Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see ‘About Listed Buildings’ below for more information.


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Planning Authority
NJ 9371 647
393710, 806470


Archibald Simpson, 1833-40; later additions and alterations. 3-storey, 13-bay by 9-bay, H-plan, symmetrical, neo-classical building, part of a nineteenth century hospital complex in Aberdeen city centre. Shallow advanced triangular pedimented centres to principal and side elevations with giant order Doric pilasters. Granite ashlar. Channelled ground floor; string course between ground and 1st floor; deep corniced eaves course with blocking course above. Predominantly moulded architraved windows at 1st and 2nd floor. Corniced and bracketed windows at 1st floor to advanced end 2-bay blocks of south (principal) elevation. Copper-clad dome at centre with glazing to north side.

Predominantly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows; 9-pane glazing at 2nd floor.

The interior was seen in 2013 and has been incrementally remodelled, including subdivisions. Timber boarding to domed attic room, which is understood to have been the operating theatre. Some panelled timber doors with geometric fanlights. Marble bust of Alexander Kilgour set on plaque to wall of entrance corridor.

Boundary Walls, Gatepiers and Railings: roughly squared, coursed and coped granite boundary walls. Wall to west (Spa Street) taller and may have early 18th century fabric. Walls topped with iron railings. Coped square piers, those to north part of site with shallow pyramidal copes.

Lamp Standard: decorative cast iron lamp standard within courtyard to rear of Simpson Pavilion. Bowl missing (2013).

Statement of Special Interest

The Simpson pavilion is a rare example of an early nineteenth century hospital building, which is largely unaltered to its street elevations and plan-form. It was designed by the important Aberdeen architect, Archibald Simpson. The Simpson Pavilion is one of the last and notable examples of the earlier style of general hospital design, predating the pavilion plan-form. The scale of the building, its position on a raised site and its fine neo-classical design give the building significant streetscape presence in its city centre location as well as a significant contribution to the the Former Royal Infirmary, Woolmanhill hospital site.

The former Royal Infirmary complex consists of a fine neo-classical building by Archibald Simpson with later nineteenth century buildings to the rear, on a confined gusset site in Aberdeen city centre. It is unusual for a general hospital site of an early date to remain largely on its original plot as hospitals of this period have typically been altered and extended incrementally. The completeness of the site at Woolmanhill is a consequence of the confines of the city centre location as well and the later building of additional hospital facilities at Forresterhill in the 1920s.

The modern general hospital developed from a handful of institutions founded in the early 18th century. In Scotland the first was Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, begun in 1729 which was followed by Glasgow's Town Hospital of 1732. Both served as the model for Aberdeen's first general hospital, designed by William Christall, which was founded in 1739 and opened in 1742. This building was demolished on completion of the Simpson Pavilion.

By the middle of the nineteenth century advances in medical knowledge and technological innovations resulted in a significant change in hospital design. Known as Nightingale wards or pavilion-plan, in this design different functions of the hospital were separated out into blocks or pavilions and this plan-form was widely adopted from the 1860s.

The Simpson Pavilion predates the pavilion plan-form and is typical of early general hospitals which were often a single building and neo-classical in design with the plan-form and proportions of the building determined by classical principals. Neo-classicism was an architectural style that was inspired from the architecture of Classical Greece and Rome and its perceived purity in form and proportions. The style became widespread across western Europe from the mid-18th century. In Scotland architects used this style for country houses and public buildings, including hospitals, as an appropriate indication of the status of these buildings.

Additions were made to the Simpson Pavilion at the north-east corner (evident on the 1st edtion OS map) by Simpson in 1844 and following a fire in 1849 it was repaired and extended in 1852 and 1859 by William Ramage (previously Simpson's assistant who took over the practice when Simpson died in 1847).

In 1887 a major extension and reconstruction scheme commenced at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary site, consisting of new buildings constructed to the north of the site. Known as the Jubilee Extension Scheme (as the Queen's Jubilee provided an opportunity to raise funds), the new blocks were erected to the north part of the site and opened in 1897, providing a new surgical block, medical and pathology block and laundry blocks. These buildings were designed by W. & J. Smith & Kelly, an Aberdeen architectural practice; however H. Saxon Snell, a prolific hospital architect in London, was consulted on the design. At Saxon Snell's suggestion the 1840 building was converted into an administrative and clinical area and also provided accommodation for nurses. The mid nineteenth century additions to the Simpson Pavilion were removed as part of this extension work.

After the First World War there was urgent need to increase the facilities of the infirmary. The confined nature of the Woolmanhill site did not lend itself to expansion and in 1923 a site at Forresterhill was acquired with the foundation stone of the new hospital laid in 1928. Although the future of the Woolmanhill site was uncertain from this date, it has remained in operation until 2013.

Archibald Simpson (1790-1847) was one of two leading architects in Aberdeen during the early nineteenth century and one of Scotland's leading exponents of neo-classical architecture. Nearly every important architectural commission in the city was won by him or the city architect, John Smith. Simpson designed many of the city's principal public buildings and rarely worked outside of the north-east of Scotland. His work includes St Andrew's Episcopal Church, 1816-17, Stracathro House, near Brechin, 1827 and Aberdeen University, Marischal College, 1837-44 all of which are listed at category A. He also designed buildings for health boards including Aberdeen Lunatic Asylum and Elgin Pauper Lunatic Asylum, however these have been partially or completely demolished.

Statutory address and listed building record updated in 2014. Previously listed as "Aberdeen Royal Infirmary Woolmanhill".



Aberdeen Public Library. Simpson drawings. 3 April 1832.

Aberdeen Journal. 2 May 1832, 25 February 1835, 7 April 1852 and 15 June 1859.

New Statistical Account (1839) Account of 1834-45: Aberdeen, County of Aberdeen. Vol.12. p104.

Ordnance Survey (1869) Aberdeen Sheet LXXV.11 (Old Machar). 25 miles to the inch. Ist Ed. London: Ordnance Survey.

G M Fraser, G M. (5 April to 11 October 1918) Archibald Simpson Architect and his times in Aberdeen Weekly Journal

Unknown (1936) A Short History of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary From Woolmanhill in 1739 to Forresterhill in 1936.

Dobson Chapman, W and Riley, C F (1952) Granite City: A Plan for Aberdeen. by London: Batsford. p148.

Colvin, H. (1995) Biographical Dictionary Of British Architects: 1600-1840. London: Yale University Press. p869-872

Lee, C H (2000) Social welfare: poverty and health in Hamish Fraser, W and Lee C H (eds) Aberdeen 1800-2000 A New History. Lancaster: Carnegle. p279-280

Historic Scotland (2010) Building Up Our Health: the Architecture of Scotland's Historic Hospitals. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland. p18.

Dictionary of Scottish Architects, Archibald Simpson [accessed 16 January 2014].

Historic Scotland Archive. Richardson, H. (Undated) Scottish Hospitals Survey, Unpublished typescript.

About Listed Buildings

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Listing is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for buildings of special architectural or historic interest as set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings which are found to be of special architectural or historic interest using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Listed building records provide an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building which has been identified by its statutory address. The description and additional information provided are supplementary and have no legal weight.

These records are not definitive historical accounts or a complete description of the building(s). If part of a building is not described it does not mean it is not listed. The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site which is known as the statutory address. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing. Even if a number or name is missing from a listing address it will still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing also applies to buildings or structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage (or land) of the listed building as long as they were erected before 1 July 1948.

While Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating listed buildings, the planning authority is responsible for determining what is covered by the listing, including what is listed through curtilage. However, for listed buildings designated or for listings amended from 1 October 2015, legal exclusions to the listing may apply.

If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the 1997 Act. 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 subsequent legislation.

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