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Craigleith House /Royal Victoria Hospital,Edinburgh/   Sir Robert Philip  M.D.

           Royal Victoria Hospital Edinburgh





The present Royal Victoria Hospital originally started 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

A photograph taken of Craigleith House c1900 supplied  by Dr Jacques

 In the plan below can be seen the location of Craigleith House,marked in red.

At the bottom left of the plan above, marked lodge, was the original main entrance to Craigleith House, in Craigleith Road 

 known as the West Lodge and is an exit only. On early plans there are four pillars at the entrance. The remains of one can be found just inside the grounds.


The main entrance to the present Royal Victoria Hospital, shown below,  in Craigleith Road, Edinburgh, approximately 300 yards east of the west lodge, was built and opened  in 1907.This East lodge and gateway is now the main entrance to the Royal Victoria Hospital. It is a unique cantilevered structure with an internal winding staircase to the porters apartments. In the sitting room of the house was a large wheel which operated the two large doors which can still be seen but are no longer in use.. On the left hand side of the entrance can be seen a carved stone, below left.


 My thanks to 'The Court of the Lord Lyon'  for the following explanation of the carved stone.

The carved stone at the entrance to the Hospital shows the Royal Crest of Scotland, 'a lion sejeant affrontée imperially crowned, grasping in his dexter paw a naked sword and in his sinister paw a sceptre'.

Professor Emeritus J Williamson can remember under the carved words The ROYAL VICTORIA HOSPITAL were the carved words  FOR CONSUMPTION but were removed some time after 1954. It is possible that the word consumption was not an ideal title for a Geriatric Unit. *******************************************************


Professor Robert William Philip  1857-1939

The following death notice was taken from the Scotsman's archives dated 26th January 1939

  Professor Robert William Philip.1857-1939

The death occurred, at his residence, 9 Palmerston Road, Edinburgh, yesterday, January 25th 1939) of Sir Robert William Phillip,M.D.,LL.D., M.A., F.R.C.P. (Edinburgh and London), who had a world wide reputation as an authority upon tuberculosis. Sir Robert was one of the chief pioneers in the attempt to exterminate the disease-an attempt which has met with a great measure of success.




Before going on to describe the development of the Royal Victoria Hospital it is necessary to explain that 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."


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's, after creating the first clinic, was 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 ( CRAIGLEITH HOUSE) a mile or so to the North of the town and it was opened as a sanatorium in 1894 and known as the Victoria Hospital for Consumption.

 His treatment, before the discovery of medication, for the disease in its early stages, was revolutionary in that he would isolate the patient from family and friends, place them into an environment with plenty of sun and fresh air and with a certain amount of exercise.This was known as the EDINBURGH SCHEME. He also ensured that a follow up of the patient's contacts was necessary as Tuberculosis was a very contagious disease and there was also the requirement to educate patient and family on disposal of body fluids which would be heavily contaminated with the tuberculosis bacilli which was discovered as the causative organism by Robert Koch in Germany in 1882 the year Dr Robert Philip graduated MD at Edinburgh University.


The above photomicrograph (photograph taken with a light microscope x1000) shows red Tubercle Bacillus in a sputum sample. Stain used was a Ziehl Neelson.



In 1894 Craigleith House, Craigleith Road, Edinburgh, a late Georgian Mansion/Villa, was leased to Sir Robert Philip and turned into the 1st 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.


In many early maps/plans,shown below, 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.


The earliest plan of 1896 shows Craigleith House on the left of the picture and its extensive grounds to the front and on the right.

It was described as a well built, commodious mansion-house, surrounded by 7 1/2 acres of wooded park. It stands on a sunny eminence, but is well sheltered in various directions. Pleasant walks are laid out, and there is a fine one acre walled garden, still better protected to the North of Craigleith House..

There was accommodation for fifteen patients.

Ground floor contained two male wards each with three patients, the resident physician's apartments, laboratory,storeroom,etc.

First floor contained three larger wards for female patients and two smaller rooms, holding in all eight patients, the matron's room etc.

The second floor contained bed-room accommodation for day and night nurses and maids.



The above photograph circa 1900 shows a nurse tending to  a bedridden patient and one patient in a deck chair out in the fresh air. In the background can be seen a corner of Craigleith House.                


In 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. In total five small sun houses   

were built in the grounds between 1903 and 1907 and were named the butterfly wards because of their shape which can be seen in the plan below.




In the plan above can be seen the first three "Butterfly Wards"  opened on 15th July 1903 by the Right Honourable the Earl of Rosebery KC:KT. Over to the top left of the plan (shown in green) is the laundry, now the maintenance workshops and the base for the Lothian Health Services van system, and to its left, in blue, the stables. The plaque above was removed from the butterfly wards on their demolition and can be seen in the main reception area of the R.V.H 





Aanother two villas or butterfly wards and the administrative block (top right hand side of above picture) were opened on the 26th October 1907 by the Right Honourable A.J. Balfour MP. The plaque above was also removed from the butterfly wards on their demolition and is on display in the reception area.                        


Other shelters/chalets were erected in  the grounds as shown below                           


 These open air shelters were for patients to use on a daily basis and were fitted on rails to allow it to be positioned towards the sun. Photos by kind permission of Capital Collections at www.capitalcollections.org.uk




This two bed wooden chalet was open at one end and patients slept out in them all year round.


Isabel Gillard, a young women in the 1950's relates her memories of her treatment for tuberculosis which partly involved her stay in these wooden chalets, in   

Circe's Island. A young woman's memories of tuberculosis treatment in the 1950's  by Isabel Gillard 2010

An unbound press book

ISBN 978-0-9558360-5-3



The Aministrative block with bell tower was opened in 1907.

It included a dining hall/ chapel complete with pipe organ and organ loft.With the introduction of central heating the organ was removed to an unknown destination.

Administrative block's mains entrance with bell tower on the left. The bell was never installed as it would have upset the patients.


The organ loft with acid etched beams. Thanks to Charles Dickson (Staff RVH) for the photograph.      


The hallway of the Admin Block showing the wood wall panelling which also covers the walls of the board room.



              Above the front entrance is a very large ornate Royal Coat of Arms seen above and its contents is explained below.                                                  

On the coat of arms to the left is inscribed 'Dieu Et Mon Droit'('God and My Right')To the right is inscribed 'Quis Separabit' ('Who shall separate (us)') and along the bottom is inscribed 'Nemo Me Impune Lacessit'('No One Harms Me With Impunity').

My thanks to 'The Court of the Lord Lyon'  for the following explanation of the Coat of Arms

Shield: Quarterly, 1st and 4th, a lion rampant within a double tressure flory counterflory, 2nd, three lions passant guardant, 3rd, an Harp. Above the shield is set an Imperial Crown above which are placed three Helms suitable to His Majesty’s Sovereign jurisdiction, each with Mantling, that in chief His Majesty’s Royal Crest of Scotland, a lion sejeant affrontée imperially crowned, grasping in his dexter paw a naked sword and in his sinister paw a sceptre, both erected, and in an Escrol this Motto “IN DEFENS” that on the dexter His Majesty's Royal Crest of England, on an Imperial crown, a lion guardant imperially crowned, and in an Escrol this Motto "DIEU ET MON DROIT"; and that on the sinister His Majesty's Royal Crest of Ireland on a wreath a tower triple-towered, from the portal a hart springing, and in an Escrol this Motto "QUIS SEPARABIT". Below the shield are His Majesty’s Royal plant badges, Thistles for Scotland, Roses for England and Shamrocks for Ireland, with His Supporters, dexter, an Unicorn crowned with an Imperial crown and gorged of an open crown to which is affixed a chain passing betwixt the forelegs and reflexed over his back, and sinister, a lion rampant guardant imperially crowned, the unicorn embracing and bearing up a banner charged of a Saltire or Cross of St. Andrew, the lion embracing and bearing up likewise a banner charged of a Cross of St. George.



The East Gatelodge


At the same time as the final two butterfly wards and administration block were opened the unusual east entrance gateway and lodge was completed (1907) and is now the main entrance into the R.V.H complex off Craigleith Road

The administrative block and east entrance gate are both "B" listed buildings.



A water colour painting of the Administrative block by Richard Jaques hangs in its boardroom.




     Treatment of TB, in its early stages, in the early days was directed by Dr Robert Philip and consisted of increasing the patients immunological system by initially increasing the patients contact with fresh air, sunlight and mild exercise. At the same time it was necessary to stop the spread of the disease as well as finding other methods of defeating the disease by surgical procedures, medication, immunisation and improving the living conditions particularly in regard to cleanliness and the method for disposing of contaminated body fluids. By 1955 the direct attack on tuberculosis was being successfully mounted using all these methods as such there was less demand for TB beds but there was now an increased demand for the long term nursing care of the elderly.

For this reason the butterfly wards were converted in 1959 for the continuing care of the elderly patients who were unable to return home.



The original Craigleith House, after the Butterfly wards were built, was used as a nurses home but became in much need of repair and it was decided to demolish it in 1960.It has been said that staff could see through the walls as the building was full of dry rot.


The converted "Butterfly Wards" were not absolutely suitable for elderly patients or staff and modern ward facilities were built (1967), on the site of the original Craigleith House consisting of three 30 bed wards but still leaving the converted butterfly wards in use as seen in the above photograph.



The butterfly wards were eventually demolished around 1981 to make way for the third and final Phase of the R.V.H as seen in the above photograph


This consisted of a 6 x 30 bed complex(above) and was opened  on 20th November 1986 by Mr. R. Bruce Weatherstone, T.D.,C.A. Chairman of the Lothian Health Board on the site of the original "butterfly wards.                           


Finally a purpose built 30 bedded long stay care ward was built (circa 1978 ), with the help of a donation from Robert Alexander. To commemorate the origin of the hospital this Day Centre was named CRAIGLEITH HOUSE.  The Day Centre is situated just inside the grounds at the West Gate.



Unfortunately in the storms of winter 2011/12 a tree was uprooted and fell across the front of Craigleith House. The building was in such a bad state


 it had had to be demolished

 in April 2012


The main entrance, is seen in the photographs below. The main reception and W.R.V.S.areas were refurbished in celebration of the Royal Victoria Hospital Centenary 1984-1994 and re-opened on 17th March 1995 by the actor, David Rintoul.


The main entrance, seen in the above photograph. The main reception and W.R.V.S.areas were refurbished in celebration of the Royal Victoria Hospital Centenary 1984-1994 and re-opened on 17th March 1995 by the actor, David Rintoul.


 A commemorative plaque was erected on 17th March 1995 to honour the memory of SIR ROBERT PHILIP,1857-1939, WORLD PIONEER OF TUBERCULOSIS CONTROL AND FOUNDER OF THIS HOSPITAL.


The Royal College of Physicians Edinburgh published in their latest edition  (September 2008) an historical obituary by Dr Derek Doyle of Sir Robert William Philip (1857-1939),  along with his portrait and I am grateful to Dr Derek Doyle and the Royal College of Physicians for permission to publish it in full



TIMELINE OF BUILDINGS WITHIN THE GROUNDS OF Royal Victoria Hospital. Some of the dates have still to be confirmed

1894  Dr Philip rented Craigleith House a Georgian Mansion owned by Sir.J. Maitland and it was converted to a hospital for consumptives.

There are plans showing at this time a laundry building and a gate house connected with the house as well as a walled garden.

1899 Dr Philip and Trust purchased Craigleith House and grounds from Sir J.Maitland's daughter for £1000 per acre the deal being half down and the rest in annual instalments This was named Victoria Hospital for Consumption.

1899> Addition of all weather shelters which enabled more patients to be looked after.

1903 15th July. Three Butterfly Wards opened holding 12 patients each.

1904 Royal patronage given by George VII and it became Royal Victoria Hospital for Consumption.

1907  The last two of the Butterfly wards opened as well as the East Lodge Gateway and Administrative block.

1907 Craigleith House now used only as Nurses Home.

1908 circa Boiler house was built

 1959 Butterfly Wards were converted for the care of the elderly.

1952 circa Nurse Homes built Raeburn and Stewart

1960 Craigleith House riddled with dry rot was demolished  to make way for the 1st phase of the Royal Victoria Hospital.

1967 Phase 1a.........  3 x 30 bed wards opened as well kitchen, stores, boiler house, staff dining room.

1968 Phase 1b.......... 30 bed Medical day hospital

1971 Phase 2a... Administrative block,x-ray and dental; departments.

1978  or early 70's Phase 2b...Purpose built 30 bed long stay care ward opened as Craigleith House. Now the Medical Day Hospital.

1981 Butterfly Wards, no longer suitable for the elderly commenced to be demolished.

1986 20th November . Phase 3... 6 x 30 bed wards opened on the site of the Butterfly Wards.


Plans for a brand new building for medical services for the elderly, currently provided at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Edinburgh were given the go-ahead (2008) after obtaining Local Authority planning consent. The proposals are for medical services for patients over 65 years of age in a new state of the art building within the grounds of the Western General Hospital.

Detailed plans for the reprovision of the Royal Victoria Hospital were finalised and gained approval at the end of 2009. The new complex to be renamed Royal Victoria Building is built on the site of the Paderewski Hospital, located within the grounds of the Western General Hospital, and opened to patients in May 2012.


The reprovision of the RVB to the WGH commenced with the building a two tier car park and stand-by generator for use by the RVH. 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






The first patients started to be transferred from the present Royal Victoria Hospital during June 2012.

Click on the link below to see the location of the new Royal Victoria Building, Western General Hospital,






News from the Media Centre NHS Lothian dated 5/2/2014

 "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".


Click on

Royal Victoria Hospital



NHS have now also engaged planning consultants to determine/investigate the uses for the future of the site taking 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 both B listed.

click on

Royal Victoria Hospital, Edinburgh planning Proposals 2014



(1) Williamson, J. Tuberculosis revisited-or-How we nearly conquered tuberculosis. 2008.  http://www.smj.org.uk/tb1200.htm

(2) Fortes cue Fox.,R. The Coming of Physical Medicine. A memorial to Sir Robert Philip.

(3) Historic Scotland. Extracts from unpublished survey of Hospitals c 1990

(4) Charles Dickson, of RVH staff, for his supply of many photographs many still to be shown.

(5) RVH for permission to examine/photograph the many photographs and documents hanging in the main reception and WRVS canteen.

(6) City of Edinburgh Planning archives for various plans.

(7) RCAHMS for access to aerial photographs.

(7) Map Library Edinburgh

(8) Scotsman archives

(9) Lothian Health Service Archive staff.

(10) Royal College Physicians Edinburgh.

(11) A history of the Western General Hospital (Edinburgh) by Martin Eastwood and Anne Jenkinson. J. Donald Publishers Ltd Edinburgh

(12) 'The Court of the Lord Lyon'   and in particular Bruce Gorie Secretary to the Lyons Office.  *****************************************************************


My thanks to the many people I have met and spoken with on the telephone and who have given me good advice on how/where to contact people with some knowledge of the RVH complex.

Acknowledgements and references. If I have omitted to acknowledge...... my apologies.

Any errors, mistakes or further information please feel free to comment alanross@blueyonder.co.uk



Recently Mark Ford at a car sale in Dorchester came across copies of a 106 year old newspaper produced to raise funds for the Royal Victoria Hospital. It poked fun at local aristocrats while raising funds for the hospital. Only four copies were published at 1p each. It was found to be part of an international fair at Waverly Market in November 1905 that raised £17,000 for the hospital.

Mark contacted me through the web site and I was able to put him in touch with the Lothian Health Board Archivists who were grateful to Mark for donating the documents to their archives.

The Edinburgh Evening News reported this finding on Wednesday April 6th 2011  having been given the information from the LHB Archivists as follows:-

"Whoever bought  it made contact with a man who writes about the Royal Victoria and it was then passed on to our archive".

For more information visit www.lhsa.lib.ed.ac.uk



********      *******    ********     ************       **********     *******



Finally below is NHS  gardening supervisor  Mr Ronald Fraser ( awarded Staff member of 2012) supervising Mr Peter Thomson cutting a slice through one of the diseased trees in the grounds of the RVH. Hopefully this will, by counting the  tree rings, give an idea when it was planted.

Thanks for your help Ronald and Peter

Alan Ross 25 04 2012

The cross section has been polished and an attempt to count the tree rings made.


It is not exactly clear cut but the number of rings is plus 70 suggesting that the tree was planted in the early 1900's probably by the owner of the original Craigleith House Estate



Autumnal view of some of the trees that surround the Royal Victoria Hospital taken in Craigleith Road.

Photograph taken October 2012


RVH Closed



The end has 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 before the facilities were relocated to the Western General Hospital in June 2012. This picture shows the very photogenic listed B East Gate porters lodge, built 1907, which is intended to be retained as is 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. Demolition started this week on 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”.  

What is planned for this is still in limbo but an initial  proposal 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.