The other day I was searching through boxes of old photographs and came across a bundle of colour negatives which turned out to be photographs that I had taken of the Royal Alexandra back in 1988. It would have been great to have had them when I wrote the blog post on the former Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Paisley back in December 2016, but better late than never! I would be the first to admit that the photos are for the most part pretty terrible, and scanning the negatives may not have improved them. However, I thought it would be worth sharing them in a new post.
The Royal Alexandra Infirmary was built between about 1894 and 1902, to designs by the architect T. G. Abercrombie. Above is a detail of the ends of two of the ward blocks with their semi-circular sun balconies. The square tower to the right housed the WCs and wash-hand basins. These ‘sanitary towers’ were typical adjuncts to the ends of Victorian hospital ward pavilions. Often there were a pair of towers with a simple balcony strung between them – as at St Thomas’s Hospital in London or the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s Lauriston Place buildings (now the Quartermile development).
The photographs above and below show the main east front the infirmary. You can just glimpse the balconies of two more ward pavilions behind on the top photograph, and on the right the circular ward tower. This main range has been converted into private flats, and re-named Alexandra Gate. Back in 1988 the hospital had not long closed. It was replaced by the new Royal Alexandra Hospital, off Craw Road to the south west. That was built roughly on the sites of the former Riccartsbar Hospital and the Craw Road Annexe.
Circular wards are very rare in Britain. There was a brief fashion for them around the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries. I think the only other one built in Scotland was in Kirkcaldy at the old cottage hospital there – long since demolished. I have an old postcard that shows the hospital which you can find on the Fife page of this site. At the apex of the roof of the ward tower is a lantern or cupola that was part of the ventilation system. They feature along the ridge of the ward pavilions and atop the sanitary towers. It is not uncommon to find this kind of decorative treatment of a functional element, such as the ventilation system, in hospital architecture of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
I barely remember visiting the site – let alone having managed to get access to the interior, but here are two snaps of the interior of the circular ward. Rather gloomy I’m afraid, but hopefully you get an impression of what it was like.
You can see the rails from which the bed curtains would have been hung. That will have been a post-war addition. Originally the beds would not have had individual curtains. The idea of providing patients with privacy became much more important after the foundation of the National Health Service, when free hospital treatment became available to everyone. Previously charitable hospitals, or voluntary hospitals, such as the Royal Alexandra were designed to provide free treatment for the poor. Wealthy patients were either treated at home, in a private nursing home or a paying patients wing of a voluntary hospital. By the 1920s and 1930s different standards of hospital accommodation for the poor and the well off were common, sometimes even in the same institution.
The Nurses’ Home was as grand as the hospital itself, with a rich array of decorative elements. It is Scottish Baronial in style, with turrets and crowstepped gables, although the tall chimneys, dormer windows and this broad arched entrance have some of the sinuous elegance that is typical of Glasgow’s late 19th and early 20th century buildings. This is particularly evident in the sculptural elements, such as the female head on the keystone over the entrance.
The Nurses’ Home is one of the survivors on the site, having been converted into flats. It is named after Peter Coats, who had paid for its construction. Coats was one of the brothers that owned the great thread manufacturing company in Paisley; Peter managed the company’s finances. The nurses’ home was built before the hospital itself, and was opened 1896. There is an inscription round the archway which reads ‘They brought unto him sick people and he healed them’, and the two shields are carved with the thistle and the rose. The hospital replaced an earlier infirmary in the town, located near Bridge Street by the river, which had originated with a dispensary for the poor in the late 18th century.
The two images above of nurses’ home show the transformation from abandoned and boarded up building to well-cared for flats. It is particularly good to see that the original small-paned glazing has been either kept or reproduced, and the tall chimneys preserved. .
The former entrance range to the infirmary has been converted for use as a nursery. It originally housed a dispensary and opened in 1902. The gate piers are very striking, the banded stonework picks up on the chunky banded pilasters flanking the gabled bays of the lodge. There is another fine stone gateway that used to lead in to the south of the infirmary site further down Neilston Road, that now gives pedestrian access to the flats that have been built there.
If you explore Google maps on street view for the old infirmary you can tour round most of the buildings, and really get a sense of how those that have not been converted into flats decayed between about 2011 and 2019, and obviously how much more ruinous it has become since the late 1980s.
Netherlea Hospital has been demolished. This is a slightly revised post from 2017.
In March 2017 the Dundee Courier announced plans to demolish the former Netherlea Hospital in Newport, Fife, and replace it with a development of luxury houses and flats. Planning permission was granted in August 2018, and work clearing the site was underway in February 2019. The Law Property Group, on behalf of the developers, suggested that the development would be attractive to locals wishing to downsize. But with the upper price of £650,000 this seems disingenuous. A local councillor was quoted as being ‘surprised’ by the proposed price range. On a development promising between 35 and 45 homes, the cheapest property, a two-bed flat, would cost £275,000.
Netherlea was built as a domestic villa, for the local shipowner, Andrew Leitch, in about 1893 to designs by the Dundee architect Thomas Martin Cappon. It is a large red sandstone building in simple Tudor style, of two storeys and attics, with stick on half-timbering in the gables.
Andrew Leitch was a prominent figure in Dundee, and was particularly associated with the development of the harbour. Born in Fife, he started out as a colliery clerk, later moving to Dundee as the agent for Halbeath Colliery. From there he progressed to being a coal merchant, then exporter, also establishing the Dundee Loch Line Steam Shipping Company. He married in 1859 Isabella Thomson, with whom he had eleven children. She died, at Struan Inn, Banks of Garry, following a carriage accident in July 1897. Andrew Leitch remarried when he was sixty years old in 1902. His second wife, Janet Elizabeth née Smith, became a notable local figure, a supporter of women’s rights, the National Union of Women Workers and many philanthropic causes. She was also the first woman to be elected to the local School Board in Newport. She died in 1913, and her husband outlived her by just three years.
In 1917 the contents of the house were auctioned, at that time the house comprised: drawing-room, parlour, dining room, billiard room and hall, 10 bed and dressing-rooms, as well as laundry and kitchen apartments. By 1936 Netherlea was the home of David Hamilton Brackenridge, who, like Leitch, was a member of the Dundee Harbour Trust. Brackenridge was born in Cupar in 1871, and was educated at Madras College, St Andrews, and Dundee High School. He spent 21 years in Calcutta as representative of the Dundee jute merchants, J. C. Duffus & Company. On his return from India he became the local agent for Duffus. He died at Netherlea in January 1939 and a month later his widow had put the house up for sale. The accommodation was listed as comprising: on the ground floor, four public rooms, billiard room, cloakroom and lavatory, kitchen and usual offices; on the first floor, five bedrooms, two bathrooms and maids’ sitting-room and bathroom; on the second floor, three maids’ bedrooms and box room. It also had a modern garage, greenhouse and outhouses, was in excellent condition, electrically fitted throughout, and the grounds tastefully laid out.
Presumably the house failed to find a buyer, the contents were sold about a year later, but in 1945 Netherlea was offered to Fife County Council, and its future as a hospital discussed by the Public Health Committee. Before then, during the Second World War, it had been occupied by officers of the Norwegian Air Force. It became a maternity hospital under the NHS with 17 beds, an isolation room and nursery, plus 13 staff bedrooms, the conversion to a hospital was carried out by the architect Frank Pride, of Walker and Pride to plans drawn up in 1946.
Although officially opened on 21 July 1948, by the end of September it had yet to admit any expectant mothers. Lieutenant Colonel Noel Baxter of New Gilston, the county convenor for the East Fife Hospital Group Board of Management, visited the hospital expecting it to be up and running and was shocked to find this was not the case. Although Netherlea had a doctor, matron and nursing staff, it could not open to patients because there was no cook. Until one could be appointed, patients were being sent to Dundee, Perthshire or even Edinburgh – ‘all over the shop’ according to the County Medical Officer of Health. It opened not very long afterwards, presumably once a suitable cook had been found.
In 1974 Netherlea became a long-stay hospital for the elderly. Designated a community hospital in 1997, it closed in 2011. Since then it has been boarded up and its condition steadily deteriorated. There were some who wished to see the building retained, but despite its significance in the local history of the area, it will soon be demolished.
Sources: Dundee Advertiser, 3 Feb 1893, p.5: St Andrew’s Citizen, 17 July 1897, p.8: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 10 May 1916, p.2; 4 June 1936, p.5; 30 Jan 1939, p.5, 4 Sept 1945, p.8:Dundee People’s Journal, 13 May 1916 p.8, has a photograph of Andrew Leitch: Dundee Courier, 5 Dec 1913, p. 6;17 April 1917, p.1: 30 Dec 1931, p.8; 24 March 1939, p.16; 28 Sept 1948, p.2: The Courier, 31 March 2017
The cottage hospital at Oban was founded by a wealthy widow, Mrs Agnes Parr of Killiechronan, Mull, and was officially opened by her in September 1896. A competition was held for the design, which was won by the Oban-based architect and engineer George Woulfe Brenan.
Agnes Parr had first offered £2,000 to build a cottage hospital for Oban in 1892. Such a hospital was much needed. In the 1880s an article in the influential journal The Hospital noted that Oban was not only the destination of thousands of tourists and pleasure-seekers, but the head-quarters of the fishing industry on the north-west coast, and it was to Oban that accidents at sea were most frequently brought. The only local institution for accident cases or the sick was the local poorhouse, so most patients made the long and uncomfortable journey to Glasgow.
In 1890 it seemed that Oban was to have its cottage hospital. Plans were prepared by Robert Mortimer of Westminster for an L-shaped building, funds having been provided by an anonymous donor. But two years later the Glasgow Evening Post noted that the scheme had apparently fallen through. Perhaps Agnes Parr had been involved in the earlier scheme, or was prompted by the failure of the earlier plan to take up the cause. At that point she was recently widowed, her husband, Thomas Philip Parr, having died in October 1891 at their London home in Upper Belgrave Street, Westminster, leaving her a substantial fortune.
Progress on the revised scheme was less than rapid. The plans by Robert Mortimer were laid aside and a competition held for new designs. It took a few years to raise additional funds to provide an endowment to cover the hospital’s running costs, but finally the new hospital was completed in 1896.
Colonel Edward Malcolm of Poltalloch presided over the opening ceremony. He noted that the hospital committee had considered twenty-three different schemes for the hospital. The architectural competition was supposed to be anonymous, but, as so often was the case, it was won by a local architect. The hospital had two wards with five beds in each and two private wards. The plans also allowed for subsequent enlargement ‘to a considerable extent’, with the minimum of interference with the design. Heating and ventilation were supplied by E. H. Shorland & Brother of Manchester in the form of their patent grates, exhaust roof ventilators and inlet tubes.
Woulfe Brenan’s plans for enlargement were soon required, with the work put out to tender in June 1898. Further extensions were carried out in 1911 and 1934‑6, the latter by Lake Falconer who had taken over Woulfe Brenen’s practice. The 1930s work comprised an extension of one of the existing wards to provide a further six beds, and nurses’ accommodation. Lord Trent of Ardnamurchan declared the new wing open in June 1936, remarking that the hospitals was now so comfortable that illness or convalescence was now ‘almost a pleasant thing’.
It was at the West Highland Cottage Hospital that Unity Mitford died in May 1948. She had been taken ill at Inch Kenneth, and when her condition worsened she was taken across to Mull, but having missed the ferry to Oban undertook a five hour journey on a motorboat, arriving at the hospital at one in the morning. She died a few hours later.
The hospital closed in 1995, a year short of its centenary. It was replaced by the Lorn & Islands District General Hospital (Reiach and Hall, architects), as were the other small local hospitals: Dalintart, the Mackelvie, the County hospital, and the maternity hospital at Gleneuchar House. A small group of houses now stands on the site, on Polvinster gardens.
For more information on the hospitals in Oban and the surrounding area see Argyll and Bute
H. C. Burdett (ed.), Hospitals and Charities Year Book, 1925: Campbeltown Courier and Argyll Herald, 26 Sept. 1896: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 19 Sept 1896, p.2: Glasgow Evening POst, 4 March 1892, p.4: Edinburgh Evening News, 6 May 1893, p.2: The Scotsman, 19 Sept 1896, p.6: The Hospital, 18 Dec 1886, p.201:16 Aug 1890, p.296: British Architect, 17 July 1896: Building News, 24 June 1898, p.909: Scotsman, 15 July 1933, p.11: Dundee Courier, 15 May 1934, p.4: Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, 19 June 1936, p.7
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 future of this fine old building is under threat. It has stood empty for many years and there are fears that it may be demolished, despite its important place in the local history of Grantham and in the wider history of hospital architecture in England.
A day of public celebration, parade and partying accompanied the ceremony of laying the foundation stone of Grantham Hospital on 29 October 1874. The band of the Royal South Lincoln Militia lead a procession, followed by the architect and builder, local dignitaries, and interested parties, that marched from Grantham Guildhall to the site of the new hospital on the Manthorpe Road to the north of the town centre.
Countess Brownlow, who was closely associated with the project from its inception, conducted the actual ceremony, once she had listened to an address by the chairman of the building committee, a short service by the Vicar, and been presented with a silver trowel. A public luncheon was given at the Guildhall presided over by Earl Brownlow. Tickets for this event could be purchased for 2s 6d. Earl Brownlow and his wife donated funds towards the hospital and took an interest in the plans, and the Earl of Dysart gave £1,000 to the building fund. [Grantham Journal, 24 Oct 1874, p.4]
Grantham Cottage Hospital was designed by the London architect Richard Adolphus Came (1848-1919), who went on to lay out the development of Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire where he later settled, designing many of its buildings. He appears in the 1901 census as the proprietor of the Royal Hydro Hotel there. Came freely adapted a basic pavilion plan to create a picturesque elevation. Unusually, the wards were T-shaped, an arrangement which was commended by the great champion of hospital architecture in the late 19th century, Henry C. Burdett. He thought the wards were novel, pleasing and noteworthy, presenting a cheerful and airy appearance ‘which fills the visitor with pleasure’.[H. C. Burdett, Cottage Hospitals, 2nd edition 1880 p.412]
Baroness Brownlow also officiated at the official opening on 5 January 1876. ‘As it now stands approaching completion, the building with its neatly arranged grounds, and trim Gothic porch, forms a somewhat picturesque object’, reported the Grantham Journal.
The hospital, which is Gothic in character, is constructed of local stone with Ancaster dressings, and consists of three distinct blocks of buildings. The main building, which faces the road … is composed of a central block of two stories, providing a waiting-room, entrance lobby, surgeons’ sitting-room and operating-room, kitchen, offices and store-rooms, &c. on the ground floor; convalescent and board rooms, and four bedrooms on the first floor; and two bedrooms and lumber room in attics. There are wings stretching right and left of this block, forming the wards for male and female patients, and containing seven beds each, together with nurses’ room, bathroom, and other offices. The Gothic timber porch, which certainly contributes much to the appearance of the building, has been erected at the expense of the Earl Brownlow. Some distance in the rear of the main building, the fever hospital has been erected, and will contain five beds, bathroom, nurses’ room, kitchen &c., the working of this department being kept entirely separate from the other part of the hospital. A convenient laundry is also provided, with the addition of washing and ironing rooms, drying closet, and other similar accommodation. [Grantham Journal, 8 Jan 1876, p.4]
A major extension to Grantham Hospital was built in the mid-1930s to designs by the local architect F. J. Lenton, of Traylen & Lenton. The plans were approved by the British Hospitals Association, the Ministry of Health and the County Council. It was partly as a result of Kesteven County Council’s obligation to provide hospital accommodation that Grantham Hospital was extended, and the enlarged hospital was to take patients from the county as a whole. This raised the number of beds provided in the hospital from 33 to 76 initially. A new entrance was formed to the south of the original building. New ward blocks ‘of the latest verandah type’ were built for men, women and children. There was also separate provision for private patients, a new isolation block and operating theatre unit.
Verandah wards with folding windows, usually occupying the length of one side, originated in Denmark, and were introduced to England by Charles Ernest Elcock at the County Hospital, Hertford. Beds were placed parallel to the the side walls in groups of four, separated by glass partitions, instead of the old pattern in Nightingale-style wards where the beds were placed in rows at right-angles to the side walls. Each ward had five groups of four beds and two separate observation wards. The south-facing children’s ward had a paved terrace in front of the folding windows to allow cots to be wheeled out into the open air.
Verandah wards were hailed as revolutionizing hospital planning by providing improved access to fresh air and sunshine, and the psychological effect of smaller groups of beds (‘cosy communities’). It is interesting to note that the local paper praised the hospital for its functional design. ‘Rigid economy’ was observed in order to be able to provide the most up-to-date equipment: ‘In past days Hospitals were so often designed for external effect first and foremost’… ‘present-day designers always have in mind that their building should not be monumental, but sufficient for the present, and of a type that can be readily altered or adapted to the possible requirements of the future. [Grantham Journal, 27 Jan 1934, p.5]
In the new hospital, the private wards occupied a separate unit to the west of the complex which had its own enclosed garden. It had six private wards, with bedrooms for special nurses and separate ward kitchens. A subterranean boiler house was constructed at the edge of the site to provide heating and hot-water, operating on the panel-heating system by low pressure hot water, accelerated by electric pumps. All pipework was concealed in the ceilings. This was supplemented in the wards either with conventional open coal fires or gas fires. The building contractors for the extension were Bernard Pumphrey Ltd of Gainsborough. [Grantham Journal, 22 Sept 1934, p.5]
The new buildings were completed early in March 1935, after which the old hospital was refurbished to provide accommodation for the nursing and domestic staffs. At the same time a maternity unit was created in the old south ward wing of and the old theatre converted into a special labour ward. These alterations brought the hospital’s capacity up to 100 beds. [Nottingham Evening Post, 24 March 1936.]
Further additions were made following transfer to the NHS, including a new maternity unit which opened in 1972. Grantham Hospital has retained huge local support, as witnessed by the demonstrations that took place earlier this year to protest against the drastic reduction of the opening hours of the A&E department.
Back in February this year, the local press relayed proposals to transform Woolmanhill Hospital, Aberdeen, into a hotel and homes. The scheme, submitted by the developer Charlie Ferrari, is for a 52-bed boutique hotel, 27 serviced apartments, 32 residential apartments and just 10 affordable flats. Ferrari has set up a company CAF Properties (Woolmanhill) Ltd to put in a joint application with NHS Grampian to Aberdeen City Council. The hotel and serviced apartments would be sold to the G1 Group, owners of the Palm Court Hotel in Aberdeen. Ferrari was quoted in the Aberdeen Evening Express saying that he hoped to bring the site back to life and make it a ‘vibrant addition to the cityscape’, recognising that it was valued for its heritage. The proposal is to renovate four buildings on the site, and incorporates a lighting display in the central courtyard. The original hospital building would become the hotel, the Stephen Building, would be converted into the serviced apartments while the Victoria building would be turned into flats. The affordable housing element is destined for the former archive building to the north of the site.
All four main buildings are listed at grade A. The oldest of the four was designed by Archibald Simpson and is an elegant neo-Classical granite building of 1840, near the centre of Aberdeen. Comparable to the earlier Gray’s Hospital at Elgin, it was designed as an impressive public building as much as a functional hospital. To the rear of Simpson’s block are two ranges, largely dating from 1887, which create a roughly triangular court. Just as the Infirmary at Woolmanhill was replaced nearly a century later by the Foresterhill complex, the Woolmanhill building replaced an earlier infirmary built a century before.
The Aberdeen Infirmary was founded in 1739 and the foundation stone of the first building on the Woolmanhill site was laid in January 1740. It was of simple construction, built to the designs of William Christall who had visited Edinburgh and Glasgow to view William Adam’s Edinburgh Infirmary and Glasgow’s Town’s Hospital, before completing his own plans. It opened in 1742, providing twenty beds, including accommodation for lunatics, and had cost £484. No illustration of this building appears to have survived. On the completion of Simpson’s new Infirmary the old building was demolished.
In 1887 a major extension and reconstruction scheme was begun. The site formed an awkward wedge and added to this difficulty the managers wished to avoid interfering with the existing buildings. H. Saxon Snell, the well-known hospital architect in London, was consulted and at his suggestion Simpson’s building was converted into an administrative and clinical area, with new ward pavilions built to the rear. He also recommended retaining the separate fever block at the rear as part of the new surgical block. Known as the Jubilee Extension Scheme, the new blocks opened in 1897 and provided a new surgical block, medical block, pathology and laundry blocks. W. & J. Smith & Kelly, the Aberdeen firm of architects, carried out the work.
The new administration department, formed out of the former hospital, was also to provide accommodation for nurses:
“The first thing in a good modern hospital was to have the best possible accommodation for nurses… In some of the larger hospitals such as that of Marylebone every nurse has a bedroom to herself. The committee do not propose to go to that extent but they propose that everyone of the higher nurses… shall have a room to herself, and that the others shall be accommodated two in one room.”
It is perhaps worth noting that the Marylebone hospital referred to in London was in fact a workhouse infirmary. It is a measure of the changing attitudes to hospital and nursing provision for paupers that their nurses were offered better accommodation than those in a Scottish Royal Infirmary.
Burdett classified the layout and plan of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary as ‘composite or heap of buildings’, which was his class 4, class 1 being pavilion plan hospitals, class 2 block plan and class 3 corridor plan. There is a suggestion that the ‘heap of buildings’ class was the worst type. The plans were published before works on the new buildings had been completed.
Amongst the later additions were new operating theatres (pictured above), and out-patients’ department (below)
The out-patients’ department (demolished) was opened in November 1912, situated to the east of the infirmary on the other side of Woolmanhill. A large top-lit waiting hall was centrally placed off which were situated admission rooms, dispensary, Ear and Throat, Dental and Skin clinics, bacteriological and sterilising rooms, operating rooms for minor surgery, dressing and recovery rooms etc. A basement housed stores and heating chamber, and on the upper floor were two 4-bed wards for the Ear & Throat department and some staff accommodation.
Following the opening of the new Royal Infirmary on the Foresterhill site in the 1920s Woolmanhill was retained and there were still in-patient facilities here until relatively recently alongside a number of out-patient clinics. Since the closure of the hospital was agreed in 1999, health services have been winding down on the site and gradually relocating. The last remaining clinics are for ENT and audiology, which are due to move out this year.
[Sources: Evening Express, 4 Feb 2016, online, 27 March 2016, online: British Medical Association, Aberdeen 1914, A Handbook and Guide, Aberdeen, 1914]
For nearly twenty years now the faculty of Health and Applied Sciences of the University of the West of England has occupied the old Bristol Lunatic Asylum. The asylum, latterly Glenside Hospital, was wound down from 1993 when it merged with neighbouring Manor Park Hospital. New facilities for mental health patients were constructed on that side, and it was renamed Blackberry Hill Hospital. The University faculty was formed in 1996 when the existing faculty of Health and Community Studies merged with Avon and Gloucestershire College of Health and Swindon College of Health Studies.
The former hospital is one of the most attractive architecturally of the many county asylums built for paupers in the mid-nineteenth century. Its history has the added interest of its association with one of Britain’s greatest modern artists, Stanley Spencer, who worked as a medical orderly here during the First World War when the hospital was requisitioned by the War Office. During that time it was renamed Beaufort War Hospital. There is a museum on the site housed in the chapel.
Bristol Pauper Lunatic Asylum first opened in 1861. Patients had previously been sent to St Peter’s Hospital, the city workhouse that had been set up in a converted Jacobean house near St Peter’s church (see map below). By the 1850s this had become inadequate and there had been ‘certain distressing casualties’; one case at least had been the subject of an inconclusive investigation. There was much local hostility to the idea of building a county asylum, principally on the grounds of the increased burden on the rates. It was hoped that a swap might be organised with the workhouse at Stapleton, moving the pauper lunatics there and the ordinary paupers into St Peter’s, or of just converting some of the workhouse buildings into lunatic wards. But these plans were quashed by the Poor Law Commissioners who flatly refused to sanction the conversion of any part of the workhouse.
In the interim, legislation governing the provisions for pauper lunatics was tightened up, with an amendment to the Lunacy Act making it harder for counties and boroughs to avoid providing suitable accommodation. With no option but to construct a new asylum, a competition was held for the design. There were 27 entries, judged by the building committee with advice from Anthony Salvin. In March 1857 the best three were awarded prizes, the first premium went to Thomas Royce Lysaght of Bristol (£100), second were Medland & Maberly of London and Gloucester (£50), and third J. H. Hirst of Bristol (£25). Lysaght’s plans were preferred as they seemed to meet the requirements while remaining within the restricted budget, and the architect had experience of asylum construction, having been responsible for that at Cork. Mr Herapath¹ congratulated the committee for having chosen well. They had ‘taken care not to adopt the most beautiful plan, but had chosen one which was neat but not gaudy’. It was ‘quite sufficiently ornamental’. [Bristol Mercury, 21 March 1857, p.6]
Henry Crisp has sometimes been credited with the design of the original buildings (including by Historic England in the list description), but he only arrived on the scene later and it was Lysaght who got the job. Construction began in 1858 and after it was finished it was dubbed the Lunatic Pauper Palace on account of its architectural grandeur and the high cost of building (£27,500 for the building including lodge, stables, roads, planting, draining, boundary walls, supply of gas ‘etc’). The clerk of works was Mr Long, and the building contractors were J. & J. Foster, with Mr Yalland, mason; Mr Melsom, St James’s Barton, plasterer and painter; Mr Abbot, plumber; Mr Williams, glazier and Mr Harris, gas-fitter. [Bristol Mercury and Western Counties Advertiser, 20 Oct 1860,p.2]
The cost was not far removed from the half-a-dozen or so other asylums that were built around the same time; those in Cumberland and Northumberland, for the same number of patients, were estimated to cost £20,00 and £42,427 respectively. It was also considerably less than the figure being bandied about in the press some years earlier when it was reported that Lord Palmerston had ordered the authorities of Bristol to build a new lunatic asylum at an estimated cost of £45,000 (although the following year the figure reported was a more reasonable £20,000). [The Western Times, 11 Feb 1854]
It was designed in the fashionable Italianate style, the front ‘well broken up’ and forming ‘without superfluous ornament’ … ‘an exceedingly picturesque structure’, and built from Pennant stone that was mostly quarried on site, the quarries were then used for water storage beneath the kitchens. The asylum could accommodate 200 patients, with one-third in single rooms (a few of which were padded cells), the remainder in associated dormitories containing between six and eleven beds. In addition there were infirmary wards, providing a total of 22 beds. A measure of fire-proof construction was achieved through rolled iron floor joists filled in between with concrete, apart from in the offices and stores. Fire plugs for attaching hose pipes were provided at four points and the towers contained large reservoirs of water.
The Commissioners in Lunacy published a report on the asylum in 1861 following an inspection of the buildings in October the previous year by two of the Commissioners, Robert Lutwidge (Lewis Carroll’s uncle) and Dr James Wilkes. The main building was located on the northern boundary of the site, the principal elevation facing south-east. It was approached from the lodge at Fishponds along an ornamentally planted avenue. All the ground to the south of the building, amounting to around 17 acres, was used as a vegetable garden. Patients largely occupied the apartments on the south side of the building, staff and services the north side. The latter included the porter’s room, reception room, visiting room, committee room, apartments and office for the clerk or steward, rooms for the engineer and stores. In the central block, which acted as a buffer between the male and female sides of the building, were staff apartments: on the ground floor those of the Assitant Medical Officer and the Matron, the Medical Superintendent’s residence occupied the first and second floors, and servants had bedrooms on the third floor.
The kitchens were on the ground floor and the dining-hall above – a lift being installed to take food from one to the other. There was a chapel within the main complex, capable of holding 150 patients, located adjacent to the dining hall which could seat the same number. The galleries for the patients were 12 feet wide, were heated by open fire-places, and were positioned to take advantage of the views over the surrounding landscape (‘commanding good views of the picturesque country round’). Window seats encouraged patients to sit and contemplate the scenery. There were also day rooms, larger rooms with two fire-places. Every ward had direct access to the airing grounds, which were ornamentally laid out, with walls low enough to allow patients to see over them.
Heating and ventilating for the ‘asylum portion’ was by Haden & Son of Trowbridge. The towers at the extreme ends of the building extracted foul air from the wards, which was then conveyed through the roofs in a pupose-built channel. The same firm supplied the kitchen equipment. On the female side was a ‘laundry ward and establishment’ consisting of a 10-bed ward for the more convalescent patients, a receiving-room for soiled linen, a wash-house, laundry, room for sorting clean linen, and nearby were drying machines and boilers. Corresponding with this on the male side were workshops, with a ‘workshop ward’, carpenter’s, shoemaker’s and tailor’s shops. The dead-house and postmortem room were also at this end, ‘being nearer the road for funerals’.
There were various phases of extensions to the asylum. It was first enlarged in 1875-7 when the wings to the west and east were added, then in 1882 a detached chapel was built, the original one being absorbed into the hall. The chapel was designed by a local architect, E. Henry Edwards in a ‘Norman Gothic’ style to seat 350 souls. The foundation stone was laid in September 1880, the building contractors were Forse and Ashley of Bristol. [Bristol Mercury & Daily Post, 25 Sept 1880, p.8]
Henry Crips and Oatley were the architects for the additions carried out in two phases between 1887-91. The first phase comprised four new wings, mortuary and workshops, for which the building contractor was A. Krauss of Russell Town, Bristol. The second phase comprised an ‘entirely new’ administration and residential block providing for the greatly enlarged asylum – it had expanded to from its original accommodation for 250 patients to an anticipated 1,000 patients. For this phase the general building contractor was A. J. Beaver of Bedminster, and R. Withycombe of Bristol was the clerk of works. Fire-proof floors were carried out by Dennett & Ingle of Whitehall.
It was at this period that the impressive clock tower was built, rising to 120 ft with clock faces on each side. These were supplied by Potts & Sons of Leeds, and were 8 ft in diameter with illuminated dials. Bells truck the quarters and the hours. A strictly time-tabled routine had obviously become a key feature of the running of the asylum. [Building News, 10 April 1891, p.500]
Further additions were carried out in 1888-90, and then again in 1897-1902. This time the Visiting Committee dispensed with the services of an architect and appointed H. R. Withycombe, the clerk of works who had served under Crisp and Oatley, to supply plans and supervise construction. (There seems to be some doubt as to whether Withycombe actually designed the buildings or if another architect was involved.)[Western Daily Press, 16 April 1902, p.7]
During the First World War the asylum was requisitioned as a military hospital for the war wounded and renamed Beaufort War Hospital; the existing patients were relocated to other asylums, but some returned in 1919 when the military handed the hospital back to the City. Cary Grant’s mother, Elsie Leach, is said to have been one of those readmitted after the war. Although officially now called Bristol Mental Hospital, it continued to be known as Bristol Asylum locally, well into the 1920s. In 1959 it changed its name again to Glenside Hospital. The conversion to the Glenside campus of the University of the West of England seems to have been a particularly happy one, preserving the old buildings and their setting.
¹ Mr Herapath, probably William Herapath, Professor of Chemistry (1796-1868), a magistrate and prominent Town Councillor.