Galashiels Cottage Hospital

View of the original section of the cottage hospital, photographed in September 2022 © H. Richardson

Bak in 2016 the future of the former Galashiels Cottage Hospital seemed to be uncertain once again. When the Borders District General Hospital opened at Melrose in 1988, it had been intended that the cottage hospitals at Galashiels and Selkirk should close permanently, but the local health board changed its mind and decided it could find a new use for the buildings. For Galashiels, that new use was a rehabilitation unit for people with long-term mental health problems, and it re-opened as such under the name Galavale House. But more recently there have been concerns that the standard of accommodation is not longer fit for purpose, and a scheme was under consideration in 2015 to relocate services to Crumhaugh House, Hawick. However, when I visited the Galashiels in September, it was still very much in use.

View of the main front © H. Richardson

In 2006 Galavale House and lodge were listed category C (s) for their architectural and local historic interest. The origins of the hospital date back to 1891 when subscriptions were first raised for a cottage hospital in the town. Originally it was intended to be for accident cases, but in the end it took in medical and surgical cases, though paupers were excluded. Sick paupers were cared for at the local poorhouse.

Galashiels Cottage Hospital, engraved view from Building News, 1893

Built to designs by John Wallace of Edinburgh, the hospital was formally opened by the Earl of Dalkeith in November 1893. Wallace was originally from the Borders, and the few architectural commissions that he is known to have carried out were all in this area. In 1891, the year before he was commissioned to design the cottage hospital, he had designed Blynlee Tower in Galashiels.

View of the ward pavilion with its tall canted bay window. The glazing has changed, but otherwise not greatly altered. © H. Richardson

The plan below was not as executed, only the front wards were built, so at first there were just two wards with six beds each, and two single wards for private patients. The local building firm of Robert Hall & Co. carried out the construction work.

Detail showing the proposed plan of the hospital.
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Extract from the Galashiels & Selkirk Almanac and Directory of 1903

As built, the hospital comprised an appealing small scale building. The wide single‑storey centrepiece of the main block has generous roofs with dormers, and the eaves are supported on cast‑iron columns to create a verandah. The wards in the projecting outer bays are lit by broad bay windows.

This might be the nurses’ home (on the left) added in 1929-30. A more recent addition to the right. © H. Richardson

A small nurses’ home was built on the site with thirteen bedrooms in 1929-30 to designs by the local architects J. & J. Hall, John Hall was the nephew of Robert Hall, the builder of the original hospital. In 1938 extensions were built, in sympathetic style, to the south-west (Hume Ward) and north. In that year four beds were set aside for maternity cases.

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Extract from the 25-inch OS map revised in 1930. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland
The ranges at the back of the hospital, usually these would house kitchen, laundry, sometimes an ambulance shed, mortuary etc. © H. Richardson
Lodge house, perhaps for matron or doctors © H. Richardson


The Builder, 18 June 1892, p.480; Building News, 24 Nov. 1893, p.703: Border Telegraph18 August 2015 accessed online 16 April 2016.

Holloway Sanatorium – garish or gorgeous?

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Holloway Sanatorium was in a parlous state when we visited it in about 1992 as part of the RCHME Hospitals Project. Although the process of decay was sad to see, the stunning interior decoration was still impressive. In 1997-8 the main rooms in the building were restored, the artwork re-instated and the site developed as a gated residential estate, rebranded Virginia Park.

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Elevation of Holloway Sanatorium printed in The Graphic, 2 June 1877
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Recreation Hall, Holloway Sanatorium, W. H. Crossland architect, photographed c.1992

The sanatorium was founded by Thomas Holloway, of Holloway’s Pills and Ointment fame, for the mentally afflicted of the middle classes. Its architect was W. H. Crossland, who won a competition for the design in 1872. The foundation stone was laid by Holloway’s wife Jane in 1873.  Although it was described as nearly finished in 1877, it was another seven years before the first patients were admitted in 1884, and the official opening ceremony did not take place until 15 June 1885. By then Thomas Holloway was dead, the project having been completed under the direction of his brother-in-law, George Martin Holloway.

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‘All exuberance of ornament and expensive detail is avoided’ was the claim, but the building itself rather belies that statement. [1]

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The sanatorium was intended for the middle classes only, with a particular view to accommodating professional men who were thought likely benefit from a year’s residence in a quiet rural neighbourhood. [2] This was incidentally the type of patient most likely to be able to afford the highest rate of fees for such a stay. A year was the maximum length of stay permitted. Certain conditions were excluded, including those deemed incurable, so no hopeless cases or, in the language of the time, epileptic, paralytic, and uncleanly subjects were all inadmissible. [3]

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Holloway thoroughly researched asylum planning and the treatment of the mentally ill before announcing a competition for the design. He was said to have visited asylums at home and abroad, and consulted numerous architects and the members of the medical profession.

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Initially there was accommodation for 200 patients, divided into four classes, 1st, 2nd, sick and feeble, and excited. All day-rooms, dormitories and single rooms had a south and south-western aspect. Attendants’ rooms were placed between day-rooms and dormitories with a glass window or doors of communication that allowed them to keep the patients under observation.

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Some of the interior decoration, notably the ceiling of the recreation hall, was carried out by the Scottish architect and designer John Moyr Smith. The walls of the dining hall had frescoes after Watteau, variously reported as being executed in the National Art Training School at South Kensington under the direction of Edward Poynter or by James Imrie, though both statements may be correct.  When the sanatorium opened the medical press thought the wall decorations betrayed the influence of ‘Japanese artistic methods’. [4]

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Above is one of  the Watteau-inspired paintings in the dining-hall, painted on canvas rather than frescoed, with a pastoral scene of grazing sheep in the lunette over it.

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The richness of the interior for a mental hospital is perhaps rivalled only by Craighouse in Edinburgh, at least in Britain. Tellingly, Pugin was consulted by Holloway in the early stages of the project. As well as the huge recreation hall and dining-hall, according to one report the sanatorium was intended to have a billiards room, thirteen day rooms, and no less than four libraries for the use of the patients, ‘well stocked with readable books’ (always the best sort). [5]

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The decorative scheme certainly seems to give more than a nod to Pugin, with echoes of the Houses of Parliament, and at the time the sanatorium opened The Builder considered that its only equal in richness was the House of Lords. It fell foul of the next generation of architects – C. R. Ashbee commented that it was ‘very garish and ghastly, but appropriate’. [6]

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The hammer-beam roof of the recreation hall evokes Tudor splendour, modelled on examples such as the hall at the Middle Temple or Hampton Court Palace. Crossland had produced something similar for his Rochdale Town Hall.

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The central grand entrance and staircase were originally intended only to be used on special occasions. Every inch was covered with gilding or bright colour, apart from the parquet wood floor and the marble top of the staircase balustrade.

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In the early 1990s the portraits were the most badly decayed, and there were chunks of painted plaster lying on the floor. Depicting ‘distinguished persons’ the portraits were said to have been the work of Ernest Girardot and others. [7]

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The portrait above may be of Thomas Holloway himself, watching over the patients and staff. His portrait, and that of his wife, graced the interior, along with his coat of arms and family monograms, a constant reminder of the founder.

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  1. The Builder, 24 Aug 1872, p.665
  2. BMJ 20 June 1885, pp 1258-9
  3. The Graphic, 2 June 1877, p.521
  4. BMJ 20 June 1885, pp 1258-9: The Star, 18 June 1885, p. 4: British Architect, 26 June 1885, p.311
  5. Frome Times, 27 Nov 1878, p.3
  6. quoted in Anna Sheperd, Institutionalizing the Insane in Nineteenth Century England, 2015, p.24
  7. Illustrated London News, 5 Jan 1884, p.24

Oldmill Military Hospital (now Woodend Hospital) Aberdeen

A Face in the Crowd

Postcard of Woodend Hospital dating from the First World War when it had been taken over as a military hospital. The card shows a concert being given in front of the main entrance block.

Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen was constructed as a Poor Law Institution, designed by the local firm of Brown & Watt, it opened on 15 May 1907 and was one of the last poorhouses to be built in Scotland. During the First World War the institution was taken over as a Military Hospital (from 24th May 1915 to 1st June 1919). The postcard above shows a concert underway, there is no message written on the back to give a clue as to when exactly the concert took place. It may have been the one described in the Aberdeen Evening Express in September 1915 when the band and pipers of the Scots Guards visited Aberdeen. From 11am to 12 noon they entertained the wounded soldiers and a small party of ladies and gentlemen, there being about 500 persons present. The band arrived at the hospital in motor buses supplied by the Suburban Tramways Company, and on arrival set up near the front entrance in the quadrangle. Band and pipers played alternately, and there was a cornet solo of ‘The Rosary’ and from ‘Il Trovatore’  played from the veranda.

Detail of the postcard, bottom right, showing some of the audience of the concert

One member of the audience was apparently more interested in the photographer than the concert. The local Aberdeen newspapers published during the First World War carry many mentions of Oldmill, most concern the numbers of wounded arriving by train in the city and thence out to the hospital. There were also appeals for wheeled chairs and books, and numerous accounts of entertainments and concerts laid on for the wounded men.

A detail of the centre of the postcard showing the main entrance to Oldmill Hospital and the band performing in front

Zooming in on the centre of the postcard shows the band arranged in front of the main entrance, with patients and nurses looking on from open windows and the balconies. I don’t know whether the uniforms here are plausible as Scots Guards, they are perhaps too indistinct to be able to tell. The Gordon Highlanders also gave an open air concert, in September 1916.

Most of the concerts took place in the evening inside the large dining hall, some were small affairs with local folks performing a medley of songs, some were given by theatre companies. There were lectures (two on mountaineering), and in October 1915 a ‘talking machine entertainment’ comprising selections given on the Edison phonograph ‘greatly appreciated by all’. The Aberdeen Sailors’ Mission Choir gave the very first concert at Oldmill in July 1915, only weeks after the first patients arrived on 25 June. An ambulance train had arrived at Aberdeen Joint Station shortly after 4am with 100 wounded soldiers from the battlefields of France and Flanders, 83 of whom were transferred to Oldmill.

Postcard of Oldmill Military Hospital, Aberdeen produced during the First World War

This is another postcard produced during the war – copies of it often surface on eBay. The institution was still relatively new when war was declared, and it was with reluctance that the parish council relinquished it to the military, but when the need for more hospital accommodation for the wounded became urgent the council yielded. Many of the poorhouse inmates were evacuated to Rosemount and Westfield schools, which had also been commandeered to take the war wounded, others were boarded out.

Detail of the postcard, showing the bridge part way along the long entrance drive

The notice on the right gives the weight limit that the bridge could withstand at just over 3 tons. The map below shows the hospital complex in the 1920s, after it had been returned to the parochial authorities. The bridge pictured above crossed a roadway that provided access to two detached buildings in the grounds. I think these may have been the nurses’ home and the Governor’s house, but more research is needed to establish whether that is so or not. Although I am fairly confident that the left-hand building was the nurses’ home, a later map marks a tennis court next to it.

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Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised in 1924. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland
Woodend Hospital photographed in 2014. © Copyright Bill Harrison and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The hospital continues in use by NHS Grampian though now its main entrance is on the North side from Eday Road. It is a handsome building, certainly a fine example of its type despite the parsimony of the parochial board. When the plans for the poorhouse were reported by the Aberdeen Daily Journal readers were assured that,

‘As the general view of the poorhouse to most people will be from the Skene Road, a few hundred yards away, it is not intended that any expense should be put upon fine masonry details, and the effect of a satisfactory composition will, therefore, be obtained by means of grouping of the various buildings and arranging them in such a fashion as to give a suitable yet dignified appearance to the whole.’ [Aberdeen Daily Journal, 22 Nov 1901, p.5]

Sources: Aberdeen Evening Express, 17 May 1915, p.5: Aberdeen Journal, 25 May 1915, p.4, 26 May 1915, p.4, 26 June 1915, p.2, 16 July 1915 p.6: Aberdeen Evening Express, 13 Sept 1915, 11 Oct 1915: Aberdeen Weekly Journal, 22 Sept 1916: site visited as part of the Scottish Hospitals Survey 1988-90

The Asylum at Christmas

Celebrating Christmas with entertainments and a special dinner was introduced into the workhouse and even prisons before it was provided in pauper lunatic asylums. It only seems to have become widespread from about the 1850s.

Entertainment to the patients at the Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum, Colney Hatch. This was a New Year’s celebration, but the dancing and the decoration with flags were typical of the entertainments held for Christmas. Illustrated London News, 15 Jan 1853. Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Image reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 

According to the Chelmsford Chronicle reporting on the Christmas festivities at the Essex County Asylum in 1858, it was only in recent years that ‘the poor lunatic’ was thought capable of appreciating the ‘social enjoyments’ associated with the season: ‘it is one of the humane discoveries of modern medical science, that he is far more successfully worked upon by the music of the kind word than by the rattle of the iron chain.’ [1]

The County Lunatic Asylum, Brentwood, Essex: bird’s eye view. Wood engraving by W.E. Hodgkin, 1857, after H.E. Kendall. Wellcome Library, London. Essex County Asylum was designed by H. E. Kendall in 1849 and completed in 1853. Originally for between 400 and 500 patients it was extended many times. Two of the earliest additions were a dining-hall in 1863 and a recreation hall in 1879. The asylum was later renamed Warley Hospital. It closed in 2001. The Builder, 16 May 1857 Wellcome Images Image reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

On Christmas day at the Essex Asylum one of the wards was fitted up as a dining hall, the ward itself measuring some seventy feet in length and seating 230 inmates. The walls were decorated with flags and evergreens in ‘tasteful devices’… ‘while forty ponderous plum puddings and 350 lbs of roast beef smoked upon the tables’. In addition to the dinner there was a musical evening held in the recreation hall, which was decorated for the occasion. A Mrs Campbell supplied 1,200 artificial flowers which the patients had interwoven into figures and festoons of laurel. Sketches from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the Essex arms and portraits of the Indian heroes Havelock and Wilson also formed an unlikely combination of pictorial decoration in the hall, all painted or drawn by the patients. The orchestra, too, was composed of patients, who supplied the music for the country dances. Between dances patients amused the company with songs and recitations. [1]

From the late 1850s the number of newspaper reports of similar entertainments elsewhere in Britain began to grow, these were often occasions attended by the local gentry. At the Birmingham Borough Asylum the Christmas festivities comprised country dancing, singing and games on Christmas eve. During the evening ‘an immense circle was formed for ‘drop the glove’. Half an hour of exciting fun was the result’. There was also a ‘jingling match’ and a jumping match. A female patient with an ‘exceedingly melodious voice’ sang Where are you going to, my pretty maid? and amidst the music and activities, spiced ale and plum-cake were served for refreshment. The Christmas dinner featured roast beef, plum pudding and ‘various seasonable accessories’. Entertainments continued nightly throughout the week with amateurs from the town visiting the asylum to provide vocal and instrumental music. One evening there was an exhibition of ‘dissolving views’. [2]

In the 1880s similar entertainments were reported at the Guernsey asylum, where games included musical chairs and candle-buff. [3]


[1] Chelmsford Chronicle, 1 Jan 1858, p.3
[2] Birmingham Daily Post, 27 Dec 1859, p.3
[3] The Star, Guernsey, 1 Jan 1889, p.2

The Hospitals Investigator 8

The eighth newsletter that Robert Taylor produced from the RCHME Cambridge office was written almost exactly 23 years ago, in November 1992. I was delighted to hear from Robert recently, and to receive his blessing for reproducing his work here. It was good to hear that he would seem to be just as productive in his retirement, and has not lost his interest in hospital buildings in general or the machinations of the Local Government Board in particular.

L0024801 The Cruciform Building, University College Hospital, London: Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images The Cruciform Building, University College Hospital, London: perspective from the south-east. Colour lithograph. Coloured Lithograph Published: [19--] Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0
University College Hospital, designed by Alfred Waterhouse and built between 1897 and 1906. It is now UCL’s Cruciform Building. Image from the Wellcome Library reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 

This issue largely consisted of lists: hospital designs by Alfred Waterhouse, culled from the list of works in Colin Cunningham’s monograph; locations where Humphreys’ patent iron hospitals were erected as given in an advertisement published in 1915; and plans of hospitals published in the aptly named R. Ward’s 1949 book the Design and Equipment of Hospitals. The list of Humphrey’s hospitals has already featured in a separate post which can be found here, the two others are transcribed below.

Apart from the lists we were informed of the novel re-use of the Oxford Smallpox Hospital, a corrugated-iron building with all the characteristics of one of Mr Humphreys’ constructions (1900 catalogue, no.3), which, no longer needed for patients, was the centre of a flourishing enterprise called Spend-a-Penny Event Hire, from which people holding large parties and public entertainments can borrow certain necessary portable buildings. (I can find no reference to this company today, so perhaps the Oxford Smallpox Hospital has finally gone out of use.)

In other news, the Cambridge team had lately visited their first army hospital dating from before the reforms influenced by the Crimean War, and were fascinated by the planning. (Kathryn Morrison, Robert’s partner in crime in the Cambridge team, went on to write the chapter on military hospitals in English Hospitals, 1660-1948: A Survey of Their Architecture and Design.) Here is Robert’s description of the Peninsula Barracks Hospital at Winchester:

‘On each of three storeys were three wards on either side of a central stair. Only the end wards had cross-ventilation. The hospitals remained in use until December 1985, and the fittings on the walls allowed us to see that there had been eleven beds in each of the larger wards, and ten in the smaller ones. The larger wards were paced at 34ft by 19ft and the smaller wards 29ft by 19ft, which gives floor areas for the wards of 646 and 551 sq ft respectively. The height of the wards was not measured (we do not yet have a successful technique for walking up walls), but allowing for a 13ft height gives cubic volumes of 7,163 and 8,398 cubic ft respectively. Miss Nightingale would have been horrified to work out that this means that the beds in the larger wards had 763 cubic feet each, and those in the smaller wards (which were not cross-ventilated properly) a mere 716 cubic feet. Moreover, as the hospital was apparently built for 130 beds this suggests that the beds were more congested in 1985 than in 1855.’

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Extract from the 2nd edition OS map revised 1894-5, showing the barracks hospital fronting St James’s Street (now Romsey Road). Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. The hospital building has been converted to private flats, but some of the other former barracks buildings now form part of Winchester’s Military Museums.

‘The original sanitation was contained in a small room opening off the half-landings of the staircase, but some time early in the present century a larger room was added to this. In addition, a four-foot square sanitary tower was added between each end ward and its neighbour, with a triangular lobby contrived in the wall between the wards to give unventilated access.’

‘This account hardly inspires faith in the care that the army lavished on its cannon fodder, although we should perhaps bear in mind that this was presumably not for usual hospital cases but complaints such as influenza and sore feet that needed to be taken out of the barrack block near by.’


Works listed in Colin Cunningham and Prudence Waterhouse’s, Alfred Waterhouse, 1830-1905: Biography of a Practice, Clarendon Press, 1992. Although the word hospital is not in the otherwise good index, there is a list of some 647 commissions and works, including nine hospitals. An abstract follows, using the numbers in Cunningham’s list. (Curiously Robert omitted what to me is Waterhouse’s best-known hospital building, the extraordinary cruciform University College Hospital built 1897-1906, replaced by the new UCH on Euston Road, now used by University College London, and shorn of some ugly later additions.)

[111] Manchester Royal Infirmary, Piccadilly, 1861. Renovation and valuation, re-ventilation and design of memorial tablet to J. C. Harter (Office correspondence in private collection).
[146] Cheadle, Royal Lunatic Asylum, 1863. Additional villas, cost £2,620. (Drawings and correspondence at RIBA).
[210] Macclesfield Infirmary competition, 1865. Withdrew, with compensation.
[218] Manchester Royal Infirmary, Piccadilly, 1865. New stables etc. (demolished) cost £340 (Office correspondence etc. in private collection and RIBA).
[293] Cheadle, Royal Lunatic Asylum, 1868-9, chapel. (Office archives in private collection).
[447] London, University College Hospital, Gower Street, 1877. Sketch plan for rebuilding, not executed. (Office archives in private collection).
[488] Liverpool, alterations to old asylum building to form Liverpool University, 1881-3, cost £4,450. (it is not clear from the text what sort of asylum this was).
[532] Liverpool Royal Infirmary, hospital, nurses’ home and medical school, 1886-92. Cost £123,500. (Drawings at RIBA and Infirmary)

Part of Royal Liverpool Infirmary, photographed in 2009 © John Bradley CC-BY-SA-3.0

[571] Manchester, St Mary’s Hospital (demolished), maternity hospital, cost £65,140. Designed 1891, built 1899ff. (Drawings at RIBA).
[599] Liverpool University Medical School, extension, 1895-7, cost £1,795.
[628] Nottingham General Hospital, Jubilee Wing, 1898. Circular ward block with sanitary tower; laundry; out patients’ department; staircases and lift. (Cited by S. A. Smith in Courtauld theses of 1970 but not corroborated by Cunningham).
[630] Rhyl, Royal Alexandra Hospital, 1898. Cost £30,430.
[643] Newbury, Children’s Hospital, 1900. (Cited by S. A. Smith as above, not corroborated by Cunningham). This hospital is also unknown to the Cambridge office, although we may be able to suggest confusion with an earlier scheme by a different architect in a nearby village.

Ward on Hospitals

In 1949 Ronald Ward published his book The Design and Equipment of Hospitals. It is illustrated by both typical designs and by plans drawn from a very small number of real buildings. Here is a list of the plans of real hospitals, and the page number.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital, X-ray department p.199
Birmingham Hospital Centre layout p.27; operating theatre p.216
Brentwood District Hospital p.193
Central Middlesex County Hospital, children’s wards p.253
Coventry Infectious Hospital, general plan p.283; general ward p.285
German Hospital, wards p.164; children’s wards p.255
Guy’s Hospital, psychiatric clinic p.268
Hammersmith Hospital, reception department p.125; ante-natal department p.138
Harefield Hospital, stores p.65; laundry p.111; observation wards p.278; children’s block p.279; men’s or women’s block p.280
Harefield Sanatorium, general plan p.276
Hospital for Sick Children, nurses’ home p.93
Leeds general infirmary, outpatients’ department p.129-30; private wards p.232; kitchen for private wards p.233
Leeds, Institute of Pathology p.149
Maccelsfield Infirmary, nurses’ home p.97
Monkwearmouth Hospital, outpatients’ department p.134
Monkwearmouth and Southwick Hospital, electric department p.202
North Eastern Isolation Hospital, receiving block p.286; general wards p.290, p.292
North Western Hospital, laboratory p.147
Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, operating theatre p.222
Royal Masonic Hospital, power house p.59; nurses’ home pp 95-6; wards p.165; electric department p.210; operating theatre p.217

V0014883 Royal Masonic Hospital, London: three-quarter view of the ad
Royal Masonic Hospital, Burnet, Tait and Lorne architects, 1933 from the Wellcome Library  licensed for reuse CC BY 4.0

St Bartholomew’s Hospital, wards p.177; operating theatre p.220
Scarborough Hospital, layout p.30; nurses’ home p.98; laundry p.110; outpatients’ department p.135; wards p.181; X-ray department p.201; operating theatre p.220; maternity ward p.239; children’s wards p.254
Surbiton Hospital, Kitchen p.79; nurses’ home p.99; mortuary p.116; wards p.178; X-ray department p.200; operating theatre p.222; maternity ward p.243
Tolworth Isolation Hospital, pavilion ward p.287; cubicle ward p.291
Welwyn Cottage Hospital, pp 32-3
West London Hospital, operating theatre p. 219
Westminster Hospital, kitchen p.77; nurses’ home p.92; casualty department p.123; outpatients’ department p.133; wards p.172; operating theatre p.218
Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary, outpatients’ department p.141

Cluny Hills Hydropathic Establishment

Now the Cluny Hill College campus of the Findhorn Foundation, this building just south-east of Forres in Moray, Scotland, was originally a hydropathic establishment. It was built in 1863-5 to designs by A. W. Bissett. A wing was added to the west in 1896-7 by John Forrest and further additions were carried out in 1905-7 by Ross & Macbeth. [1]

Cluny Hill College photographed in 2010 © Copyright Jean Aldridge and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Before it had even been officially opened there was sufficient confidence in its success for John Brodie Innes, of Milton Brodie, to urge the benefits of a ‘hydropathic excursion’ on Charles Darwin. Writing to Darwin’s wife, Emma, in January 1864, Innes declared:

‘The building is nearly completed and certainly is very handsome and will be comfortable. The soil, water, land and sea views are all in its favour. Among other arrivals for it is an equatorial telescope by Dollond. Sir Alexanders home of the toads is close by and much other interest in the immediate neighbourhood. I hope you will come.’ [2]

The house of the toads refers to the discovery of live toads deep in the ground, exposed during excavations for the Inverness and Perth railway near Altyre. Alexander Cumming of Altyre was a friend and neighbour of Innes, and had written letters to the press about the toads.

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Cluny Hill Hydro,  from J. & W. Watson, Morayshire Described… 1868

Its original architect, A. W. Bissett of Elgin, died before the buildings were completed. The contractors were: masons – Messrs Humphrey and Rennie, Elgin; carpenter – Mr Alex Smith, jun., Forres; plasterer – Mr Alex. Ross, Forres; slater – Mr James Findlay, Forres; plumber – Mr Hunter Elgin; painter – Mr Stalker, Forres. The contract price was ‘about £2,500 exclusive of the baths’. [3]

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Extract from the 1st edition OS map, surveyed in 1870. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

In a guide to Moray published three years after the hydro opened the building was described at some length. The rooms were large and airy, the dining-room a magnificent apartment capable of seating 80 persons. Next to the dining-room was a reading and writing room 40 ft by 18 ft. Over the dining-room was a luxuriantly furnished drawing-room, from which plate-glass doors led to an ante-room, 42ft by 18ft, with an entire glass front. On the west side contained the resident physicians rooms and ‘several handsome parlours and bed-rooms’. Residents had handsomely and comfortably furnished bedrooms placed on either side of a central corridor.

The baths were in the eastern section, those for men were on the ground floor and for women on the floor above. There was the usual range of baths: Turkish, plunge, shower, spray, rain, wave, douche, hose etc ‘hot and cold as required’. There was a croquet lawn and a bowling green in the grounds, and in inclement weather exercise and entertainment could be had in a bowling or skittle alley and gymnasium to the north of the main building, and a winter garden or conservatory. [4]

The Hydro photographed in 1955 when it was the Cluny Hill Hotel. The original section is to the left. Oblique aerial photograph taken facing North/West. This image was marked by AeroPictorial Ltd for photo editing. © Crown Copyright: RCAHMS

In 1869 the hydro was the scene of a tragic accident when George Norman, a naturalist ‘recklessly discharged a firearm’ and fatally wounded James Calder, the managing director of the establishment. A ‘locus of crime map’ was drawn up in relation to the ensuing trial to show the area and the exact spot where ‘Mr Calder had received the fatal wound’. Seemingly Mr Norman had been ‘firing with a pea sporting rifle at a cat’. He missed the cat but struck Calder in the head, who had been talking to some labourers engaged in gravelling a path. [5]

During the First World War the hydro was taken over by the military to billet troops. It returned to its original function after the war, but in 1937 became a hotel. By 1975 this was no longer profitable and the building was bought by the Findhorn Foundation for £60,000. [6]


[1] David W. Walker and Matthew Woolworth, Buildings of Scotland, Aberdeenshire: North and Moray, 2015
[2] J. Brodie Innes to Emma Darwin 16 Jan 1864 in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol.12, pp.18-19 CUP, 2001
[3] Elgin Courier, 3 April 1863, p.5
[4] J. & W. Watson, Morayshire Described: being a guide to visitors… Elgin, 1868
[5] Edinburgh Evening Courant, 11 Oct 1869, p.7
[6] G. Gawler, Grace, Grit and Gratitude, 2008p.198

Hospitals for Incurables: the former Longmore Hospital, Edinburgh

Historic Scotland Offices in the former Longmore Hospital which closed in 1991 ©Copyright kim traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Separate hospitals for incurables began to be established in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century and were welcomed by some, condemned by others. Andrew Reed, who founded the hospital for incurables in Putney in 1854 (which eventually became the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability) firmly believed in the need to offer relief to such unfortunates, and had a few years earlier founded Royal Earlswood Asylum, for those with incurable mental disorders. While the Poor Law provided care for those who had been rendered destitute by their chronic illness, there was little provision for those above the poverty line, whose physical or mental condition was often made worse by their living conditions. Cancer, tuberculosis, rheumatism, paralysis, deformity and spinal disease or injury, were chief amongst the illnesses that were unwelcome in general hospitals because of the length of time a patient suffering from chronic disease occupied a place on the ward. The Middlesex Hospital in London was rare in having a cancer ward, established in 1792.

The first specialist cancer hospital in Britain was in London, opening in 1852 in a converted house in Fulham Road. Its founder was William Marsden, and his Free Cancer Hospital became known as the Royal Marsden in 1954. Other early cancer hospitals were established in Leeds (around 1858), Liverpool (1862) and Manchester (1871), although these did not just treat cancer. The first specialist cancer hospital in Scotland opened in 1890 in Glasgow (later the Beatson Memorial Hospital). The discovery of X-rays, radioactivity and radium in the late nineteenth century introduced new treatments and radical surgery.

By the late nineteenth century hospitals for incurables had become an established type.  Henry Burdett, the great chronicler of hospital planning and design in this period,  provided advice on what form such hospitals should take, reproducing plans of the Jaffray Hospital in Birmingham by way of an exemplar. This was a distinct hospital plan type, more analogous to a convalescent home where patients similarly might not be confined to bed all day. Day-rooms, sitting-rooms, libraries and smoking-rooms, with easy access to the open air, whether a balcony, verandah or garden, were considered desirable in hospitals for incurables. Wide corridors to accommodate wheelchairs, and a lift to access upper floors helped patients get about, and, Burdett urged, there should be  ‘an absence of everything which will tend to promote waste of energy of every kind’

In Scotland the first hospital for incurables was founded in Aberdeen in 1857, opening in a private house in Morningfield the following year. In 1874 the Scottish National Institution for the Relief of Incurables was established and this lead to a number of hospitals being founded. That in Edinburgh first opened in 1875 with accommodation for 22 patients, the Edinburgh Association for Incurables having purchased a house for the purpose at 3 Salisbury Place which was enlarged and altered at a cost of £3,265 142d, plus another £300 or so for furniture and fittings. Within a year of its opening, the management committee was already hoping to add separate wards for cancer cases.

Town Plans 1877
Extract from the OS Large Scale Town Plans, 1877. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. The Longmore Hospital is the building on the north side of Salisbury Place set furthest back from the road, with two rear wings. 

The inadequacy of the original house lead to the acquisition of adjoining properties and rebuilding on the site. The patients were evacuated to a house in Fisher Row until the new hospital was completed at the end of 1880. Most of the cost was met by the trustees of J. A. Longmore, and the name of the hospital changed to honour this generosity.

Efforts to expand continued, Nos 6 and 7 Salisbury Place were purchased and fitted up for patients in 1886.

A visit from the Lord High Commissioner from RCAHMS

The Lord High Commissioner made more than one visit to the hospital, so it is hard to date the photograph. In May 1890 he paid a long visit with Lady Tweeddale, and in June 1894 The Lancet reported that the Lord High Commissioner and the Marchioness of Breadalbane had paid their ‘usual visits to the various hospitals in Edinburgh’ on which occasion the Marchioness opened a bazaar at the Longmore.

In 1891 plans for enlarging the hospital were approved which involved pulling down the old east wing of the building. This was to make way for a ‘more suitable wing’ which was intended to provide accommodation for 34 additional patients, with two 14-bed wards, nurses’ rooms, lavatories, kitchens, but no mention of where the other six patients were to be fitted in.

Women’s ward from the ‘old East wing, now demolished’, from RCAHMS

The OS map below from 1893 shows how much the hospital had evolved in the relatively short time since it first opened.

large town plans 1893
Extract from the OS Large Scale Town Plans, 1893. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Princess May and the Duke of York opened the new East Wing in 1891.

Princess May Ward. From RCAHMS

The west wing was added in 1899, along with a new laundry, kitchen, chapel and mortuary, and electric lighting was installed. The new wing, of two storeys over a basement, was attached to the main building by a ‘wide corridor of iron and glass’. The ground floor was set apart for phthisical (TB) patients, the upper floor for cancer.

The map below from 1905 shows this later phase of the development.

1905 revised OS
Extract from the 2nd edition OS map, revised 1905. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. 

A series of photographs of the interior of the hospital has been preserved in the National Monuments Record of Scotland, and provide a glimpse of what life was like there for patients and staff. The photographs seem to have been taken in the 1890s as a record of the new additions to the hospital, though as we have seen, they include at least one photograph of older parts of the hospital prior to demolition.

Interior of a ward for female cancer patients. The cancer wards along with the TB wards were probably in the 1899 addition which comprised a two-storey and basement wing connected to the main building by a broad glazed corridor. From RCAHMS
And its counterpart for male cancer patients. From RCAHMS
Interior of a ward for male Tb patients, from RCAHMS
A private ward, from RCAHMS
It is particularly poignant to see children in hospital, but even more so in a hospital for incurables. From RCAHMS
Not all patients were confined to bed, here is a ‘recreation room’ for male patients. From RCAHMS
Probationer Nurses’ drawing room. From RCAHMS
The main hospital kitchen, rebuilt in 1899. From RCAHMS
A ward kitchen. From RCAHMS

References: H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and Asylums of the World, vol.3, 1893, pp.303-5: The Lancet, 4 July 1891, p.47; 6 Feb 1892, p.336, 9 June 1894, p.1476; 14 Jan 1899, pp.125-6: Edinburgh Evening News, 4 Feb 1876; 11 Nov 1880; 15 June 1886, p.2

see also: Lothian Health Services Archive blogspot and Building up our Health pp. 92-3

Craighouse, Edinburgh: former private asylum, future housing development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Hall, Craig House photographed by RCAHMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humphreys’ Hospitals

This post takes another look at prefabs and temporary buildings, following on from those featuring Doecker and Ducker. Perhaps the most prolific supplier and manufacturer in England was Humphreys of Knightsbridge.  It was Humphreys’ firm which, in 1907,  provided the wood and iron hut for the British Antarctic Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton, that was assembled by the team in 1908 at Cape Royds, on the coast of the Antarctic continent. The hut was still  standing in 2009 when Henry Worsley and two descendants of that party retraced Shackleton’s steps, and stayed in the hut.

James Charlton Humphreys (1848-1932) ‘small in stature… big in business’. Humphreys’ activities in Knightsbridge were covered in the Survey of London’s  Knightsbridge volume. James’ father, also James, had been a corn dealer in the 1850s moving into iron and steel by the 60s. James Charlton Humphreys, was the youngest of the five sons listed in the 1851 census at their home in Smith Street, Chelsea. He started out as a dealer in iron before becoming an iron merchant and contractor. In the 1881 census he was employing 20 men and living at Albert Gate, Knightsbridge with his wife and two young daughters.

This is the most familiar form of corrugated-iron building to be seen today, a ‘tin tabernacle’. Corrugated-iron building at Snelsdon © Copyright Andrew Abbott and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The iron-buildings business at one time had occupied a former floorcloth factory in Hill Street (Trevor Place), but by the early twentieth century was largely carried on in Pimlico, the company’s offices and showrooms remaining at Albert Gate Mansions.  Humphreys himself became a well-known local figure, not only as an industrialist and property-owner but also as a member of the Westminster Vestry and a Volunteer officer. In the 1911 Census when James Humphreys was living in a large house in Haslemere, Surrey, he described himself as chairman of the firm, Humphreys Ltd ‘contractors for buildings of every description’.

In the 1922 edition of Henry Franklin Parsons’ book on isolation hospitals there is a chapter titled ‘Movable hospitals and hospitals of more or less perishable construction’ which illustrates some of Humphreys’ temporary hospital buildings and discusses their construction, merits and deficiencies. The one deficiency that they were unaware of at the time, sadly, was the health risk associated with asbestos. Fireproofing was a primary concern for this type of building which was essentially a large wooden shed heating by an iron coal or wood-burning stove. Lozenge-shaped asbestos-cement tiles in red, white or grey were often used in place of corrugated iron for the walls or roofs, internal lining of the huts was either the highly flammable match-boarding or asbestos-cement fireproof sheeting. As Parsons noted, match-board lining became very dry over time, and flames ran along the spaces between the timbers so that ‘buildings of this sort have in many instances been rapidly consumed, in some case with loss of life’. The danger point was where the flue of the stove passed through the roof or wall. As the buildings were so badly insulated, the stove was stoked up and the pipe overheated. Generally they were hot in summer, cold in winter and noisy in hail storms or heavy rain. (When I was a child, my family lived for a time in a house with a corrugate-iron roof, and I well remember waking up in terror the first time it rained as the noise was extraordinary – l thought it sounded like gunfire.)

The lightness of these buildings held further dangers: ‘Frame buildings covered with wood or iron have also been on several occasions blown over or wrecked during a storm, causing much hardship to the patients’. This seems something of an understatement. In Scotland a Deocker hospital hut put up in 1895 by the Lorn District Committee at Ellenabeich, Kilbrandon, was mostly blown into the sea and lost during a gale within a year of its erection.

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I don’t know where exactly the but was erected, but this is an extract from the first edition OS map showing Ellenabeich, Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland 

Humphreys’ patent iron hospitals were covered in Robert Taylor’s Hospitals Investigator issue no.8. He had come across an advertisement for their buildings in The Hospital, one of the most useful journals published in that period for information on hospital design. The advertisement, on p.429, volume 57 for 6 February 1915, gave a list of places where Humphreys’ iron hospitals had been erected.


‘From the presence of names such as Thingoe it is clear that this is not simply a list of places where hospitasl were built, but includes an uncertain number of names of local authorities that are different from the locations of the buildings, an important difference when it comes to identifying the buildings. ‘Oxford’ clearly means the surviving hospital at Garsington, the Gosport and Portsmouth hospitals survived in the early 1990s, and the Wareham hospital was said to survive in use as a house. Netley was of course the Welsh Hospital. Many others are known to be demolished, including Eton, Hardingstone, Ipswich, Loewstoft, Plymouth, Slough, Stowmarket, and Thingoe. Of those that can be identified at present, a large proportion seem to be smallpox hospitals. The Bury St Edmunds example could be either the municipal smallpox hospital or a private tuberculosis sanatorium already known to be by Hmphrey; both are now gone.

The advertisement also gives the current prices for hospitals, but omits to say how much ground work has to be done by the client. The prices quoted range from £403 for a 12-bed hospital to more than twice that, £820, for 40 beds.

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The list of places in England is a long one:

Abingdon, Accrington, Amble, Ampthill, Annfield Plain, Ashby de la Zouch, Asylums Board, Barking, Barrow in Furness, Barton Regis, Beaconsfield, Bedford, Bedminster, Biddulph, Bideford, Bierley Hall, Birmingham, Bishops Castle, Blackpool, Blyth, Bolton, Bootle, Bournemouth, Boxmoor, Bracknell, Bradford, Bridgenorth, Brighton, Bristol, Buckingham, Bury, Bury St Edmunds, Canterbury, Castleford, Chatham, Charlton, Chester, Chester le Street, Chesterfield, Cleckheaton, Coalville, Crediton, Croydon, Dagenham, Darenth, Dartford, Devonport, Doncaster, Dorking, Dover, Durham, Easling, Eastbourne, East Ham, Eastry, Enfield, Eston, Eton, Finchley, Fulham, Gillingham, Gravesend, Grays, Great Yarmouth, Greenhithe, Gloucester, Godalming, Gosport, Guildford, Halifax, Hambledon, Hampstead Norris, Hanley Castle, Hants reformatory, Hardingstone, Harrogate, Hayes, Hebburn on Tyne, Hereford, Hertford, Hexham, Hitchin, Homerton, Houghton le Spring, Hungerford, Hythe, Ilkley, Ipswich, Jarrow, Keighley, Kendal, Keynsham, Kidderminster, Kingsholme, Kings Norton, Lambeth, Leeds, Leicester, Leigh (Essex), Leigh (Manchester), Leighton Buzzard, Lewes, Leyton, Liverpool, Liversedge and Mirfield, Lowestoft, Ludlow, Luton, Macclesfield, Maidenhead, Maidstone, Malvern Link, Manchester, Mansfield, Manson, Market Harborough, Melton Mowbray, Netley, New Quay, Northfleet, Northleach, Newcastle on Tyne, Oldham, Orsett, Otley, Oxford, Plymouth, Portland, Portsmouth, Ramsgate, Rawtenstall, Redcar, Redhill, Rochester, Rochford, Rushden, St Albans, Salford, Scarborough, Seacroft, Sedgefield, Shanklin, Sheffield, Shirehampton, Slough, Southampton, South Shields, South Stoneham, Stamford, Stannington, Stapleton, Stockwell, Stone, Stowmarket, Stratford upon Avon, Tadcaster, Taunton, Thingoe, Tonbridge, Tottenham, Tunbridge Wells, Tynemouth, Uppingham Upton on Severn, Uxbridge, Wakefield, Ware, Wareham, Warwick, Watford, Wellingborough, Welwyn, West Ham, Weston super Mare, Whatstandwell, Whitehaven, Whitwood, Wigan, Willesden, Willington Quay, Wimbledon, Windsor, Wolverhampton, Wombourne, Worcester

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Of these, further information can be given the following:

Bury St Edmunds: this is probably the Humphrey sanatorium built in 1910 for a private company as the Bury and West Suffolk Sanatorium.

Chesterfield: the Borough Council had a temporary 10-bed hospital in 1895, considered unsatisfactory by the LGB inspector (PP 1896 XXXVII, 723)

Durham: the Borough Council built an iron hospital in 1894 which the LGB considered unsatisfactory even before completed (PP 1896 XXXVII, 746).

Gosport: one building was extant in the early 1990s, collapsing but still in use, recognizable as Humphrey’s.

Hereford: the Borough Council erected a 16-bed hospital of corrugated iron lined with wood in 1893, considered unsatisfactory by the LGB inspector (PP 1896 XXXVII, 779)

Keighley: perhaps the ‘temporary’ smallpox hospital here in 1894 (PP 1896 XXXVII, 797)

Leigh (Manchester): Leigh Joint Hospital Board was constituted in 1894; a smallpox hospital at Astley consisted of two corrugated iron buildings, presumably Humphrey’s. One had 16 beds and a nurses’ bedroom, the other 12 beds and a nurses’ bedroom and a kitchen (PP 1909 XXVIII, 81).

Macclesfield: in 1887 a ‘Ducker temporary hospital’ was erected here for smallpox, this may have been replaced or supplemented by a Humphreys model about 1890 (PP 1890 XXXIV, 129).

Netley. The Welsh Military Hospital, built in 1914 to the designs of E. T. and E. S. Hall at a cost of between £6,500 and £7,000 as a gift from the people of Wales to the fighting forces. It was first erected on the parade ground at Netley Hospital, with the intention of moving it to France later.

Orsett: the Joint Hospital Board erected a Humphrey’s corrugated iron building at Thurrock in 1901 (PP ?1901, XXVI, 140)

Oxford: the borough smallpox hospital was in Garsington parish, with a building recognizable as Humphrey’s containing two wards, an administration building with a few characteristics, and a small mortuary, all surviving in the early 1990s.

Portsmouth: A recognizable Humphrey block with two wards survives as an addition of 1909 to the municipal infectious diseases hospital now (1992) St Mary’s Hospital; it is used as Medical Records.

Thingoe: Thingoe Rural District Council, Bury St Edmunds, built a ‘temporary’ wood and iron hospital for smallpox in 1902 for £606 (PP 1909 XXVIII, 57).

Windsor: the smallpox hospital here was a temporary corrugated iron building erected alongside the sewage farm in 1893 to cope with a smallpox epidemic (PP 1900 XXXIV 99).

See also the isolation hospital, Arne, Purbeck, Dorset. From Michael Russell Wood’s Dorset’s Legacy in Corrugated Iron, 2012. “Halfway between Wareham and Corfe Castle, just off Soldiers Road, Arne, stand the Isolation Hospital and Nurses’ Bungalow. They were put up in the early 1900s. This hospital is the finest remaining example of the type and, together with the bungalow, is listed grade II. These are the only listed iron buildings in Dorset.”

The Hospitals Investigator 6

October 1992 brought forth the sixth newsletter from the Cambridge team of the RCHME Hospitals Project. It included short pieces on mortuaries and asylum farms, and accounts of the Victoria Cottage Hospital, Wimborne, Dorset, with thoughts on holiday closures of hospitals. There is also a note on Sleaford’s isolation hospital, a portable hospital with what sounds like a camper van for the nurse. Extra curricular activities at hospitals were discovered too, with money making schemes in a Yorkshire madhouse and an unofficial B&B at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Victoria Cottage Hospital, Wimborne

This unremarkable little Dorset hospital has a history written in 1955 by someone hiding behind the initials G. H. W. From this booklet we can extract several amusing bits of hospital history.

First must come the sanitation. In 1887 when the hospital was built there was one earth closet for the patients. This came to light in 1907 when water was installed along with an extra closet. The operating theatre was another horror for it doubled as the bathroom from 1887 until 1904 when a new operating room was built. Even this new theatre did not have an electric light until 1934. Provision of a separate operating theatre did not end the dual use of the bathroom, however. Until 1927 it housed the telephone. In that year the telephone was moved to the matron’s office.

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Extract from the 1901 OS map. The cottage hospital is to the north-west of the town, almost on a level with the union workhouse, which is to the north-east. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Until 1924 the hospital closed completely for about a moth every year, for cleaning and repairs. During this time the staff took holidays, and the patients were dismissed. Some were sent to the small 18th-century workhouse in Wimborne, for in 1922 the Guardians sent the hospital a bill for care of patients. We have met this sort of annual closing and cleansing elsewhere, but it seems poorly documented. In 1946 the Passmore Edwards Hospital at Liskeard closed for a moth because that was the only way in which the staff could take a holiday; our source does not say whether this was a regular event. The Royal National Sanatorium at Bournemouth closed in winter, allegedly because the hospital was only intended to provide a summer break for consumptives (and thus for their carers as well). At Northampton the General Infirmary managed cleaning and repairs by simply closing one ward at a time, but as this was a large hospital part-closing was easier than in a small hospital like Wimborne.

Finally, on a frivolous note, when the townsmen were discussing whether to commemorate Victoria’s jubilee by building a hospital or by some other means, one suggestion was ‘erecting a statue of Queen Victoria with a clock on top’. Just how this was to be arranged is not explained.

Sleaford Hospital

The Sleaford Rural District Council bought an isolation hospital in 1901 for the sum of £127. It was ‘an ingenious contrivance’ of numbered wooden sections that could be put together in a few hours, measured 20 feet by 12 feet and could hold up to four patients. A van on wheels provided both accommodation for a nurse and the necessary cooking arrangements. There was also a portable steam disinfector that was reported to be too heavy to be portable. This magnificent hospital was stored at the Sleaford Workhouse, and was erected for the very first time for the benefit of an inquisitive Local Government Board inspector in 1905. It is not known whether it was ever used after that. [The inspector’s report is in Parliamentary Papers, 1907 XXVI, 200-201.]

The East Stow Rural District Council in Suffolk had a ‘small portable hospital’ for smallpox cases in 1913, and presumably this was also a sectional wooden building. [PP 1914 XXXVII, 746] In 1913 Bournemouth Corporation had lent the neighbouring Rural District Council a Doecker Hut for use as an extra hospital ward during an outbreak of enteric fever at Ringwood, another portable structure. [PP 1894 XL, 565 and see Doecker Portable Hospitals]

At least these buildings were of wood. Shortly before 1890 the Gainsborough Rural Council bought a hospital marquee for patients and a bell tent for the nurses. They were aired from time to time, but appear not to have been used. [PP 1894 XL, 565] Perhaps even these tents were better than the converted dog-kennels at Bishop Auckland in 1895. [PP 1896 XXXVII, 704]


In the course of research for the project a file copy turned up of a Government questionnaire headed ‘Isolation Hospital Accommodation’, and filled in for the Southampton Smallpox Hospital. The printer’s rubric shows that it dates from 1926 and that some 10,000 copies were printed. The answers, together with a crude plan from another source, make a description of this vanished hospital possible, but there is little of interest until the question ‘is there a mortuary at the hospital?’ The answer is simply ‘Cubicles in Observation Hut used for this purpose’. The observation hut was a small building with two single-bed wards and a duty room If one cubicle was occupied by a patient, the psychological effect of comings and goings in the other cubicle can hardly have been good. Perhaps the real significance of this arrangement is that the observation wards of isolation hospitals were probably rarely used, and that there never was a living patient to be disturbed by the arrival and departure of a dead one. It also helps to suggest ways in which hospitals without mortuaries might have functioned.

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Extract from the 1934 OS map. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The smallpox hospital was at Millbrook Marsh, an inhospitable looking place even as late as the 1930s, surrounded by mud and marsh. It is interesting to see that development of the estuary was just beginning at this time, to the east is the King George V graving dock under construction. By the 1950s the hospital site had become a boat yard, re-using the existing buildings. A couple remained in the late 1960s, when the area to the north had become a sewage works, which eventually swallowed the remaining former hospital buildings.The huge Prince Charles Container Port was built over the mud flats and saltings.

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Extract from the 1897 OS map. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Southampton, in common with other ports, provided a number of isolation hospitals. As well as the smallpox hospital there was another isolation hospital at West Quay.

It is in the usual location, close to the water so that anyone arriving by ship suspected of having contracted an infectious disease could be taken directly to the hospital by boat. The site was later an Out-bathing and Disinfection Station for Infectious Diseases and later still used for a clinic and a mortuary. That was in the post-war era, and by then land reclamation had seen the site removed from the water’s edge. As far as I can make out, the Grand Harbour Hotel seems to occupy the site now.

Asylum Farms

Slowly it is becoming clear that asylum farms were unlike those in the world outside, at least in the South of England. Large barns for storing crops are absent from those seen so far, but piggeries are ubiquitous and any fragments of yards and single storey buildings appear to have been for cattle. Sometimes there are stables and cart sheds, but it is not certain that these were specifically for farm use. Indeed the buildings suggest that attention was concentrated on stock, especially pigs and cattle, and perhaps market gardening, where there was greater scope for farming as occupational therapy. At Digbys, Exeter, there is a tall building which had large opposed loading doors, one opening on to the yard, the other on to a lane outside the hospital grounds. The building is not large enough to hold much, and certainly is not suitable for storing a grain crop. It seems to have been intended for receiving bought-in material, presumably feedstuff for the pigs and cattle.

Digby Hospital, formerly the Exeter Lunatic Asylum. The small farm complex is on the east near to the London & South Western Railway line. The buildings have been converted to housing as part of the re-development of the hospital and its site for housing.
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Extract from the 1st Edition OS Map published in 1889. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The advantages of concentration on livestock is that it would provide the asylum with pork, bacon, milk and beef, while a market garden would provide soft fruit and vegetables. All of these are labour-intensive occupations, providing maximum work throughout the year for the relatively large number of patients.

Secondary Employment

John Beal was the proprietor of a private madhouse at Nunkeeling in the Yorkshire Wolds. The financial success of this venture seems out of proportion to the small number of patients and the remoteness of its position. The truth emerged in 1823 when the excise men found 24 casks of tobacco, 25 of tea, and 264 of assorted spirits, mainly gin, concealed about the premises. Perhaps we should pay greater attention to such institutions, in the hope that more than just buildings survive.


Those hospital administrators busy trying to generate income have all failed to exploit one obvious opportunity that was seen as long ago as 1770 by the Matron of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. The town has long had a shortage of short-term accommodation. The matron saw this and let beds to overnight visitors, presumably giving them breakfast as well. On discovering this the Governors dismissed her, partly because she was pocketing the income.