The Adamson Hospital in Fife’s County Town of Cupar is a modest, quietly attractive Edwardian building with a bold modern wing added in 2012. It first opened in 1904, but this was not the beginning of its history. Like so many historic hospitals it had a shaky start, but unusually it began in a fine purpose built hospital erected in the 1870s. Its only fault was location – it was built on the outskirts of the picturesque village of Ceres, about 3 miles to the south of Cupar. Its isolated position and inadequate support from local doctors proved its downfall, it operated for just six years as a hospital and then lay empty until it was acquired by the Leith Fortnightly Holiday Scheme.
Alexander Adamson, after whom the hospital was named, was a manufacturer in Ceres, ‘in the halcyon days of handloom weaving’ (according to the St AndrewsCitizen). He died in 1866 a wealthy man, bequeathing the residue of his estate for the purpose of founding either a school or a hospital in or near Cupar. His seven trustees were personal friends and were mostly from Ceres, and when they decided upon building a hospital, they chose Ceres as its location. Thus the Adamson Institute or Institution as it was variously known was built in 1872-3 to designs by the Cupar architect David Milne. A portrait of the founder, painted by Charles Lees, was to be hung on its walls.
Surviving today, though now converted into private flats, the former Adamson Institution is a handsome building, not obviously a hospital in its outward appearance. This was common enough for cottage hospitals, particularly the earlier ones, which deliberately aimed to present a more domestic appearance than the often dour poor law infirmaries designed with Nightingale-style ward blocks. Cottage hospitals treated a broader spectrum of society, were generally operated by the local general practitioners and sometimes charged a small fee to in-patients. The Ceres building fits neatly into this pattern. Its architect was local, as were the builders and craftsmen who worked on it: the builder was from Ceres, Robert Nicholson, as was the joiner, William Younger; the plumber was Mrs Steele from Cupar; William Bryson of Cupar was the plasterer; Francis Batchelor, the slater, was also from Cupar; the lather, John Burns was from St Andrews as was the bell hanger, James Foulis. 
Just fifteen patients could be accommodated in eight bedrooms, three on the ground floor and five on the first floor, and there was a sitting room on each floor for the use of ambulant patients. The board room was to double as an operating room and there was the usual accommodation for staff and services. Although the building was completed in 1873 and Dr Blair of Strathkinness appointed as its medical officer, it is unclear whether it received any patients in the early years. Dr Blair left the district in 1876, and in 1877 the Trustees were advertising for a nurse, who would also act as a Housekeeper and Cook, for the hospital which was ‘about to be opened’. 
In 1883 the trustees were forced to close the hospital. Various efforts were made by the local authorities to acquire the building as an infectious diseases hospital, but these were rejected by the Adamson Trustees. In 1895 it was leased to the committee of the Leith Fortnightly Holiday Scheme, providing under-privileged town children with a ‘fresh-air-fortnight’. The first fifty children were sent here in July 1896. The building was finally purchased by the Scheme in 1901. (Later it became known as Alwyn House, an employment rehabilitation centre run by the RNIB.)
Meanwhile the need for a cottage hospital in Cupar was becoming increasingly pressing, in particular for cases of severe injury due to accidents. This became critical in 1899 when the place to which accidents or special cases of illness were taken was taken over by the burgh and made into an infectious diseases hospital, closing its doors to all other cases. Other patients had to suffer the long journey to Edinburgh for admission to the Royal Infirmary. Members of Cupar’s Sick Poor Nursing Association were instrumental in finally getting a cottage hospital in the town. In April 1899 they opened a small hospital-come-nursing home at Moat Hill. Pressure was also put on the Adamson Trustees to fulfil their original requirements. The decision to sell the Ceres building to the Leith Holiday Home Committee and buy or rent a building to be called the Adamson Hospital ‘in a more suitable place’ was narrowly voted through at a meeting of the Trustees in February 1901. 
After obtaining plans from three local men:Henry Bruce, David Storrar and Henry Allan Newman, Newman was appointed and work progressed quickly. The contractors for the work were mostly from Cupar or Cupar Muir: J. Stark, mason; Thomas Donaldson, joiner; A. Stewart, plumber; Messsrs M’Intosh & Son, plasterers and slaters; John Randall, painter; C. Edmond, glazer; R. Dott Thomson supplied the grates and A. Douglas of Dundee electric bells. The furnishing was carried out by W & J. Muckersie, the window blinds by Hood & Robertson, both of Cupar. 
The hospital opened in December 1904. There was no formal opening ceremony, but the local press published a sketch of the new hospital after a drawing by the architect, and carried a full description of the building. On the ground floor, to the left of the main entrance, was the female ward and a bedroom and sitting room for the matron, while in the equivalent position to the right was the male ward, the Yeomanry Ward, and an operating room. Kitchens etc were to the rear, nurses’ and staff accommodation in the attic. The Yeomanry Ward was a memorial to members of the 20th Company of the Imperial Yeomanry who served in the Boer War and was paid for by funds raised by Sir John Gilmour. 
Since its opening in 1904 several extensions and additions were made on the site. Most recently in 2011-12 a new health centre was added to the west of the original building and the original hospital reconfigured by JMArchitects for Glenrothes and North East Fife Community Health Partnership (GNEF CHP) with Ogilvie Construction Ltd. This work entailed clearing away some of the later extensions to the hospital.
St Andrews Citizen, 2 March 1901, p.6
Fife Herald, 2 Oct 1873, p.2
Fife Herald, 27 Sept 1877, p.1
Dundee Courier, 27 Feb 1901, p.7
St Andrews Citizen, 12 Nov 1904, p.6
Sources: Fife Health Board: Minute Books: The Courier, 26 Nov 2012: a booklet has been produced by Cupar Heritage on the history of the hospital (which I haven’t yet seen).
Dundee Royal Infirmary closed in 1998, commemorative plaques and other items from the infirmary were transferred to Ninewells Hospital which replaced the infirmary as Dundee’s general and teaching hospital. Since then the original building and the main later additions have been converted into housing, renamed Regents Gardens, completed in 2008 by H & H Properties. The original planning brief for the site was approved before the infirmary had even closed, in 1996. The masterplan was approved in 2000, amended the following year. The architects for the conversion were the local firm of Kerr Duncan MacAllister.
Listed Grade A, the original infirmary, now Regents House, was the last of the former hospital buildings to be tackled. It was reconfigured to provide 63 apartments, with ground-floor flats some having individual main door entrances, and the high-ceilinged flats on the upper two floors featuring galleries looking over the living-rooms. Caird House (listed Grade B, built in 1902-7 as the cancer wing), was turned into 22 apartments and 5 pent-house flats; Dalgleish House, the 1890s nurses’ home, provided 19 apartments; Loftus house, which was originally the Caird Maternity Home and later a nurses’ home, was converted into six town houses; and the small Gilroy House was converted into two houses.
The old wash-house and drying green to the east of the infirmary was built up with housing as part of the redevelopment of the infirmary site. The wash-house itself had been demolished and replaced by the Constitution Campus tower of Dundee College in the 1960s (opened in 1970). By 2015 this was closed and awaiting redevelopment as flats with a cinema, gym, office space etc., known as Vox Dundee (why? who comes up with these names? I’m sure there’s a perfectly good explanation).
Dundee Royal Infirmary was officially opened on 7 February 1855, having been completed towards the end of 1854. It was designed by Coe & Goodwin of London. This building replaced the earlier infirmary built in the 1790s in King Street. By 1849 a committee had been appointed to select a site for the new infirmary and a competition was held for the plans. The eminent medical Professors James Syme and Robert Christison of Edinburgh were consulted in the selection of the winning design, and had also supplied a block plan of the necessary arrangements when designs were first invited. Although 30 sets of plans had been submitted by the summer of 1851, only three were considered acceptable and put on display. The Northern Warder was scathing in its criticism of the majority of the plans, which it thought must have been produced by ‘aspiring joiners’ hoping to win the £50 prize for the winning design.
Coe and Goodwin’s design was for a hospital of three storeys on a U‑shaped plan. It was of the corridor type of plan which was generally current before the introduction of the pavilion‑plan. Indeed, it was built in the declining years of corridor-plan hospitals, lending irony to Professor Syme’s description of it as ‘a model after which institutions similar in kind might well be constructed’. It is a bold essay in the Tudor style applied to a large public building (claimed to be the largest public building in Dundee at that time). David Robertson, a local builder was appointed to erect the building and work was commenced in 1852.
Many extensions were built and sister institutions provided, one of the first was a convalescent home at Barnhill built in 1873-7 (since demolished). Problems associated with the plan had to be rectified – the chief of these being the sanitary facilities. One of the key aspects of pavilion-plan hospitals was the placement of the WCs, sinks and baths in rooms that were separated from the ward by a short lobby with windows on each side. This created a through-draught and was designed to prevent ‘offensive effluvia’ from being carried into the ward – bad smells or miasmas that were believed to cause disease. Plans to improve these and to build a new wash-house and laundry were prepared, and other similar institutions visited so as to provide the best and most up-to-date conveniences.
The plan of Dundee above marks the principal additions built to the north of the original hospital in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These have been retained and converted to housing. To the left is the nurses’ home, built in 1896-7 and named after Sir William Ogilvy Dalgliesh, president of the hospital and benefactor of the University’s Medical School. On the right hand side is the Caird Maternity Hospital, designed in 1897 and opened in 1900, named after its benefactor, the jute baron (Sir) James Key Caird. Though marked here as a maternity hospital it served a dual function, with one block for maternity cases and one for diseases of women; the third, central block contained administrative offices and staff residences. It was designed by Murray Robertson. Caird also funded the cancer wing, built in 1902-7 to designs by James Findlay.
The map above shows the extent of the extensions and additions to the site up to the 1950s, many of these were demolished following the closure of the infirmary. These included an extension to the west rear wing of 1895 providing a new operating theatre. Another building removed was the maternity wing, which had been opened in 1930, erected and equipped by R. B. Sharp and his brother F. B. Sharp of Hill of Tarvit, Fife (pictured below, and labelled maternity hospital on the map above). The architects were D. W. Baxter & Son. After it was built the former Caird Maternity Hospital was turned into nurses’ accommodation. A further addition providing new dispensary and pathology departments was opened in 1935, named the Sir James Duncan building.
Sources: Henry J. C. Gibson, Dundee Royal Infirmary 1798-1948… 1948: Dundee City Archives: The Builder, 23 Aug. 1851, p.529, 16 Oct 1897, p.312; Dundee Courier, 13 April 1895, p.3;10 March 1896, p.6; 11 Dec 1977, p.4; Dundee Evening Post, 9 Dec 1901, p.4; Dundee Evening Telegraph, 13 Sept 1897, p.2: Dictionary of Scottish Architects; Unlocking the Medicine Chest: PGL Forfarshire: The Scotsman, 23 March 1900, p.4; 16 July 1935, p.7:
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.
Recently I have been thinking about the topic of ‘Beauty and the Hospital’ – the subject of a conference being held in Malta next month by the International Network for the History of Hospitals. Specifically, I have been considering hospital architecture, and even more specifically Scottish hospital architecture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I could nominate quite a few candidates for a top ten of beautiful hospital buildings – they might not be to everyone’s liking of course.
Leanchoil Hospital on the outskirts of Forres was one of the first that sprang to mind. For me it is the archetypal cottage hospital, possesses great architectural charm, and resembles a miniature version of the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh – not the present building but the magnificent Victorian building in Lauriston Place designed by David Bryce.
Leanchoil Hospital was designed by the Inverness architect John Rhind. The postcard below hopefully shows something of the similarity to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. The central range with its twin shaped gables contained the main entrance and administrative offices and makes a handsome preface to the square tower rising behind.
On either side the ward pavilions have round Baronial style towers which, as at the ERI and most Victorian pavilion-plan hospitals, contained the WCs. (On the plan below these are labelled ‘offices’ – as in necessary offices.) Originally the terminating turrets of the sanitary annexes neatly rounded off the design, but extensions were added at both ends. The two-storey centre block contained matron’s and surgeon’s rooms either side of the main entrance, with an operation room, kitchen, scullery, larder and stores behind. The upper floor was occupied by bedrooms for the matron, nurses and servants.
Before the cottage hospital was built on the outskirts of Forres, the only available inpatient accommodation in the town was in a small building on Burnside. A public meeting held in 1888 first mooted the possibility of building a cottage hospital in Forres and in the following year John Rhind was asked to provide plans. These were sent to H. Saxon Snell & Son, the pre‑eminent London‑based hospital architects in England at that date, for their comments. However, before they could reply, Rhind had died and H. Saxon Snell took over as architect to the project.
The site chosen for the hospital was to the south-east of Forres, on Chapelton Muir, and extended to 9 ½ acres. It was described as ‘most picturesque and secluded, the trees in rear of the building sheltering them from East winds and forming an excellent background to a noble pile of buildings’. This ‘noble pile’ blends Baronial and Jacobean details to produce a lively façade, dominated by the central square tower. The general features of the building and overall design are probably the work of Rhind rather than Snell, but Snell would undoubtedly have ensured that the small wards were provided with sanitary annexes separated from the wards by properly cross‑ventilated lobbies and other similar details.
Funds for the hospital were donated by Sir Donald Alexander Smith (later Lord Strathcona), who was born in Forres but settled and made his fortune in Canada. In 1888 he offered £5,000 for the erection of the hospital and in 1891 he promised to grant a further £3,000 once the buildings were completed. At that point the estimate for building work stood at just short of £7,000, which the governors considered ‘more than it was advisable to spend’. It was decided to take tenders for just the main building – these came in at £4,900. Building work was superintended by H. M. S. Mackay of Elgin, with Mr Dorrell, as the Clerk of Works.
The hospital was unofficially opened at the end of April 1892, when the matron, Miss Gertrude Seagrave, who had previously served at Ashford Cottage Hospital, in Kent, moved in (quite a move, from Kent to Moray), and the first patients were admitted.
The broad corridors on either side of the central block each had a bay half way along creating a small day-room for convalescent patients. The wings contained two wards each, one with four the other with two beds, with a nurse’s room and bath-room between them. The wards were heated by ventilating stoves, especially designed for this building, and the floors were laid with hard Canadian maple, wax-polished. The detached building to the rear of the hospital contained a wash-house and laundry, ambulance house and mortuary.
At the Annual General Meeting of the Governors held in January 1898, the chairman of the governors, Sir George Campbell Macpherson Grant commented on the largest expenditure of the previous year – some £500 on the site and railings. Perhaps anticipating criticism, he endorsed the expenditure, as money well spent: ‘…as that had brought the grounds into keeping with the hospital, and nothing tended to promote recovery more than beautiful scenery.’
Stanley Howe, who took the lovely photograph above and posted it on Geograph, noted the stone plaque over the window, inscribed ‘The gift of Campbell MacPherson Grant of Drumduam, 1890’. ‘Mais pourquoi?’, he asked. As noted above, Campbell MacPherson Grant was the chairman of the governors, and was one of many who gave generously to fund the building and endowment of the hospital.
Of later additions to the site, the maternity wing blends its modern style sympathetically with the old, by using the same tone of materials and keeping the wing to a single storey. It was built after a gift of £17,000 was made by Lady Grant of Logie in January 1939, though plans for the wing had been discussed since at least 1935 along with the general modernisation of the building and the addition of a nurses’ home. In November 1938 work had been completed to extend the wards and add sun rooms. The maternity wing was completed in 1940.
[Sources: H. C. Burdett in Cottage Hospitals, general, fever and convalescent… 3rd edition, 1896, p.262: Dundee Advertiser, 2 June 1892, p.3: Aberdeen Press and Journal, 22 Jan 1891, p.6;2 Feb 1892, p.6; 28 Jan 1898, p.7; 27 May 1935, p.5: Inverness Courier, 29 April 1892, p.5: Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 14 Dec 1939, p.3.]
In 2016 the Royal Hospital for Sick Children was put up for sale, well in advance of its scheduled move to its new home alongside the Royal Infirmary at Little France. When the Sciennes Road buildings are finally vacated it will mark the end of more than 120 years on that site. But the foundation is even older, having started out in 1860 in a house in Lauriston Lane with just eight beds. A Royal charter was granted in 1863 when the hospital moved to nearby Meadowside House. This provided more beds (around 40, although accounts vary) and a separate fever ward for infectious cases. The conversion of the house into a hospital was undertaken by the architect David Macgibbon. A new wing was built in 1870 providing a further 30 beds.
The map above shows the block behind the hospital that housed the hospital laundry and ‘dead house’. In November 1884 there were calls from the Ladies’ Committee to provide a separate mortuary so that the ‘dead house’ need no longer serve as both mortuary and post-mortem room: ‘…not only are the feelings of Mothers and relations shocked by seeing the necessary surroundings when taken to see the bodies of their little ones, but the combination of the two purposes in one room has a hardening effect on the nurses…'
It was found that a coal house might be converted without any great expense. At first the mortuary was intended to be quite plain, but in February 1885 the hospital secretary wrote to the newly established Edinburgh Social Union with a request for it to be decorated. The Social Union was already active in providing decoration for the Fountainbridge Dispensary and the Children’s Shelter in the city. In April Phoebe Traquair was entrusted with the decoration of the mortuary chapel. The tiny space, just 12 feet by 8 feet, was adorned by murals, painted directly on to the plaster. A study for the original scheme is in the National Gallery in Edinburgh.
Just five years later the future of this jewel-box of a mortuary chapel was under threat, when an outbreak of typhoid in 1890 prompted a temporary relocation to Plewlands House at Morningside. The managers then decided that Meadowside House was no longer suitable and a new building was required. They purchased Rill Bank House, then occupied by the Trades Maiden Hospital, and on the site erected the present building in 1892-5 to designs by by George Washington Browne, a leading architect in Edinburgh. Washington Browne also designed other public buildings including the Edinburgh City Library. The old site, being right next to the Royal Infirmary, was readily disposed of to the Infirmary managers who wished to acquire additional land for their planned extensions. Neither the Royal Infirmary nor the Sick Children’s Hospital had any wish to preserve the murals in the mortuary chapel. The fact that they had been painted directly on to the wall surface made their preservation problematic at the very least.
At first it was simply planned to demolish the mortuary chapel along with the rest of Meadowside House. Phoebe Traquair wrote to her nephew in August 1891, angry and distressed at the proposed destruction. She blamed the directors of the hospital ‘the horrid Edinburgh little handful of bigots’, and could not see why the whole structure could not be ‘raised bodily from its foundations’ and moved to a new position. There was enough support for the preservation of the chapel to grant it an initial stay of execution, but it was only once the new hospital was nearing completion, three years later, that Washington Browne managed to negotiate an agreement between the hospital directors and the Social Union to move the murals to the new building. This agreement put the responsibility squarely upon the Social Union to manage and pay for the removal.
The new Sick Children’s Hospital was officially opened by Princess Beatrice on 31 October 1895. It was built of bright red sandstone, with a tall three‑storey and attic central block rising to twin, shaped gables, and an ornate triumphal-arch doorpiece. The style was ‘based upon the English Renaissance’, according to The Scotsman, where the new building was described in detail.
The hospital was designed on a U‑shaped plan with central administration section. The main entrance at the centre gave onto a broad corridor running the length of the building, and which gave access to the ward pavilions at either end. These were of three stories, terminating in balconies between turrets housing the sanitary facilities – sinks, baths and WCs. Each ward had 24 beds, arranged in pairs between the windows, and was a lofty 15ft high, with its own kitchen and services. In addition there was a spare ward on the upper floor of the east wing with 16 beds and a smaller four-bed observation ward, plus two single-bed isolation rooms, on the upper floor of the west wing.
The administration section contained two lecture theatres, one on the ground floor one on the first, fitted with galleries for students and demonstrating platform tables, lit by large north-facing oriel windows. Rooms were provided for resident doctors, honorary visiting physicians and the matron. There was also a board room, a small museum, dispensary, ophthalmic room, staff dining-room, nurses’ sitting-room, and, on the upper floors bedrooms for the nursing staff. Domestic staff had accommodation in the attics.
Reinstallation of the mortuary chapel murals proved almost impossible, and in the end only fragments were able to be saved. Some that were moved turned out to be too thick to be incorporated in the new chapel, as they included the sawn-through bricks that had been plastered and then painted. Others were more successfully moved, where the painted plaster rested on laths, but were badly cracked and damaged during the move. Phoebe Traquair carried out their restoration, but it became by and large a complete repainting following the underlying design. The new mortuary chapel was also larger, and so the artist painted new decoration to fill the gaps between the relocated panels. 
Hopefully, when the hospital moves again, modern technology will enable the murals to be transferred to the new site without losing any of them, and without them sustaining any damage. Hopefully, too, the present managers of the hospital are more keen to preserve them than their forebears were.
After the hospital opened in Sciennes Road in 1892, various additions were made and the hospital slowly expanded into the surrounding houses. In 1903 Washington Browne added an out‑patients’ department in Sylvan Place, and in 1906-9 Muirfield House at Gullane was built as a convalescent home (see separate entry in Lothian).
The hospital was extended from 1959 with a new lecture hall and operating theatre designed by Cullen, Lochhead & Brown of Hamilton, a well established firm in hospital design.
For the new hospital, due to open in 2018, the designs were drawn up by HLM Architects. It is of five storeys over a basement with its main entrance opening into an atrium. Beyond are the main hospital, with around 154 beds, and a new department of clinical neurosciences, with a further 67 beds, as well as a small mental health service unit for children and adolescents. There is also to be a family hotel – a free place to stay for families of patients. 
LHSA, RHSC Minutes, meeting of committee of Management, 6 Nov 1884, quoted in Elizabeth S Cumming, PhD Thesis ‘Phoebe Anna Traquair, HRSA )1852-1936) and her Contribution to Arts and Crafts in Edinburgh’, University of Edinburgh, 1986
Mins of Edinburgh Social Union 17 Feb 1835 – Edinburgh Public Library YHV 250 E235, quoted in E. Cumming Thesis
NLS MS 8122 fols 10,11, quoted in E. Cumming Thesis
LHSA, mins HH 69/1/2, quoted in E. Cumming Thesis 5. The Scotsman, 18 Oct 1892 p.5
E. Cumming, Thesis 7. Edinburgh Evening News, 21 April 2014
Further reading and other sources: Caledonian Mercury, 18 May 1863, p.2: The Builder, 1 Jan. 1898: LHSAStory of the ‘Sick Kids’ Hospital: Guthrie, D Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children, 1860 – 1960, 1960:see nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk
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
Practically no trace now remains of Belvidere Hospital, a large housing estate having been built on the site. The Belvidere once played a key role in protecting the population of Glasgow from the ravages of infectious diseases, including smallpox. The hospital was built on the most up-to-date plan, and took shape over a prolonged period of construction beginning with temporary wooden huts that were later replaced by brick buildings.
Epidemics of infectious diseases were amongst the major threats to life to the urban poor, living in the overcrowded districts of the rapidly expanding and industrialising city. Although the parochial authorities made some provision for paupers, this was very limited and strictly speaking only paupers were eligible for admission. From 1862 local responsibility for public health in Glasgow rested with the Board of Police, and it was under their auspices that a temporary fever hospital was built in Parliamentary Road in 1865. Proximity to the centre of population and a restricted site rendered the hospital inadequate in the face of a severe epidemic of relapsing fever in 1870. As a result, Belvidere House and its 33 acre estate were purchased to provide a site for a permanent fever hospital.
The original house was built by John M’Call, a leading merchant of Glasgow, who died there in 1790. It then passed to his son-in-law Robert M’Nair, a sugar-refiner, who sold up in 1813 to Mungo Nutto Campbell. Campbell sold it on around 1820 to David Wardrop who exploited the coal on the estate, and over the following decades the house and grounds were passed from one industrialist to another. (See The Glasgow Story for more on the history of the house and a photograph by Thomas Annan taken in 1870.)
John Carrick, the Glasgow City Architect, was responsible for drawing up plans for the new hospital. The first ‘ temporary shed’ was occupied on 19 December 1870. Eight timber pavilions were planned, four had been finished and partially occupied by Christmas, and two were expected to be completed before New Year.
In 1871 it was decided to build a separate smallpox hospital at Belvidere. Great lengths were taken to ensure that the most up-to-date features were incorporated in the design and many other hospitals were visited to this end, including the Herbert Hospital in London ‘reputed to be the finest specimen of a pavilion hospital in existence’. The local press had called for the design of the new hospital to reflect ‘the experience and results of modern science’, hoping that the authorities would not adopt the ‘old style of building tall structures’ but rather would follow the model of the recent temporary blocks at Parliamentary Road built on the pavilion principle ‘so strongly advocated by Miss Nightingale, and by writers on the subject of hospital accommodation’. The ‘temporary’ hospital blocks at Parliamentary Road were anticipated to last for around twenty years. There were those in the medical profession who considered that after occupation for that period of time all hospitals should be remodelled, if not entirely razed and rebuilt.
Nothing seems to have been done immediately but in 1874 plans were drawn up for the new permanent structures. Five single-storey, brick ward pavilions were built, though still described as ‘partially erected ‘ in December 1875, as well as the necessary ancillary buildings. These works were completed in 1877. The pavilions were aligned roughly north-south, and each was divided into four wards, two for acute cases in the centre, two for convalescents at the ends. The flooring was of close-jointed oak, the inner walls coated with Keen’s cement and the wards warmed by hot-water pipes and open fires. Roof-ridge ventilators (Boyle’s) were a distinctive feature on the outside of the buildings.
To the south-east was a large wash-house. Matrons’ and medical superintendent’s houses and dormitories for the nurses occupied a position at the north-east corner of the grounds, close to which was the morgue. The original kitchen block stood opposite the north end of the central pavilion, it was surmounted by a small spire, which also served as a bell tower and clock. It was designed to minimise contact between the kitchen staff and the nurses: a platform under a verandah on the southern side of the kitchen allowed the nurses to receive the food which was served through a window.
The grounds were laid out into plots of shrubs and flowers by Mr M’Lellan, the Superintendent of Glasgow city parks. The team working alongside the architect were James Hannah, clerk of works; John Porter, builder; William Lightbody, joiner; Robert Nelson, plasterer; Wallace & Allan, plumbers and gas-fitters; John M’Ouatt & Sons, slaters; and James Comb & Son, heating engineers.
In 1879 work began on permanent buildings to replace the temporary sheds of the fever hospital on the south-east side of the site. Four brick pavilions were built to begin with. In 1882 the Medical Officer for Health in Glasgow, J. B. Russell, produced a ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, which resulted in the further expansion of the site. Russell’s memorandum itemised the requirements for a large infectious diseases hospital and considered various details of its construction.
Over the course of the next five years pavilion after pavilion was added until there were thirteen altogether, providing 26 wards and a capacity for 390 patients. In addition there were ancillary buildings, providing kitchens and laundries etc, so that the hospital was as self-sufficient as possible, thus limiting the number of visitors to the site. The extended hospital was officially opened on 4 March 1887.
The simple polychrome of thin, horizontal bands of white amongst the red bricks created a streaky bacon effect. This unusual construction for hospital buildings in Scotland gave them a utilitarian air reminiscent of Glasgow’s industrial buildings.
In contrast to the polychrome-brick of most of the buildings, stone was used for the large administration block, which also contained the nurses home, recreation hall and senior staff residences. It was a large, somewhat austere building erected on the site of the original Belvidere house. The central range was designed as an echo of the house it replaced.
In 1929 a house was provided for the Medical Superintendent and a new observation ward was opened in 1930. After the inception of the National Health Service in 1948 various additions were made and changes in function introduced. Two important developments at Belvidere were the opening of the first Cobalt Therapy Unit in Scotland in February 1961 and in March 1973, the opening of the second Neutron Therapy Unit in Britain.
The hospital closed in 1999. After years of neglect the derelict buildings were mostly demolished in 2006 – all except the administration block and nurses’ home. Hypostyle Architects acting for Kier Homes Ltd designed the masterplan for the site development. Divided into three zones: high density urban blocks, urban terraced housing, and low density sub-urban housing. The high density section nearest the London Road comprises four-storey blocks of flats and three-storey town houses. The terraced housing, of two stories, creates a buffer zone between the flats and the low-density housing on the south side of the site. Original plans to convert the listed admin block were subsequently scrapped and permission granted to demolish the remaining shell of the central block for more low-density housing. The original master plan was for 351 residential units: 145 flats, 115 townhouses and 91 houses.
Glasgow Herald, 24 Dec 1870 p.3;22 Nov 1875, p.5;3 July 1877 p.2; 5 March 1887, p.9: Strathclyde Regional Archives: Account of Proceedings at Inspection of New Hospital for Infectious Diseases erected at Belvidere, 1877: J. B. Russell, ‘Memorandum on the Hospital Accommodation for Infectious Diseases in Glasgow’, 1882: ‘Report of proceedings at Official Inspection…’, 1887 Corporation of City of Glasgow, Municipal Glasgow, Glasgow, 1914: The Builder, 4 Dec 1875, p.1083; British Architect, 22 July 1887, p.70: Hypostyle Architects website
The 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.
I was delighted to receive three booklets this week from an ongoing series produced by the History of Highland Hospitals project set up in 2008. The first to be published was The Hospitals of Skye in 2011. Written by Jim Leslie and his son Steve, this slim volume provides a detailed history of the seven hospitals known to have existed on the island: the Skye Poorhouse, Portree and Ross Memorial Hospitals in Portree; Gesto Hospital, Edinbane; Martin Memorial Hospital, Uig; Mackinnon Memorial Hospital, Broadford, and a tiny smallpox hospital at Stein.
The buildings have been thoroughly researched, there are plentiful illustrations and the text is fully referenced with end-notes and footnotes. The stories of the hospitals and the poorhouse are written engagingly with an emphasis on their social history. This is mostly concerned with the staff and founders of the hospitals, but there are also details of patient numbers, including the detail that Gesto Hospital, in 1912, was reported as being full, and amongst the patients was a Welsh tramp with a broken leg in the attic.
I have had an enjoyable weekend up-dating the entries on the Highlands page of this website, adding in new information and correcting a few errors that I had made. Portree hospital, pictured above, had been extended since I visited it in the 1980s. It was built in the 1960s, and had a wonderful almost Art Deco-style bowed entrance porch with a port-hole window, but this has been altered and its character lost (I don’t think portholes on the door make up for the loss). Otherwise it is an endearing building and an early example of an entirely new NHS hospital.
The Gesto Hospital closed in 2007 and has stood empty ever since. As Carol Walker comments on her photograph above – what a pity! I hadn’t realised that the harling was not original – the book contains a photograph of the building from the 1920s (it is also on the front cover of the book) showing the exposed masonry with its neat cherry-caulking. As to the Stein Smallpox Hospital, that was completely new to me – a prefabricated Speirs & Company building that was never actually used and was only in existence between 1905 and about 1919.
As the Leslies’ book was published five years ago there have been some further developments in the lives of these buildings. I was sorry to see that plans were passed last year by the Highland County Council to demolish the old poorhouse – built in 1859 and designed by William Joass, an architect about whom I should like to learn more. The poorhouse had never been heavily used, and was turned into a hostel for school children in the 1930s (the Margaret Carnegie Hostel).
The John Martin Hospital at Uig was a youth hostel in 2011, but was closed and sold off around 2013, while the Ross Memorial Hospital, which had been turned into an arts centre in the 1980s and had closed in 2007, has since been remodelled and extended to become the new West Highland College, opened in 2013 as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands.
There are currently two community hospitals on Skye, at Portree and Broadford (the Mackinnon Memorial). A new health centre was built next to the Mackinnon Memorial Hospital in 2012 by the NHS Highlands Estates Department. I rather like the health centre. It reminds me of a boat-house or perhaps even a smoke-house, though that might not have been what the architects were aiming for. In 2014 plans were announced to build a new community hospital on the island at Broadford with a reduction in services at Portree, sparking a ‘Save Portree Hospital’ campaign (there is to be a protest march on 20 June, if you feel like joining in). It seems likely that the Portree hospital building will be replaced. I hope that it will not share the same fate as the former poorhouse.
J. C. Leslie and S. J. Leslie, History of Highland HospitalsThe Hospitals of Skye, 2011, Old Manse Books, Avoch, Scotland ISBN 978-0-9569002-0-3 £5