On Tuesday, staff members from the University of Edinburgh Centre for Research Collections (of which we're part) were lucky enough to enjoy a guided tour of Historic Environment Scotland. The organisation came into being after the merger of Historic Scotland and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland in 2015. Nowadays, you are probably more familiar with seeing the Historic Environment Scotland logo on the many historic properties it manages around the country, but few people realise that the organisation also holds a substantial paper, photographic and artefact record of our shared built heritage - and that you can access these fantastic resources both in person in their searchroom on Bernard Terrace and online through their impressive set of resources. I often use Canmore, an online database of records about buildings, archaeology and maritime history, to search for images of now-demolished hospital sites, for example. This week has seen the anniversary of the death of John Astley Ainslie, whose fortune later helped to establish the Astley Ainslie Hospital, which opened in 1923. We don't have many images of the hospital, but I can look up a range of views on Canmore, here.
|Wartime patients at Astley Ainslie, from our own collections, which tend to focus more on the hospital's atmosphere than its architecture!|
David Bryce, of course, also designed the Royal Infirmary building, which opened in 1879 on Lauriston Place. It replaced the eighteenth century Infirmary in High School Yards, designed by William Adam. We have quite a few images of both buildings, which you can compare below.
|William Adam Infirmary, opened in 1741|
|David Bryce-designed Royal Infirmary, opened in 1879|
Just as the William Adam Infirmary was no-longer fit for purpose as the nineteenth-century wore on, the Lauriston Place site was struggling to keep pace with modern medicine as the twentieth century drew to a close. In the 1990s, plans began to be made to move to a new hospital in Little France to the south-east of the centre of Edinburgh, which would combine services from many of the city's nineteenth century local hospitals. When a building like the Bryce Infirmary closes its doors, Historic Environment Scotland spring into action, and in 2003, the (then) Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland surveyed the interior of the buildings, and we hold copies of the photographs from the survey in LHSA collections. Back then, the future of the building was uncertain, so it was important to record the building at the end of its life as a hospital.
During its lifetime, the Lauriston Place Infirmary was extended, and more pavilions were built in order to accommodate more patients and different specialisms. We have plans of these changes (and of the original Bryce designs) in our collections:
|Proposed elevation for the Lauriston Place Infirmary|
We are lucky to hold such a substantial record of the physical appearance of the Lauriston Place site, particularly since so much of it has been either recently redeveloped or demolished, since not all later additions were listed. While many of the surviving buildings form part of the Quartermile development, the listed old hospital building remained unoccupied.
|The clock tower in the 1980s|
Now, though, the Infirmary is about to see a whole new life. The University of Edinburgh has purchased the building, and it is to be developed into an interdiscipliniary teaching and learning space, where partnerships with the local community, organisations and enterprises can be explored. LHSA has been involved with these changes from a fairly early stage, as the University is keen to reflect the building's heritage in its future use as the Edinburgh Futures Institute. For example, as in the motto written above the Infirmary's door - patet omnibus - the new Edinburgh Futures Institute will be open to all.
LHSA Manager Ruth was also out and about this week, and on Monday attended a tour of the Infirmary site as it is being developed into the Futures Institute.The tour was also attended by former nurses who trained and worked at the Infirmary - members of the Pelican League. The exterior of the building is being given a thorough overhaul, as can be seen by this shiny section:
Ruth also saw the workings of the Infirmary's clock up close:
The old Bryce Infirmary is an iconic building in Edinburgh not only for its architectural merit, but for its place in people's lives, as it witnessed births, deaths and opportunities for a second chance within its walls. This past is being acknowledged in the building's redevelopment, with the original, Nightingale wards (wards with plenty of space for air circulation, with big windows and long walls along which beds were placed):
|A Nightingale ward in the process of transformation|