Ruchill Hospital

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Ruchill Hospital
Abandoned Ruchill Hospital - - 49994.jpg
The remaining derelict buildings of Ruchill Hospital in 2005
Location Glasgow, Scotland
Care system NHS Greater Glasgow
Funding Government, Public
Hospital type Infectious disease
Beds 1000 (1948)
Founded 1900
Closed 1998
Lists Hospitals in Scotland

Ruchill Hospital was a hospital in Glasgow, Scotland that specialised in the treatment of infectious disease. In 1891, land was purchased by the Glasgow Corporation partly for a second fever hospital in the city. Work started on the hospital in 1895 and it opened on 13 June 1900 by Princess Christian. It had 440 beds when it opened and was designed specifically to deal with infectious diseases. By the time that it was absorbed into the NHS in 1948, there were 1000 beds. In the 1980s, the hospital treated many sexually transmitted diseases and was designated as the primary hospital in Glasgow to deal with cases of HIV. The hospital was closed in 1998 and was sold by the NHS to Scottish Enterprise[1] in July 1999.


In 1891 when the boundaries of Glasgow were extended to include Ruchill and Maryhill, the Glasgow Corporation purchased 53 acres (21 ha) of land there for a public park, golf course and 36 acres (15 ha) for the city's second fever hospital,[1] to relieve the increasingly cramped conditions at Belvidere Hospital in Parkhead.

Ruchill Hospital was designed by the City Engineer, Alexander B. McDonald[2] in a Neo Jacobean style, largely using red brick dressed with red sandstone ashlar. McDonald was responsible for a number of civic projects in the city from 1890 to 1914, the most notable being the People's Palace. Ruchill Hospital's design set the standard for local authority infectious diseases hospitals built after the 1897 Public Health Act, which had made the provision of such hospitals compulsory.

Work started on Ruchill Hospital on 16 April 1895, and the foundation stone was laid on 29 August 1895 by Lady Bell, the wife of Sir James Bell Bt, Lord Provost of Glasgow, and it was opened on 13 June 1900 by Princess Christian. Ruchill Hospital cost £330,000 and was designed to deal specifically with infectious diseases, such as smallpox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, poliomyelitis and measles, which were widespread at the time.[1]

It had an initial capacity of 440 beds, spread across sixteen isolated Nightingale ward pavilions, twelve of which were large, each containing beds for 30 patients, and four smaller ones accommodating 20 patients each.[3] The only entrance was via a gatehouse on Bilsland Drive. Other buildings included; a Kitchen and Stores block, an Administration block, a clearing house[clarification needed], a Mortuary and Laboratory block, a Stable block, a sanitary Wash House and Disinfecting station, a Laundry and a three-storey Nurses home as well as ten staff villas and semi-detached cottages along Bilsland Drive. The centrepiece however was its 165 ft (50 m) water tower, required due to the height of the site. An additional 270 beds were provided after the construction of three ward pavilions in 1910 and a tuberculosis pavilion in 1913.

By the time of its absorption into the NHS in 1948 Ruchill Hospital had 1,000 beds. With the discovery of vaccinations and improved public health, cases of diseases like tuberculosis declined and the role of the hospital was diversified from the 1960s. Initially a "young chronic sick" unit was set up, mainly dealing with young people suffering from catastrophic brain damage. By 1965 an additional five wards had been converted to accommodate geriatric patients. An additional laundry building was added in 1969. The number of in-patients was 586 in 1975. The Hospital was the scene of the Jessie McTavish scandal in 1974.

Other developments on the site by 1973, included the establishment of small general medical and general surgical units, the Brownlee virology laboratory - where the first nude mice were discovered by Dr. Norman R. Grist in 1962 - and the University of Glasgow's Departments of Infectious Diseases, Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine. In addition to treating other Sexually transmitted diseases, from the 1980s Ruchill Hospital was also designated the primary Glasgow hospital dealing with cases of HIV, the cause of AIDS, after the emergence of this virus. In addition, the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, or SCIEH, the progenitor of today's Health Protection Scotland[4] was based in the "White House" at the hospital.


Ruchill Hospital was eventually closed in 1998, after the opening of the Brownlee Centre for Infectious and Communicable Diseases at Gartnavel General Hospital. The Ruchill Hospital site was sold by the NHS to Scottish Enterprise in July 1999 and 12 of the 16 original ward blocks and other outbuildings on the site were demolished. The remaining listed buildings remained derelict awaiting redevelopment, with emergency demolition of the Administration block and part of the Kitchen block occurring in 2007 due to structural deterioration.


Ruchill Hospital site in 2014.

There were reports that developers Gladedale and Bellway planned to build five hundred houses on the site of Ruchill Hospital in 2008, whilst restoring the remaining listed buildings, but the deal later fell through due to market contagion. Plans were subsequently submitted by Scottish Enterprise in April 2010 to demolish all the remaining listed buildings, with the exception of the water tower, despite no associated plans to regenerate the site. This was rejected by Glasgow City Council's planning committee in April 2011. As of June 2014, the hospital's A-listed red-brick water tower remains a prominent local landmark after being renovated during the previous year, whilst all the other (formerly B-listed) buildings were razed to the ground.[2]

In popular culture

Ruchill Hospital appeared in a 1987 episode of Taggart, Funeral Rites.

The novel 'Exile' (published in 2000) by award winning Scottish author Denise Mina makes repeated references to the hospital.


  1. ^ a b c McCall, Amanda. "Memories of Ruchill Hospital as demolition team moves in". STV News. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Ruchill Hospital Main Stairway". Buildings at Risk. Archived from the original on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
  3. ^ "Special Correspondence". NCBI. PMC 2506600. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ "SCIEH Weekly newsletter 17 February 1998, Volume 32 No.98/07" (PDF). Health Protection Scotland. 17 February 1998. Retrieved 11 September 2014.
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