Glasgow's Lost Hospitals
In 2015 the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital opened in the south-west of Glasgow. The city’s new “super hospital” is home to a wide range of services relocated from hospitals across the city. Four hospitals – the Southern General Hospital, the Western Infirmary, the Victoria Infirmary, and the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill – were closed and merged into this new campus. In the space of just a few months these hospitals switched from being busy centres of teaching and clinical care to forming part of the history and heritage of healthcare in Glasgow. In this exhibition, we celebrate the legacy of these recently closed hospitals, and the contributions made to them by our Fellows and Members.
This exhibition also looks back at a few much older hospitals. In the days before the NHS, Fellows of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow were instrumental in the establishment and administration of several hospitals and other health services around the city. The items on display here help to tell the story of these lost hospitals of Glasgow. Fellows such as Robert Cleghorn, a former President of the Faculty and physician to the Town’s Hospital, William Mackenzie, a renowned ophthalmologist and founder of the Glasgow Eye Infirmary, and Sir Alexander Macgregor, Medical Officer of Health, played important roles in the running of hospitals and the provision of healthcare in Glasgow before the foundation of the NHS. The places where they worked are long gone, but we can revisit them through the College collections.
Old Town’s Hospital and Residence of Robert Cleghorn Esq. by Thomas Fairburn, 1849 (Acc. No 2015/105).
The Town’s Hospital and Poorhouse was originally built in 1733 on Clyde Street, at the edge of Glasgow Green. It housed an infirmary, a work house, an asylum, and beds for the elderly and young orphans. The construction and running of the hospital was financed by charitable contributions from various corporations and societies in Glasgow, and the medical care was provided for free by members of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons. A picture of the original building can be seen here.
Town's Hospital Districts
Division of the city into districts. Glasgow : D. Maclure, printer, 1842.
The hospital closed the doors of its Clyde Street building in 1844, and the poorhouse function was removed to the site of the lunatic asylum on Parliamentary Road. At its new location, the City Poorhouse became one of the largest pauper institutions in Britain (and was often criticised for being overcrowded). The Directors decided to split the city into 17 districts, with a district surgeon appointed to each. A map showing these divisions can be seen here.
Royal Hospital for Sick Children
From The Royal Hospital for Sick Children : and its dispensary, Glasgow, 1889
The Royal Hospital for Sick Children was opened at Garnethill in December 1882 with 58 beds. A further 16 were added in 1887 when a house next door was converted into an annexe. By the 1900s the building could no longer cope with Glasgow’s growing population. In 1914, it moved to a new building at Yorkhill, giving the hospital its popular name. Fellows of the College were involved in the RHSC when it opened, for example Hector C. Cameron, William Macewen and William Leishman. The great historian of the College, James Finlayson, held the office of Physician to the hospital from 1883 to 1898 and on retiring was elected Consulting Physician.
RHSC DispensaryThe hospital dispensary from The Royal Hospital for Sick Children : and its dispensary, Glasgow, 1889
Glasgow's Fever Hospitals
The number of cases treated at Glasgow's two fever hospitals during outbreaks of typhus, relapsing fever, and smallpox, 1869-72. From 'Report of the City of Glasgow Fever Hospitals' by Dr. James B. Russell (Glasgow, 1873).
There have been several fever hospitals at various sites around Glasgow over the years, including Belvidere in the East end, Parliamentary Road in the North, and Ruchill in the North-West.
The original fever hospital at Parliamentary Road was opened to deal with a typhus outbreak in 1864. A further outbreak in 1869, followed by an epidemic of relapsing fever in 1970, put a great strain on the hospital's accommodation.
Belvidere Fever Hospital
Belvidere House, a country house to the East of Glasgow, which became the site of the Belvidere Fever Hospital from 1870. From 'The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry' by Thomas Annan (Glasgow: James MacLehose, 1878).
The fever hospital directors, including the President of the Faculty, decided that a larger and more permanent site was needed, eventually deciding on the Belvidere estate in the city's East end. The Medical Officer of Health, James B. Russell, gave a description of the building and the circumstances surrounding its purchase in his report of the fever hospitals in 1873.
William Macewen at Belvidere
The famous surgeon William Macewen held one of his earliest medical posts after graduation at the recently opened Belvidere Fever Hospital. He was the first resident medical officer in the new establishment in Glasgow's East end.
He was obviously well liked by the staff there, as he was presented with this parchment, a ring, and a scarf pin, when he left in 1871. The superintendent of the existing fever hospital at Parliamentary Road commented that Macewen "gave his whole soul to the work."
Macewen worked in a number of Glasgow hospitals throughout his career, including the Royal Infirmary, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, and the Western Infirmary.
Mearnskirk Hospital opened in May 1930 primarily for children with surgical tuberculosis. To meet the needs of the Education Health Service, children with long-term orthopaedic conditions were later admitted and beds made available for any outbreak of infantile paralysis.
During the Second World War children were evacuated to the Garrison Hospital in Millport, and Mearnskirk assumed a new role as an Emergency Service Hospital. The hospital never subsequently regained its role as a hospital primarily for children and in 1946 the Surgical Thoracic Unit was opened.
From 1955 onwards, Mearnskirk gradually saw the number of children treated drop to below the number of adults. Improvements in child health and advances in the practice of medicine brought about this turn-around, which also led to the hospital's change of status from Sanatorium to General Hospital in 1960.
By the late 1980s Mearnskirk had become a solely geriatric unit. When the Victoria Infirmary NHS Trust was created in 1992 Mearnskirk was placed within its jurisdiction.