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Old and New Edinburgh Vol. IV


*'Lauriston.l THE NEW ROYAL INFIRMARY. 359 aunt Elizabeth, ordered that on application for taking children into his hospital, those of the name of Davidsonshoulc! have a preference, as well as those of Watson. In June, 1741, twelve boys were admitted into it; in three years the number amounted to thirty; and in 1779 that number was doubled. , Watson's Merchant Academy, as it was named in 1870, underwent a great change in that year. The governors of the four hospitals connected with the Merchant Company, taking advantage of the Endowed Institutions (Scotland) Act, applied for and obtained provisional orders empowering them to convert the foundation into day-schools, and it was opened as one. The edifice was sold to the Corporation of the Royal Infirmary, and the building formerly occupied as the Merchant Maiden Hospital was acquired for, and is now being used as, George Watson's College School for boys. The building was long conspicuous from several points by its small spire, surmounted by a ship, the emblem of commerce. Here, then, we now find the new Royal Infirmary, one of the most extensive edifices in the city, which was formally opened on Wednesday, the 29th of October, 1879, the foundation stone having been laid in October, 1870, by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales. The situation of the infirmary is alike excellent and desirable, from its vicinity to the open pasture of the Meadows and Links, the free breezes from the hills, and to the new seat of university medical teaching. The additions and improvements at the old Royal Infirmary, and the conversion of the old High School into a Surgical Hospital, were still found unfitted for the increasing wants of the Corporation as the city grew in extent and population, as the demands of medical science increased, and the conditions'. of hospital management became more amplified and exacting ; and the necessity for some reform in the old edifit'e in Infirmary Street led to the proposal of the mmagers for rebuilding the entire Nedical House. When those contributors met to whom this bold scheme was submitted, complaints were urged as to the wants of the Surgical Hospital, and it was also referred to the committee appointed to consider the whole question, The subscription list eventually showed a total of &75,ooo, and a proposed extension of the old buildings, by the removal of certain houses at the South Bridge, was abandoned, when a new impetus was given to the movement by the late Professor James Syme, who had won a high reputation as a lecturer and anatomist. . His strictures on the 'state of the Surgical Hospital led to a discussion on the wiser policy of rebuilding the whole infirmary, coupled with a proposal, which was first suggested in the columns of the Scotsnran, that a site should be fbund for it, not near the South Bridge, but in the open neighbourhood of the Meadows. The Governors of Watsods Hospital, acting as we have stated, readily parted with the property there, and plans for the building were prepared by the late David Bryce, R.S.A., and to his nephew and partner, Mr. John Bryce, was entrusted the superintendence of their completion. In carrying out his plans Mr. Bryce was guided by the resilts of medical experience on what is known now as the cottage or pavilion system, by which a certain amount of isolation is procured, and air is freely circulated among the various blocks or portions of the whole edifice. '' When it is mentioned that of an area of eleven and a half acresthe original purchase of Watson's ground having been supplemented by the acquisition of Wharton Place-only three and a half are actually occupied with stone and lime, and that well distributed in long narrow ranges over the general surface, it will be understood that this important advantage has been fully turned to account. ' While the primary purpose of the institution has been steadily kept in view, due regard has been ha2 to its future usefulness as a means of medical and surgical education." Most picturesque is this npw grand and striking edifice from every point of view, by the great number and wonderful repetition of its circular towers, modelled after those of the Palaces of Falkland and Holyrood, while the style of the whole is the old Scottish baronial of the days of James V., the most characteristic details and features of which are completely reproduced in the main frontage, which faces the north, or street of Lauriston. The fagade here presents a central elevation IOO feet in length, three storeys in height, with a sunk basement. A prominent feature here is a tower, buttressed at its angles, and corbelled from the general line of the block, having its base opened by the main entrance, with a window on either side to light the hall. The tower rises clear of the wall-head in a square form, with round corbelled Scottish turrets at the corners, one of them containing a stair, and over all there is an octagonal slated spire, terminating in a vane, at the height of 134 feet from the ground. On the east and west rise stacks of ornamental chimneys. The elevations on each side of this tower are uniform, with turrets at each corner, and three rows of windows, the upper gableted above the line of the eaving-slates.
Volume 4 Page 359
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