Western Infirmary


The Western Infirmary site was planned in the West of Glasgow from as long ago as 1845 when the University Court was contemplating a move westward due to the inadequacy of the Old College buildings in the High Street. As early as August 1845, the Glasgow, Airdrie, and Monkland Junction Railway (GAMJR) began discussions with the University with a view to acquire the Old College site to build a terminus. The nearby Royal Infirmary provided convenient facilities for the College’s clinical teaching but was considered too remote for the proposed new site. As a result, the University looked to build a new Hospital to meet its teaching needs in the Westend. The collapse of the speculative boom in the railways in 1847 led to a financial collapse in 1849 – as a result GAMJR could not fulfil its engagements to the University and thus postponed the removal and new hospital project.

In 1864, the grounds and buildings of the Old College were sold to the City of Glasgow Union Railway for £100,000. Plans for the removal included a scheme for the erection of an associated hospital for which the property of Clayslaps was purchased for £17,389. This site, where the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum now stands, was exchanged for approximately nine acres of Donaldshill lands to which were added three and a half acres to the north and west. Thinking of the needs of the district, a hospital to accommodate 300 to 350 beds was planned. John Burnet Sr, of John Burnet, Son and Campbell, was appointed the architect on 26 June 1867. His plans for the new hospital were submitted in February 1869 but Burnet had to prepare a modified plan for a hospital with 190 beds due to budgetary restrictions.

On 18 January 1871 a General Committee was appointed to carry out the promotion and erection of the new hospital. A few days later the General Committee met and appointed Mr. Robert Dalglish, M.P. of Kilmardinny to be Chairman of the Hospital, to be called “The Western Infirmary.”

Building finally commenced on 17 March 1871 and the Foundation Stone was laid on 10 August 1871 with Masonic Honours by Mr. Walter Neilson of Queenshill, Grand Master Mason for Lanarkshire. Burnet’s Baronial style finger plan hospital opened in 1874. The hospital consisted of a central section surmounted by a clock tower with the principal entrance to the hospital facing south, and containing offices and a boardroom with a large theatre/lecture room above. The north wing contained domestic staff accommodation, kitchen and two floors of single wards. The laundry and boiler house were located further to the north of this block. A small block extending east contained stores in the basement, the Matron’s rooms and offices on the ground floor and two floors of single wards above. A western extension contained the apothecary’s department, the Superintendent’s rooms and two floors of single wards. The block running south of the western extension contained the out-patient dispensary with separate entrance on the ground level and three floors of single wards above. A small block, extending further west, contained the porter’s house, the entrance for in-patients and two floors of single small wards. The original single storey pathological department was situated separately to the west of the main building.

In the autumn of 1874 the necessary staff were engaged including: Dr. J.H. Lilly of Belvidere Fever Hospital as Medical Superintendent, Miss Elizabeth Clyde of St. Mary Abbots Hospital, London, as Matron, and Mr. Henry Johnston as Secretary. The Western Infirmary was formally opened 27 October 1874 at a large and influentially attended meeting presided over by Mr. Robert Dalglish, and two days later the Infirmary was open to visitors. On 2 November 1874 the first indoor patients were admitted and by 26 November there were 110 in-patients.

The Western Infirmary was expanded several times by Burnet and his son's firm who dominated the Hospital’s building programmes until the late 1940s. In 1878, the sum of £40,000 was bequeathed from the will of John Freeland of Nice for the construction of additional ward accommodation which comprised nine wards in the East Wing comprising over 150 beds, and the Nurses Home for the hospital's nursing staff which was linked to the main hospital via a covered way. Burnet Sr was the architect and the extension was opened 1 June, 1881 by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, the Hon. John Ure. The hospital was extended to the west through the construction of John James Burnet’s Pathology, Bacteriology and Immunology building which was begun in 1894 and the Outpatients Department, which was begun in 1902. J.J. Burnet also built a range to the west of the main hospital, named G Block, which was added in 1906 and extended in 1911.

In 1919, the Scottish Branch of the Red Cross Society donated £10,000 to provide and equip the School of Massage, Medical Electricity and Remedial Exercises (later known as the Physiotherapy Department) with a suitable building. It was designed by Burnet, Son & Partners and built from 1919 to 1921. The building was merged with the X-Ray Department through a building constructed in 1930. This joint building was later expanded in 1970 with the construction of the Bone Metabolism Unit. In 1925, the Alexander Elder Memorial Chapel was opened. Also designed by J.J. Burnet, the Chapel is located to west of G Block and is dedicated to the memory of the doctors and nurses who died during both World Wars.

During the 1930s, the Infirmary was very innovative concerning the training of nursing staff and in 1933 the Preliminary Training School was established. It was also during this time that Norman Aitken Dick of Burnet, Son & Dick designed many of the hospital buildings that make up the current Church Street frontage. The Pathology building was extended through the construction of the Macgregor Memorial Block. It was built from 1933 to 1935 and designed by Norman Aitken Dick in collaboration with the Infirmary's Medical Superintendent Colonel Donald James Mackintosh. This was later replaced with a new Macgregor Building, built in 1959. In 1936, the Tennent Memorial Institute of Opthalmology (later known as the Western Clinical Research and Education Centre) was built followed by the Gardiner Institute of Medicine and the Department of Surgery Building, which both opened in 1938.

The Infirmary continued development during the next decades. The Clinical Chemotherapy Unit (later the MRC Blood Pressure Unit) was begun in 1946 when it was announced that the Medical Research Council would finance the unit. The building was completed in the 1950s and was built between the Tennent Institute and the Physiotherapy Department. In 1948, a home for Infirmary nursing staff (the current Administration Building) was built by Robert Love. The Beatson Oncology Centre (later the West Medical Care Centre) was built in the 1960s and was later extended in the 1980s and the Anaesthesia Building may have been built from the mid 1970s to the early 1980s.

By the 1950s, it was decided that a modern complex of buildings was required due to the high maintenance costs of the Burnet buildings. A two phase programme was planned, but following the opening of Phase I in 1974, Phase II was indefinitely postponed, partially due to the completion of nearby Gartnavel General. Burnet Sr’s Infirmary building was demolished in the 1980s and the ruins of the north-south range are all that remain.

During the 1990s, the Western Infirmary was further developed through the construction of a Lecture Theatre, the Radionuclide Dispensary, and the Pharmacy Production Unit (PPU).

A&E at the Western Infirmary closed on 30 May 2015. The Outpatient Department, GP out of hours, the West Glasgow Maternity Unit and a new West Glasgow Minor Injuries Unit now operates from this site until they are transferred to the Yorkhill site in October 2015.


Western Infirmary
Western Infirmary
Record last updated: 21st Aug 2015