Document of the Month - October

Plan of proposed iron hospital for the Western District of Stirling County Council

Our document of the month for October is a bit of a mystery. It concerns the proposed construction of an iron hospital for the Western District Committee of Stirling County Council in March 1893. It has been stamped and signed by the Board of Supervision.

The plan was discovered whilst appraising the papers of the Western District Clerk Archie Forbes. Unfortunately there was no accompanying papers concerning the hospital to determine exactly where the hospital was to be situated or why it was being built.

Who were the Board of Supervision?

The Board of Supervision for the Relief of the Poor was set up in 1845 in terms of the Poor Law (S) Act of that year. In short, the Board was given oversight of the operation of the Poor Law and the parochial boards which administered it locally. They also had a role in helping establish and influence the Scottish parochial medical service, who administered some health care in parishes.

Why was the hospital proposed to be built?

The creation of the hospital most likely stemmed from the need to control an outbreak of disease. The plan shows that the hospital was to have 8 beds with an additional laundry block split into two areas named ‘infected side’ and ‘disinfected side’.

Other iron and wood hospitals built c. 1900 seemed to have been built for the purpose of isolation. This is further confirmed by the architects appointed to design the building: Speirs and Co. According the Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Speirs and Co were a design and build firm who ‘mainly provided partly prefabricated timber framed buildings, some clad in corrugated iron’.

Speirs and Co. had been involved in the construction of isolation hospitals around the same time of proposed hospital. From 1888-1898, they had been responsible for designing the Infectious Disease Hospital in Drumshoreland, the Inverary Isolation Hospital, Mid Argyll Hospital in Lochgilphead, and the Glenorchy Isolation Hospital.

Where exactly was the hospital?

The Stirling County Council minutes confirm that there were sporadic outbreaks of disease around the time of its design. Outbreaks included swine fever in Dunmore and Denny in 1892, anthrax in Haining Valley in 1893, and rabies in the Campsies in 1893.

The cases in Dunmore, Denny and Haining Valley, however, would have been handled by the Eastern District Committee and the outbreak of rabies in the Campsies was controlled by monitoring dogs in the area.

In September 1893, proposals by the Central District Committee to construct a new hospital near Bannockburn were accepted which lead to construction of a 16 bed fever hospital. This hospital gradually expanded and closed in 2012. The location and dates, however, rule this site out as the potential location of the proposed iron hospital.  

Was the hospital ever built?

The most likely answer is no. The Board of Supervision ceased to exist in terms of the Local Government (S) Act in 1894. Its functions were taken over by the Local Government Board for Scotland and this may have led to certain proposed constructions stopping. There is,however, no clear evidence that this is certain and the proposed hospital might have been established somewhere in Western Stirlingshire.