Along with the rest of the nation, we are feeling incredibly grateful for our NHS and everyone who works in it. So we thought that now would be a great time to take a look back at three of Stirling’s historic hospitals, all of which were constructed and in operation long before the National Health Service Act came into effect in 1948. Through researching our historic hospitals we can explore our social and economic, as well as architectural, histories and their stories offer us fascinating glimpses into the past.
Bannockburn Fever Hospital
Built between 1892 and 1894 and designed by Stirling architects McLuckie & Walker (who we will be presenting an exhibition on later this year) Bannockburn Fever Hospital got off to a difficult start. Stirlingshire required a new infectious diseases hospital, however, newspaper reports from 1893 reveal that whilst it was agreed Stirlingshire required a Fever Hospital ‘in order to efficiently carry out the Public Health Act’; Bridge of Allan, Buchlyvie, Balfron, and Bannockburn all refused to have the Fever Hospital erected anywhere near them! A Colonel Wilson of Bannockburn even threatened legal proceedings against the Stirlingshire Central Committee (of which he was a member) for suggesting a ‘site some distance from his mansion house’ being selected. Equally, Dunblane, Doune, and Callander were also ‘up in arms against any hospital in their vicinity’. These arguments rumbled on for over a year, but eventually, the Bannockburn Fever Hospital was constructed for the grand sum of £8,000. The red brick exterior and overall design of the hospital gave the building a welcoming cottage-like feel, something which we are sure would have been appreciated by the patients. Inside, enamelled bricks were cleverly utilised on the walls to provide a hygienic, easily cleaned interior. A horse and cart ambulance was even available to collect patients, as be seen in this archival photograph taken outside the Hospital, in which the hospital’s nurses and matron are also pictured in their crisp uniforms.
Initially the hospital only had beds for ten patients but was later extended to include a Convalescent Home, more beds for fever patients, and a Psychiatric Assessment Unit. Finally, the Fever Hospital became a Geriatric Hospital, until these services were transferred over to the new Stirling Royal Infirmary in 2010. In 2012 the Bannockburn Fever Hospital site was put up for sale and was later demolished. Thankfully, there is no need for dedicated fever hospitals in the UK. For more information on Bannockburn Fever Hospital, visit the excellent Historic Hospitals website for more information on hospitals across Scotland.
Figure 1: Colourised postcard showing the Bannockburn Fever Hospital after more buildings were added to the site in the early 1900s.
Stirling Combination Poorhouse and Lunatic Asylum, later Orchard House Hospital
Stirling Combination Poorhouse and Lunatic Asylum, later known as Orchard House Hospital, was built between 1855 and 1857. In 1906 additions to the older building and new buildings were added to the site by Stirling architects McLuckie and Walker. We don’t have the time to delve into the history of poorhouses or workhouses in Scotland, but if you are interested, this website is a great resource. Suffice to say, they were not always the most humane establishments.
Comprising of a new hospital, laundry, day room, and kitchen blocks, when Orchard Hospital was re-opened with much pomp and ceremony in 1907 the building was still referred to as Stirling Poorhouse. On the opening day the Chairman of the Stirling Combination Poorhouse Board said that the additions and alterations were made ‘to bring the place more in harmony with the requirements which public opinion now demanded in the treatment of the infirm sick and poor.’ In order to build the new extension to the Poorhouse, land adjacent to it known as The Orchard was purchased so we can assume that’s where its later, more friendly, name comes from.
The site still occupied by a modern health centre called Orchard House whose buildings also have a cottage-like feel and were designed in 1982 by Alex Strand and Partners. The original poorhouse and later additions have been demolished, but you can click here to see plans of the building on a variety of maps from the National Library of Scotland’s vast collection.
The Stirling Combination Hospital, later Kildean Hospital
This historic hospital is one locals may be more familiar with, as it still bears it’s original function in a stone carving on its façade. It opened in 1904 and was designed by the excellently named Ebenezer Simpson. It is situated on the Drip Road in the Raploch and was originally built to serve the wider Stirling area as an infectious diseases hospital. Like Bannockburn Fever Hospital, when it was no longer needed to treat infectious diseases it became a geriatric care unit.
In 2017 the Scottish Government awarded £900,000 of funding for the regeneration of the Kildean Hospital site as part of the regeneration of the Raploch, and the Robertson Trust (who also own and manage The Barracks) also donated £45,000. This meant that the hospital buildings could be restored and transformed into a new Business and Enterprise Hub. The building now offers small offices to rent for second and third sector organisations, offering free business support to all tenants, and we hear it’s even pet friendly! It is great to see buildings which are so important to local history are finding a new lease of life at the heart of their communities.
We would like to end this post by saying a huge and heartfelt thank you to all NHS workers for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic as we move into the second phase of Lockdown.