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Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


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  • Category: A
  • Group Category Details: A - see notes
  • Date Added: 31/05/1994


  • Local Authority: Edinburgh
  • Planning Authority: Edinburgh
  • Burgh: Edinburgh

National Grid Reference

  • NGRNT 25489 72992
  • Coordinates325489, 672992


David Bryce, 1872-9. Symmetrical 3-storey and attic Scots Baronial hospital with 4 pavilions projecting to N and 2 to S; later alterations and additions. Pale coursed bull-faced Hailes sandstone with ashlar dressings. Tall Franco-Scots-inspired turreted square central entrance tower and lucarned spire with decorative flashings, flanked by tall corniced ashlar chimney stacks; corner bartizans with projecting water-spouts and clock faces to N and S; inscription panels and commemorative date stone (1729-1870) over door (see Notes). Finialled and lucarned fish-scale slated conical roofs to circular corner towers (possibly derived from those at Falkland Palace) of pavilions (now linked by glazed balconies), with crowstepped gables between.

N (LAURISTON PLACE) ELEVATION: advanced asymmetrical centre block; 2-leaf glazed timber door with 2-pane fanlight in angled, moulded surround with carved panel above (see Notes); flanked by narrow hoodmoulded stone-transomed windows, with inscribed panels above (see Notes). Tripartite hoodmoulded stone-mullioned and -transomed window with date panel (see Notes) to 1st floor; tall tripartite round-arched stone-mullioned and -transomed window to 3rd; machicolation below clock face; gabletted buttress to left below turret; corbelling at 1st floor to circular turret with arrow-slit windows to right; lucarned ventilators and decorative cast-iron cresting to roof; weathervane on spire. Stone-mullioned and -transomed 2-light windows to ground, 1st and breaking eaves with pedimented dormerheads in 3 flanking bays; finialled, conical-roofed bartizans to outer corners. Recessed 2-bay linking blocks with large stone-mullioned and -transomed, shoulder-arched windows at ground, 1st, and 2nd floors, tripartite windows above.

S ELEVATION: much obscured by later additions.

E AND W ELEVATIONS OF PAVILIONS: 2-bay gabled blocks with intervening single bays, regularly fenestrated. Crowstepped gables to innermost and outermost elevations; bartizans to innermost block at angle of southern 2 bays.

INTERIOR: framed boards with gilt lettering in entrance hall, corridor and stair (see Notes). Board-room has good original plasterwork and joinery - doors, panelling, shutters etc.

Tall windows to wards, top hopper above, some sash and case below (see Notes). Cast-iron down pipes with some decorative hoppers. Stone skews. Grey slates.

Statement of Special Interest

A group comprises Lodge (with gatepiers and railings), Main Block, Medical Pavilions (including Jubilee Pavilion), former Nurses' Home, former Ear, Nose and Throat and Ophthalmic Blocks and Chalmers Hospital. Founded in 1729, the Royal Infirmary was Scotland's first hospital specifically intended for the care of the sick. Initially it was housed in an old building at the head of Robertson's Close, in what is now Infirmary Street (commemorated in a plaque on the wall of James Thin's Bookshop), then in a much larger building, designed by William Adam (foundation stone laid 1738, opened in 1741) and located between what are now Infirmary Street and Drummond Street. The hospital was granted a Royal Charter by George II in 1736. The King's statue (separately listed) can be seen to the right, outside the main entrance. The earliest building on the present site was George Watson's Hospital (1738-41), also designed by William Adam, fragments of which are incorporated into the building by John Lessels (separately listed) situated to the S of the main block. This building and its grounds were sold by the Merchant Company to the Corporation of the Royal Infirmary in 1870. The new Medical School, designed by Rowand Anderson, was also building on the adjacent site at the same time. The foundation stone of the Infirmary (a plaque indicates that this was at the corner of the NE pavilion) was laid by the Prince of Wales in 1870, and it was opened in November 1879. In its planning it shows the influence of the continental pavilion-plan hospitals advocated by Florence Nightingale, and of St Thomas's Hospital, London (designed by Henry Currey, a pupil of Decimus Burton, and built in 1868-71). The Illustrated London News acknowledges Bryce's infirmary (completed, after Bryce's death in 1876, under the supervision of his nephew, John Bryce) as 'the largest hospital in the United Kingdom, and probably the best planned.' Florence Nightingale's principals of hospital planning were adopted, and her detailed approval obtained. Each ward was designed to be self-contained, with waiting room, nurses' room, physicians' room, kitchen, lavatories and bathrooms; lifts were provided for patients' beds and (separately) for stores. Administration, teaching rooms, theatres etc were in the main block. Window arrangements for wards, with top hoppers over sash and case windows (to permit ventilation even in bad weather), remained popular for hospitals well into the 20th century. The ventilation system was also regarded innovative. The Infirmary cost ?340,000, and was intended to serve 550-600 patients. The furnishing of each ward cost ?400-?480, and the funding was raised by voluntary effort. Boards in the hall, corridors and staircase of the main block commemorate the donors both to this hospital and to the previous one (the Infirmary was dependent on charitable donations until 1948). Important portraits hang in the Board Room. The inscriptions over the door of the main block (PATET OMNIBUS, with a pelican, above the door, I WAS A STRANGER AND YE TOOK ME IN to the left, and I WAS SICK AND YE VISITED ME to the right) were copied in 1885 from those at William Adam's Infirmary.



Original Royal Infirmary (William Adam) Vitruvius Scoticus Plate 150. Drawings in Infirmary architect's and archivist's offices. Minutes of Royal Infirmary vols 23&24, 1871-76. RSA 1871. ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS 11th November, 1879. AL Turner THE ROYAL INFIRMARY OF EDINBURGH 1729-1929 (1929). AL Turner STORY OF A GREAT HOSPITAL (1937). Fiddes and Rowan MR DAVID BRYCE (1976) pp 97-98. Gifford, McWilliam and Walker EDINBURGH (1984) pp 259-60. Richardson, Harriet ENGLISH HOSPITALS 1660-1948 (1998) pp30-31.

About Designations

Listed Buildings

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest and these are selected according to criteria published in the, Annex 2, pp74-76.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

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Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The local authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see

Legislation introduced on 1 October 2015 allows us to state that: an object or structure fixed to the listed building; any object or structure within the curtilage of the listed building; and, any part or feature of the listed building that is not of architectural or historic interest may be excluded from a listing. If part of your building is not listed under the new legislation, the part will be excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

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