positive contribution to the local townscape, as its design, scale and form were out of keeping with neighbouring buildings, including the retained listed buildings. It was also considered to be ‘not a particularly good example of a building by Sydney Mitchell’, the neighbouring Ear, Nose and Throat pavilion being thought ‘a much better example’. More credibly it was claimed that it was not commercially viable to convert it. Demolition was permitted on the grounds that what would replace it would be of high quality and create a local public space at the heart of the site. 

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This is what replaced the Red Home, photographed in February 2015. ( ‘Lines’ by Byronv2 is licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0)

The major addition of the twentieth century was the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion constructed in 1935 to designs by Thomas W. Turnbull, with James Miller acting as consultant. An imposing steel framed building faced with concrete, as was the Florence Nightingale Nurses’ Home which was built at the same time. The Pavilion was officially opened on 1 March 1939.

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The Simpson Memorial Maternity pavilion, photographed around 1940, viewed from the Meadows. Classically elegant, and a sad loss, from RCAHMS
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The monumental nurses’ home built to the rear of the maternity wing, photographed around the time that building work was completed in 1939, from RCAHMS

The Simpson Memorial had its origins in the Edinburgh Lying‑in Hospital which opened in Park Place in November 1793. This was financed by Professor Hamilton and then by his son, James, until his death in 1839. It moved in 1843 and occupied five further sites before becoming the Edinburgh Royal Maternity and Simpson Memorial Hospital, in commemoration of the achievements in obstetrics of Sir James Young Simpson who died in 1870. The resultant building, designed by D. Macgibbon & T. Ross, opened in May 1879 and later became the School of Radiology, at No.79 Lauriston Place. The first ante‑natal clinic in Britain was opened there in 1915 as a result of the work of James Haig Ferguson. After the First World War buildings in Lauriston Park and Graham Street were acquired to try to combat overcrowding but this was not satisfactorily overcome until the new Pavilion was provided in the 1930s.

Pine Trees

The subject of pine trees formed a digression in the second issue of the Hospitals Investigator, and it put me in mind of earlier research that I had done in Scotland where Sanatoria were set amongst pines so that the patients might benefit from terabinthine vapours. Nordrach-on-Dee was one such, later Glen-0-Dee Hospital, near Banchory.

The former Glen-o-Dee Hospital

Forests, Woods and Trees in relation to Hygiene was published in 1919, by Augustine Henry. Here he discussed the latest research into the effects of pine trees in a chapter on ‘Forests as sites for Sanatoria’. Even Pliny, it seems, considered that ‘forests, particularly those which abound in pitch and balsam, are most beneficial to consumptives or to those who do not gather strength after a long illness; and are of more value than a voyage to Egypt’.

In New York patients with tuberculosis were sent to the Adirondack Forest, where they might benefit from the pure and invigorating air. In England the earliest experiments with fresh-air treatment for consumption were made in 1840 by Dr George Boddington, at Sutton Coldfield in Warwickshire and in Ireland by Dr Henry MacCormac of Belfast in 1856. Dr Walther systematised and popularised open-air treatment in the Black Forest with his Nordrach Colonie Sanatorium, which was hugely influential in Britain. Treatment in an alpine sanatorium in Switzerland was beyond the financial reach of most invalids, but pine woods could easily be planted, and already existed in abundance, allowing this form of treatment to be widely replicated.

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I particularly like this dramatic architectural perspective of the West Wales Sanatorium, at Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire, with its fringe of pine trees on the hillside behind. It was designed by E. V. Collier and treated women and children. As built in about 1906, without the side wings, it didn’t look quite so romantic, and the regime within the hospital was equally grim. In 1923 complaints were made that sick girls were made to go out into the surrounding pine forest to saw trees  while kneeling in the snow. [ref: Linda Bryder, Below the Magic Mountain quoted in the New Scientist 14 July 1988 p.63] The Pevsner Guide for Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion published in 2006 describes the building as ‘originally a cheerful Neo-Georgian with red-tiled roofs and green shutters, now very decayed’.

By the early twentieth century the value of the ‘exhalations of turpentine etc’ from Scots Fir trees was being questioned, and instead it was as shelter belts that pine trees continued to play an important role at hospitals. In the second issue of Robert Taylor’s Hospitals Investigator he drew attention to these surviving shelter belts of pines around many of the sites that the Cambridge team visited. It also brought back memories of his own experience of being interned in an isolation hospital as a small child. I remember him telling us that parents were not allowed on the wards, so they would remain outside and could only see their children through the window. At one former isolation hospital he found a shelf under a window, provided so that a parent could kneel on it and see inside.

Here are Robert’s remarks on pine trees:

“In the very first day of fieldwork in Suffolk it was noticed that there was an association between hospitals and pine trees. Tuberculosis sanatoria, cottage hospitals and isolation hospitals all appear with shelter belts; indeed the site of one isolation hospital was completely inaccessible because of the fallen conifers and evergreens. The Beccles War Memorial Hospital appears from amps to have had new planting, and the surviving trees confirm this. Even the isolation hospital where one of us spent a month in 1944 has a belt of pines. It was obviously considered that a shelter belt of conifers afforded a perceptible improvement in the quality of the air. The reasoning behind this seems to smack of black magic and the symbiotic theory of disease, physicians had relatively few methods of cure, and little reliable theory with which to evaluate those methods. A belief in the specific effect of climate was harmless and must have appeared plausible. The first practical application of the theory was at the Royal Sea Bathing Infirmary at Margate in 1791, where consumptives were treated. Nothing more seems to have been done until 1854 when Brehmer believed that he could cure tuberculosis by living in high mountains, and opened an institution in Silesia. The general theory was given a more specific interpretation in 1862 when Dr. L. C. Lane of San Francisco considered that the fragrant smell from the resin of the Sierra Nevada pines was salutary: ‘in chronic pulmonary affections the breathing of such an atmosphere must be productive of a highly salutary influence’. At the same time many people thought that some leaves, particular pine and balsam, are disinfectants, and this idea still lingers with the toilet cleaner industry. In America patients were encouraged to take holidays in areas of differing air; in England that air was brought to the patient by means of sanitary plantations around the hospital, the resinous smell of the trees contribution to the recovery of those within the building. In some cases the hospitals are on such poor soil that birch and conifers are the only sensible trees to plant, as at Ipswich Sanatorium.”

 

Marianbad

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I bought this postcard on ebay the other week, and ever since have been footling about on the internet trying to find out something of the buildings shown here. Marianbad, or Mariánské Lázně, is in the Czech Republic, and was a fashionable spa town in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth – frequented by Edward VII (who opened the town’s first golf course in 1905) and many of his relatives, as well as wealthy Americans.

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from The Washington Post, 18 August 1907, p.11
Marianske_Lazne_CZ_Anglican_church
Marianske Lazne CZ Anglican church, by Jim Linwood (Anglikansky Kostel), Marianske Lazne (Marienbad), Czech Republic. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Amongst the exuberant Rococo hotels and buildings where the health-giving waters could be taken,  there were numerous churches catering for the many visitors of different faiths. Amongst these an Anglican church was designed by William Burges and built in 1879. It was there that after the death of Edward VII a memorial was to be placed, designed by William Lethaby.

It is rather small. But recognisably British, and Burges. I haven’t discovered whether or not the memorial was made and is there. The church was founded by Lady Anna Scott in memory of her husband who died at Marinaded in 1867. The church is now a concert hall.

After the Second World War most of the native German inhabitants were forced to leave, under the terms of the Potsdam agreement. After 1989 many of the buildings were restored and it has once again become a popular tourist destination.  In its heyday it was visited by Goethe, Chopin, Wagner, and Thomas Edison, as well as Prince Friedrich of Saxony, Czar Nicholas II and Emperor Franz Joseph I.

The postcard identifies the buildings as the Sanatorium Kavkaz, (or Maison Balneaire) and seems to date from the 1950s or 60s. More research is required to find out about the architects, and landscape designers (the landscaping was an important aspect of the town) who worked here. Any information would be most gratefully received.