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The Royal Victoria Hospital Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Royal Victoria Hospital origins lie with with the renting of Craigleith House, Craigleith Road, Edinburgh in 1894, by Dr Robert William Philip who was a pioneer in the treatment of Tuberculosis.

Dr Robert Philip set up the first tuberculosis clinic in the world in two small rooms in 13 Bank Street, Edinburgh on the 25th November 1887 named "The Victoria Dispensary for Consumption (TB) and Diseases of the Chest.

A blue plaque on a building at the top of the Mound opposite the Law Courts states:
"Near this place in 1887, Dr Robert Philip founded a tuberculosis dispensary, the first clinic in the world dedicated to fighting a disease of which he foretold Man's eventual mastery. That vision has brought hope to many lands".
Link to https://openplaques.org/plaques/1981

In four years, the two rooms were quite inadequate to meet the numbers of referred patients and in 1891 the dispensary moved to larger premises in Lauriston Place. In 1911 the now Royal Victoria Dispensary moved to much larger premises in Spittal Street.

Dr Philip, after creating the first clinic, determined to create a sanatorium to work in co-ordination with the dispensary. He stated that the sanatorium should not be isolated but be within the City for the convenience of patients and relatives and to show the community that fresh air treatment was possible in the heart of an urban area.

To this end a few of his friends emerged as the "Victoria Hospital Tuberculosis Trust" and a suitable site was found in a charming Georgian mansion:

A photograph taken of Craigleith House c1900 supplied by Dr Jacques

The Establishment of The Royal Victoria Hospital

See also, my other page about the development of Craigleith House and the grounds.

1894- Craigleith House, Craigleith Road, Edinburgh, a late Georgian Mansion/Villa, was leased to Sir Robert Philip and turned into the first Tuberculosis (TB) Sanatorium in Scotland containing 12 beds. It was inaugurated on the 22nd November 1894 by Lord Stormonth-Darling, in the presence of a large assemblance of ladies and gentlemen.

1899- Craigleith House and its extensive grounds (60 acres) were bought for £1,000 per acre by Dr.Robert Philip. The grounds were essential in the treatment of Tuberculosis as the patients were required to get plenty of fresh air and the surrounding trees helped to "filter" the air! TB was prevalent in the early 1900s and treatment was exposure to sunlight.

1903-1907 Five "Butterfly Wards" built in the grounds of Craigleith House. These were sunhouses specifically built to provide patients with fresh air and sunshine.

1904- In many early maps/plans,it was known just as Craigleith, then Victoria Hospital for Consumption until Royal Patronage was given by King Edward VII in 1904 and the hospital became "The Royal Victoria Hospital for Consumption".

1955- By this point, the direct attack on tuberculosis was being successfully mounted using revolutionary methods devised by Dr Philip and, there was less demand for TB beds but an increased demand for the long term nursing care of the elderly.

1959- For this reason, in 1959, the Butterfly Wards were converted for the continuing care of elderly patients who were unable to return home.

The End of The Royal Victoria Hospital and a New Beginning

The end finally arrived for this historic hospital, which started as the first sanatorium for patients with Tuberculosis in 1894 and in the 1950s changed into to a Care and Assessment centre for the elderly.

The facilities were relocated to the Western General Hospital in June 2012 and named the "Royal Victoria Building".

Royal Victoria Hospital, Craigleith Road, Edinburgh.
Closed Signs either side of entrance. Photo dated 11/12/2016

Th above picture shows the very photogenic B-Listed, East Gate porters lodge, built 1907, which will be retained as will the listed B Admin. Block. Two other buildings to be retained namely the small West Gate Lodge for Craigleith House, and the L shaped original Laundry and stables, NW corner, again for the estate mansion named Craigleith House.

The development of the Royal Victoria Building and the relocation of the Royal Victoria Hospital to the Western General Hospital site commenced with building a two tier car park and stand-by generator for use by the RVB. This involved the most Northerly car park next to Davidson Road as seen in the model below and was completed in 2011

Photograph of model by permission of Keppie Design, 6 Bells Brae, Deans Village, Edinburgh EH4 3BJ


Click on the link below to see information about the new Royal Victoria Building, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh.

Link to location of new Royal Victoria Building


November 2012
The Royal Victoria Hospital in Craigleith Road which had been temporarily mothballed, re-opened after a major refurbishment of the wards.
News from the Media Centre NHS Lothian, dated 5/2/2014, stated:
"Two wards were reopened in the Royal Victoria Hospital in November 2012 to provide additional capacity. Since then a further two wards have been upgraded and another two wards are currently being refurbished. This will provide around 120 beds in total with a mix of single rooms and four bedded bays"

To see the refurbished wards, click the link below.
Link to view refurbished wards


Future of the Royal Victoria Hospital Site

NHS Lothian has engaged planning consultants to determine/investigate the uses for the future of the site taking City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) planning as well as local residents and Community Councils into consultation. There has been a lot of interest from residents in retaining the large amount of mature trees as well as the two B-Listed buildings namely the Cantilever East Gate and the Admin Block.

Click on the link below to view Royal Victoria Hospital, Edinburgh planning Proposals:
Link to planning proposals"

What is planned for this is still in limbo, but an initial proposal, which was made public in 2014 showing part of the site would be a new medical day centre with beds and the remainder of the site was shown as various types of private housing.

Demolition began with the RAEBURN AND STEWART nurses homes at the West end of the site. It will probably take about a year before the whole site is raised to the ground.

As of December 2018, The Royal Victoria Hospital is almost flattened. However, during the initial demolition, in 2017, a fire started in the central core of the complex, which was quite spectacular, producing large amounts of black smoke and flames.

Photo taken by a resident, J. Gilbertson, shows the RVH buildings on fire over the top and beyond the houses in Craigleith Hill Gardens.

After a lull in demolition to allow for enquiries to take place regarding how the fire started, the final stage of demolition continued and the only buildings remaining at the end of 2018 were:
East Lodge - B Listed building.
West Lodge - "of interest"
Admin Block - B listed building
Laundry and Stables - "of interest"

Of the 2014 proposals for the site, only the demolition phase has been undertaken.There are still no further proposals for the site. Discussions are still taking place between all interested parties.