Old Surgical Hospital

Former Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in Lauriston Place
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Former Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh in Lauriston Place

The finest and most significant building of the former Royal Infirmary complex on Lauriston Place in Edinburgh, the Old Surgical Hospital is part of the Quartermile development, situated a half-mile (0.8 km) south of the city centre. Now A-listed, it was a grand purpose-designed hospital building in the Scots Baronial style by architect David Bryce (1803-76) and finished by his nephew John. Comprising four long pavilion wards to the north and two to the south, and incorporating to the rear the original George Watson's Hospital, built 1738-41 by William Adam (1689 - 1746), this was the major part of what was said to be the largest voluntary hospital in Britain. Florence Nightingale's advice was sought on the layout of the wards. The three-storey building is constructed of pale Hailes sandstone and features crowstepped gables and circular corner turrets, together with a grand entrance under a bold square clock-tower. In front of this entrance was an ice house and separate porter's lodge, while a long corridor connected to the Medical Hospital behind. This was the third Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh; the first was established in Infirmary Street in 1729, the oldest voluntary hospital in Scotland. A new hospital opened next door in 1741, but by the 1870s this had become overcrowded and unsuitable. The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh moved to Little France in 2003 and most of the Lauriston complex was redeveloped or demolished. However the Surgical Hospital lay abandoned and unloved for more than a decade, with only a small part used as the Quartermile marketing centre for a time. Originally intended to form an hotel and then reclassified for residential use, it was bought by the University of Edinburgh in 2015. The University intend to renovate the building and transformed it into a new interdisciplinary hub that will unite business and public policy to address societal and environmental challenges.

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