The walk starts at the Clocktower although you can start wherever and this should take you a little over 30 minutes.

In June 1867 the ground to build the Craigleith Parish Poor House was acquired at 16 pounds an acre from The Fettes Trust. The site comprised of ten acres of farmland at what was known as Porterfield, it truly was very much in the country .The stone to build the Poor House was sourced from Craigleith Quarry (now the site of Sainsbury’s). On the 21st of December on a very wet day, according to records, the inmates from the poor house at the West End (now the Caledonian Hotel site) were transferred to their new abode. To the Craigleith poor House/Hospital .Those who were able bodied walked from the West End. Records say there were 132 men, 208 women and 93 children and infants. A description from the SCOTSMAN at the time “the inmates will have an allowance of plum pudding at dinner in addition to their normal supplies .They also will have an additional allowance of bread and cheese and ale, the children will get currant bread. The west end of the building was given over as a infirmary (D block)

Heading down the short drive you are now facing Turner House.

This was the Medical Superintendants’ house however after a fire that saw the residency at the hospital gate house destroyed this was made into the Medical residency and remained so for many years becoming in the 90’s an overnight stay patients hostel for cardiac patients travelling for treatment and investigation from afar then becoming the site of the first Hospital discharge lounge in the late 90s and in early 2000 it  became the Site Management teams administration block. The name Turner is after Dr Dicky Turner an eminent cardiologist who according to records  was probably the first Dr in Scotland to  carry out intracardiac surgery.

Turn right head towards D Block

This west wing of the Craigleith Poor House was the infirmary block and in 1914 when the Craigleith Building was requisitioned by the 2nd Scottish General Hospital ( a Territorial unit ) the inmates were transferred to Craiglockart Hospital .The first Military patient was admitted to D Block in August 1914 having been transported by rail to Craigleith Station which was on the site of the now Holiday Inn. The staff and patients at this time were fed from the gardens which were to the front and side of the building. New theatres were required to manage the increasing work brought about by war, the  new theatres were built at the back of D block becoming in the 1950’s the hospital sterilising unit when the theatres in 1956 were transferred to a purpose built building just further along the corridor we understand initially on wooden stilts above the old theatre .This theatre suite remained in action until the late 80’s when the Alexander Donald Building was developed. The lions that remain at the front of the building have recently been given names in honour of staff who contributed greatly to the hospital. One Lion named Dott after Norman Dott a neurosurgeon and the 2nd Jackson after Lynn Jackson a much loved Chief Nurse .The lions in the 60s were moved by some medics in a prank and were buried in the gardens in the area that we now know as the Anne Ferguson building.

Carrying round in a clockwise direction you can see to your right the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (DCN)

Neurosurgery was started as a separate surgical specialty in the mid 1920’s and pioneered at the Western by Norman Dott who came to Edinburgh in 1925 after spending a few years learning new skills whilst in Boston. Dott whose first employment was as a engineer developed an interest in medicine however after a motor cycle accident he studied medicine becoming a world renowned Neurosurgeon .Dotts ambitions saw the development of what was referred to as a’’ state of the art’’ unit. In the 1950’s the Western was rapidly developing and had already established a Department of Radiology and so in the 60’s the unit we now know as DCN came into being. The unit complete with radiology , operating theatres ,Rehab and a hydrotherapy pool was completed in the 1960’s with 60 beds dedicated to Neuro surgery. Patients with Neurological disorders were also managed at the Northern General hospital (now Morrisons on Ferry Road )  in the late 80′ this facility was closed and Medical neurology service transferred to the Western Site bringing together  Neurosciences under one roof. Neurosciences are expected to transfer to new purpose built facilities at Little France in 2019.

Keeping in a clockwise direction you will pass the back of the Alexander Donald Building (ADB) on your right.

The patient numbers attending the Western and the specialties on the site just kept growing and in the late 70’s early 80’s it was agreed that a further new build was required. The ADB was opened in the late 80’s and saw the creation of dedicated Theatres, Intensive care and Coronary care alongside acute Medicine, Surgery and new Physiotherapy and Occupational therapy premises. A later addition was the building of the regional Infectious Diseases Unit; the latter was only to have been a stop gap for ten years!! . The building was named after Dr Sandy Donald who was the hospital Medical Superintendant during the post war years and remained so until the early 1970’s.

Continuing in a clockwise direction do not head to Telford Road, follow the road round and down over to your far left you can now see the Microbiology building.

The new Bacteriology and Microbiology units opened in 1962 .

On your left also is the old Hospital Laundry and the dedicated Estates Building

On your right you should now see the back view of the Anne Ferguson Building (AFB)

The Anne Ferguson Building opened in 2001 on the site off what had been the Nurses residency or more fondly known as the Nurses home. The Nurses home was officially opened in 1937 and along with the nurses residency where the nurses had to be in by 10pm it also housed a Senior Sisters sitting room and the then Western General school of Nursing later becoming the North Edinburgh School of Nursing when it transferred to the newly built site at Comely bank, now the Organisations Training and Development site along with NHS Lothian staff bank. The Sisters sitting room later becoming in the 90’s the staff social club!! The AFB was named after Dr Anne Ferguson a Senior Lecturer and Consultant Physician to the Gastro Intestinal unit. The Art Gallery on the lower ground floor of this building currently hosting an exhibition of donated Art Works and has recently been renamed the Anne Ferguson Gallery. This exhibition is planned to run for a few months.

The multi level car park should now be in front of you, this site before the building of the Royal Victoria has been a number of things including a recreation hall, built to provide entertainment for the inmates of the military hospital and in later years provided a function area for the staff of the hospital with Annual staff balls being the norm. There was also a football/hockey pitch where many a friendly staff game has been played and of course the Paderewski

You have probably heard a lot about the Paderewski Building in the last few weeks with the renaming of the newly refurbished lecture theatre in its honour. The building, before the 2nd world war had been both a Children’s home and the residency for the nurses of the Craigleith Hospital however during the Second World War and after the fall of Poland the Children’s home and several of the wards in D block were given over to a unit for Polish soldiers and civilians. This was achieved through donation from the Paderewski trust fund in the USA. Paderewski was a famous pianist and Polish national hero. Due to the generosity of the foundation in the USA much needed funds for the hospital were provided and in the ensuing years enabled the development of a Polish medical study facility, the Memorial Hospital at this time was named the Paderewski. The building which remained so for many years has been ,an OPD  a Casualty , Stores,  Changing rooms , accommodation for midwifery district Nurses ,Occupational therapist , Occupational health , Rheumatology consultants offices , Finance ,HR ,and Hospital Administration  before being knocked down in 2010  to make way for the new Royal Victoria Building

Looking to your right you can see the Old Out Patient Building (we say old but still very much in use) This building was known previously as Phase Two (old OPD)

In 1971 this new modern out- patient department opened its doors and provided excellent facilities for the people of North Edinburgh and beyond Including  a casualty later becoming an Accident and Emergency (initially ran by Orthopaedic surgeons), multipurpose clinics inclusive of Paediatrics, Midwifery, Radiology and  Psychiatry and a purpose built short stay surgical unit. Sadly in 1991 the A & E closed its doors however through the determination of a strong Nursing team the first Scottish Nurse led Minor Injuries unit was opened and it continues to flourish.

Now turn left and head down Porterfield Road on your right you can see a small red brick building this being the site of the former Hospital Mortuary and for a time provided space for the hospital chaplain  Head to Crewe Road we now want you to exit and turn right.

Walking down Crewe Road on your right you will now see the very impressive University Buildings however this used to be Carrington Crescent where many houses  stood proud shading the grounds of the hospital/poor house .The houses in the crescent along with a large wall were said to help prevent the pupils at Fettes College having to look onto the poor house. The houses that were originally here provided residency for the Hospital Dr’s and accommodation for many of the Estate workers and their families.

Heading  down – after the zebra crossing turn right  back into the hospital, you are now heading up Main Hospital Drive

Walking up the hospital drive it is now hard to imagine that this was once a great sweeping driveway with gardens to both sides, an extremely impressive bit of land and substantial buildings. With the growing health needs of the population and demand for health services the hospital has grown over the years and has almost taken up all of the 10 acres originally sold for the development of the poor house.

On your left is the Scottish Health Service  Centre providing an excellent facility for courses and conferences and has now been used as a National events venue for over 20 years however did you know it also boasts a superb health service library with over 16000 books, journals and publications related to a wide range of non clinical health related topics. It is well worth a look if you are working in or studying health service management.

Next to door is Ward one – day chemotherapy however when built in 1965-68 at a cost of £250,000 it was the first purpose built transplantation unit in the world winning a design award in 1964. The building when originally completed was the renal transplant unit and functioned as such with theatres and dialysis facilities until 1995 when all service were transferred to the old Royal Infirmary bringing together Liver and Renal transplantation under one roof.

The bridge that you can see spanning the road was to allow immuno compromised transplant patients to be taken for treatment in the radiotherapy unit without heading outdoors. Unfortunately after the build was complete it was realised that Fire engines would be unable to get under it and rather than dismantle  the bridge the road was lowered,  sadly as recent history has shown the bridge remains too low for Edinburgh double decker buses with at least one becoming  stuck under the bridge in recent years.<

On Your right is the Oncology unitonce known as the RTU -Radiotherapy unit and over to your left behind ward one perhaps you can just see Maggie’s centre. This was the first Maggie’s centre in Scotland and was built in 1996 and named in memory of Maggie Keswick Jencks. The building was housed in a converted stables block and continues to support patients and their families affected by cancer.At the corner of Oncology turn right and head back towards the hospital, this drive way at one time had a row of beautiful cherry blossom trees but sadly development of services saw their demise. The Oncology unit has an amazing history and one day when you have time go and view the timeline in the Cancer Centre its well worth a look giving you an insight of the service from the early days of radiation therapy, the development of Medical oncology treatments and of course the amazing Cyclotron .The unit also houses the Edinburgh Breast services having transferred from Longmore hospital in 1991 to a dedicated facility.

Entering the building at the WRVS shop – at this end of the hospital  over the years the space has been used for many things .A satellite Bank (handy on pay day ),the staff uniform sewing room where many Nurses had their aprons made longer !!  A nd even housed a senior staff /Drs dining room in what is now ward 8.

As you now head back up the main corridor of the hospital on your left is the chaplaincy. The chaplaincy centre being built in 1979 at a cost of £65.000 with funds raised through public appeal –perhaps the forerunner to crowd funding

The Clock tower building as a hospital has housed many specialities over the years too many to mention on this short walk. If however you are interested, the book mentioned at the start of the walk will bring the old hospital alive and is well worth a read.

Over the years on the floors of this building the hospital has flourished with medical and surgical paediatrics, maternity, gynae, Rheumatology, respiratory, orthopaedics, care of the elderly haematology, general medicine and even a staff sick bay, with a Laboratory opening in 1968 however the hospital first sported a lab on the site in 1937  … all in all a very busy building.

One thought on “Walk Around the Western – a 150 years ago on the 21st December 1868……….

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