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Aberdeen, Woolmanhill, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Simpson Pavilion, Boundary Walls, Gatepiers, Railings And Lamp Standard

Hospital (First World War), Hospital (19th Century)

Site Name Aberdeen, Woolmanhill, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Simpson Pavilion, Boundary Walls, Gatepiers, Railings And Lamp Standard

Classification Hospital (First World War), Hospital (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Old Royal Infirmary

Canmore ID 20092

Site Number NJ90NW 185.01

NGR NJ 93710 06470

NGR Description Centred on NJ 93710 06470

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/20092

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeen, City Of
  • Parish Aberdeen
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District City Of Aberdeen
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ90NW 185 Centred on NJ 93710 06470

For present and successor institution (of the same name), see NJ90NW 361.00.

Built 1833-40, architect Archibald Simpson.

HBD List 1965 (Aberdeen).

Air photographs: AAS/00/08/CT and AAS/00/12/CT.

NMRS, MS/712/100.

Architecture Notes

NMRS REFERENCE:

Aberdeen, Royal Infirmary.

Architect: Archibald Simpson 1832-40

Dr William Kelly - Additions

Saxon Snell - extensions - 1887

Site Management (11 April 2013)

Archibald Simpson, 1833-40; later additions and alterations. 3-storey, 13-bay by 9-bay, H-plan, symmetrical, neo-classical building, part of a nineteenth century hospital complex in Aberdeen city centre. Shallow advanced triangular pedimented centres to principal and side elevations with giant order Doric pilasters. Granite ashlar. Channelled ground floor; string course between ground and 1st floor; deep corniced eaves course with blocking course above. Predominantly moulded architraved windows at 1st and 2nd floor. Corniced and bracketed windows at 1st floor to advanced end 2-bay blocks of south (principal) elevation. Copper-clad dome at centre with glazing to north side.

Predominantly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows; 9-pane glazing at 2nd floor.

The interior was seen in 2013 and has been incrementally remodelled, including subdivisions. Timber boarding to domed attic room, which is understood to have been the operating theatre. Some panelled timber doors with geometric fanlights. Marble bust of Alexander Kilgour set on plaque to wall of entrance corridor.

Boundary Walls, Gatepiers and Railings: roughly squared, coursed and coped granite boundary walls. Wall to west (Spa Street) taller and may have early 18th century fabric. Walls topped with iron railings. Coped square piers, those to north part of site with shallow pyramidal copes.

Lamp Standard: decorative cast iron lamp standard within courtyard to rear of Simpson Pavilion. Bowl missing (2013).

Statement of Special Interest

The Simpson pavilion is a rare example of an early nineteenth century hospital building, which is largely unaltered to its street elevations and plan-form. It was designed by the important Aberdeen architect, Archibald Simpson. The Simpson Pavilion is one of the last and notable examples of the earlier style of general hospital design, predating the pavilion plan-form. The scale of the building, its position on a raised site and its fine neo-classical design give the building significant streetscape presence in its city centre location as well as a significant contribution to the the Former Royal Infirmary, Woolmanhill hospital site.

The former Royal Infirmary complex consists of a fine neo-classical building by Archibald Simpson with later nineteenth century buildings to the rear, on a confined gusset site in Aberdeen city centre. It is unusual for a general hospital site of an early date to remain largely on its original plot as hospitals of this period have typically been altered and extended incrementally. The completeness of the site at Woolmanhill is a consequence of the confines of the city centre location as well and the later building of additional hospital facilities at Forresterhill in the 1920s.

The modern general hospital developed from a handful of institutions founded in the early 18th century. In Scotland the first was Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, begun in 1729 which was followed by Glasgow's Town Hospital of 1732. Both served as the model for Aberdeen's first general hospital, designed by William Christall, which was founded in 1739 and opened in 1742. This building was demolished on completion of the Simpson Pavilion.

By the middle of the nineteenth century advances in medical knowledge and technological innovations resulted in a significant change in hospital design. Known as Nightingale wards or pavilion-plan, in this design different functions of the hospital were separated out into blocks or pavilions and this plan-form was widely adopted from the 1860s.

The Simpson Pavilion predates the pavilion plan-form and is typical of early general hospitals which were often a single building and neo-classical in design with the plan-form and proportions of the building determined by classical principals. Neo-classicism was an architectural style that was inspired from the architecture of Classical Greece and Rome and its perceived purity in form and proportions. The style became widespread across western Europe from the mid-18th century. In Scotland architects used this style for country houses and public buildings, including hospitals, as an appropriate indication of the status of these buildings.

Additions were made to the Simpson Pavilion at the north-east corner (evident on the 1st edtion OS map) by Simpson in 1844 and following a fire in 1849 it was repaired and extended in 1852 and 1859 by William Ramage (previously Simpson's assistant who took over the practice when Simpson died in 1847).

In 1887 a major extension and reconstruction scheme commenced at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary site, consisting of new buildings constructed to the north of the site. Known as the Jubilee Extension Scheme (as the Queen's Jubilee provided an opportunity to raise funds), the new blocks were erected to the north part of the site and opened in 1897, providing a new surgical block, medical and pathology block and laundry blocks. These buildings were designed by W. & J. Smith & Kelly, an Aberdeen architectural practice; however H. Saxon Snell, a prolific hospital architect in London, was consulted on the design. At Saxon Snell's suggestion the 1840 building was converted into an administrative and clinical area and also provided accommodation for nurses. The mid nineteenth century additions to the Simpson Pavilion were removed as part of this extension work.

After the First World War there was urgent need to increase the facilities of the infirmary. The confined nature of the Woolmanhill site did not lend itself to expansion and in 1923 a site at Forresterhill was acquired with the foundation stone of the new hospital laid in 1928. Although the future of the Woolmanhill site was uncertain from this date, it has remained in operation until 2013.

Archibald Simpson (1790-1847) was one of two leading architects in Aberdeen during the early nineteenth century and one of Scotland's leading exponents of neo-classical architecture. Nearly every important architectural commission in the city was won by him or the city architect, John Smith. Simpson designed many of the city's principal public buildings and rarely worked outside of the north-east of Scotland. His work includes St Andrew's Episcopal Church, 1816-17, Stracathro House, near Brechin, 1827 and Aberdeen University, Marischal College, 1837-44 all of which are listed at category A. He also designed buildings for health boards including Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum and Elgin Pauper Lunatic Asylum, however these have been partially or completely demolished.

Statutory address and listed building record updated in 2014. Previously listed as "Aberdeen Royal Infirmary Woolmanhill".

(Historic Environment Scotland List Entry)

Activities

Photographic Survey (September 1964)

Two photographs of the exterior of the Old Infirmary, Woolmanhill, Aberdeen, by the Scottish National Buildings Record/Ministry of Works in September 1964.

Photographic Survey (July 1965)

Four photographs of the exterior of the Old Infirmary, Woolmanhill, Aberdeen, by the Scottish National Buildings Record/Ministry of Works in 1965.

Project (March 2013 - September 2013)

A project to characterise the quantity and quality of the Scottish resource of known surviving remains of the First World War. Carried out in partnership between Historic Scotland and RCAHMS.

References

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