Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing under the Planning (Listing Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 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. The further details below the 'Address/Name of Site' are provided for information purposes only.

Address/Name of Site

Alexandra Gate and former Royal Alexandra Infirmary, excluding later flat-roofed section to north, Neilston Road, PaisleyLB39057

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Category
B
Date Added
27/06/1980
Last Date Amended
02/06/2017
Supplementary Information Updated
27/06/2017
Local Authority
Renfrewshire
Planning Authority
Renfrewshire
Burgh
Paisley
NGR
NS 48186 63063
Coordinates
248186, 663063

Description

A two- and three-storey and attic, elaborately detailed, former hospital dating from 1897 to 1900 by the Paisley architect, Thomas Graham Abercrombie. The building is roughly E-plan and is in the Scottish Renaissance style. Its main entrance is situated to the north and there is a linking corridor with three pavilion arms to the south. The building is built in snecked and stugged red sandstone with ashlar margins and has a variety of window openings, including some transomed and mullioned windows and some rectangular windows. The pavilion to the east was converted to flats in the 1980s and is called Alexandra Gate. The remainder of the building is unused (2017).

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following is excluded from the listing: the later flat roofed section to the north.

The advanced, roughly square-plan, 3-bay entrance section lies at the centre of the rear of the building with the main entrance door to the west. The west elevation has a central, round-headed doorpiece, flanked by paired Ionic columns and with a broken, segmental pediment above. There are corner turrets with attached columns and finialled bellcast lead caps to the northeast, northwest and southwest corners. A square-plan tower with a corbelled parapet and bartizans rises from the southwest corner. A 2-storey passage with 7 round headed arches connects the central section to west pavilion.

The east elevation of Alexandra Gate has two, advanced, 3-windowed gabled bays. These flank a corbelled and canted oriel window, which rises from the 1st floor, and a round-headed arch with parapet at 1st floor which has a veranda above with a central column. At the north end of Alexandra Gate is a large circular former ward with pedimented windows at ground level and with elaborate pediments to the attic dormers. This section has a conical roof with a bellcast capped ventilator at the apex.

The south end of each pavilion arm has semi-circular, railed verandas with ashlar Roman Doric columns at the ground floor and cast-iron columns at the 1st floor and conical roofs. Each veranda is flanked by projecting square bays with piended roofs.

The north end of the west pavilion arm has rounded corner turrets with pedimented dormers and conical slate roofs.

The windows of Alexandra Gate are timber sash and case with plate glass glazing pattern, or timber plate glass casement windows. The roofs have mostly green slates with some piended and some gable roofs. There are louvred ventilators, mostly octagonal with bellcast or facetted lead caps.

Some of the interior of Alexandra Gate was seen (2016). This section has been converted into modern flats. There are wide, dog-leg staircases with decorative metal balusters and timber handrails.

Statement of Special Interest

The former Royal Alexandra Infirmary, including Alexandra Gate, is the elaborately decorated former general hospital in Paisley, dating to 1897-1900 by the prolific and renowned local architect, Thomas Graham Abercrombie. The building has a rare, surviving circular ward and distinctive semi-circular balconies, as well as a significant amount of architectural decoration to its entrance section and former wards. Its size and ornamentation makes is distinctive building within a mainly residential area of Paisley, and it is an important building in helping our understanding of the medical history of the town.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following is excluded from the listing: the later flat roofed section to the north.

Age and Rarity

The former Royal Alexandra Infirmary in Paisley opened in 1900 as a general hospital with an infectious diseases ward. It was designed by the Paisley architect Thomas Graham Abercrombie and it replaced an older building which was in the centre of the city. The site consisted of four buildings - the main infirmary, a nurses' home and a dispensary and lodge.

The hospital closed in 1986 when the new, current, Royal Alexandra Hospital was built on a different site to the west. The easternmost wing and the round ward were then converted into residential accommodation and renamed Alexandra Gate. The remainder of the main building is currently unused (2017). The former nurses' home was converted into flats in 2005-6 and renamed the Peter Coats Building. It is separately listed at category B. The former dispensary and lodge is now a children's nursery and is also separately listed at category B.

The history of the Royal Alexandra infirmary goes back to 1786 when a general dispensary for the sick poor was opened in the centre of Paisley, offering outpatient medical treatment and advice. By 1805, this had become a House of Recovery for patients with infectious diseases, in an attempt to stop the spread of infection in the expanding industrial town. By 1850 the building had been enlarged and was a general hospital, called Paisley Infirmary and Dispensary. It had both medical and surgical wards. The hospital can be seen as a T-plan building in the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1858, with the dispensary, wards and matron's rooms clearly marked.

In 1886, with patient numbers increasing, the hospital committee decided to build a new, larger, building in a greener site, away from the centre of the city. This was to be a general infirmary that included infectious diseases accommodation. Subscriptions for the hospital raised £49000 and Peter Coats, a local industrialist and philanthropist, persuaded the committee to accept a plan for a 142 bed hospital.

The building was given to the local architect Thomas Graham Abercrombie to design and work began on the new hospital in 1894. The memorial stone was laid in 1897. The new hospital opened in 1900 and was called the Royal Alexandra Infirmary. It had three pavilions and an infectious diseases block. A chapel, which had seating for 100 was dedicated in 1901.

The accommodation for the nurses was originally to have been in attic rooms, but Peter Coats did not like this arrangement and in 1894 he advised that he would bear the cost of a separate nurses' home. Completed in 1896, this was the first part of the complex to be finished. It even had a photography dark room in the basement, as many of the nurses were interested in photography. The out-patient dispensary on Neilston Road was opened in 1902. The nurses' home was expanded in 1908 to 64 beds, again as a gift from Peter Coats and the site also included two tennis courts which doubled as a skating pond in the winter.

After the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, the Board of Management wanted to replace the existing medical buildings in Paisley and bring all the medical services together. The New Royal Alexandra Hospital opened in 1986.

The modern general hospital had its origins in the 18th century. The first general hospital founded in Scotland was the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary which opened in 1729. Hospitals were thereafter founded in most large Scottish cities and towns and often built with symmetrical plans and to classical proportions. By the middle of the 19th century advances in medical knowledge and technology led to a clear shift to the pavilion-plan hospital with wards placed in block pavilions to help fight the spread of disease through cross-ventilated buildings. Hospital planning was not significantly changed again until further medical advances in bacterial control meant that ventilation was no longer a priority and other plan forms emerged. While technology played an important part in the design of hospitals, patronage and private endowment also led in some cases to elaborate architectural treatments which have provided us with some of our most important institutional buildings.

The former Royal Alexandra Infirmary is not early in date for a general hospital building but has a considerable amount of elaborate decorative detailing for this type of building. It also retains its pavilion plan form and includes a rare surviving circular ward – an innovation of the end of the 19th century.

The later flat-roofed section to the north of the building is not of special interest in listing terms and is excluded from the listing.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

Higher levels of interior decoration was usually reserved for the central and administration sections of the building, particularly the main staircase. The interior of this unused section of the building was not seen and has not been taken into account in this assessment. Photos dated 2013 show some timber lined areas and a main staircase with a coffered ceiling in the stairwell. It is not known if these features survive.

Staircases in the ward areas of a general hospital were often less decoratively detailed and could be quite plain. Here, Alexandra Gate, which was a ward pavilion, has a staircase which has decorative balusters, which suggests that the hospital was well-detailed throughout.

Plan form

The Royal Alexandra Infirmary has a typical plan form for a general hospital of this date with a single corridor with long ward blocks extending from it.

One of the first hospitals to use this 'pavilion plan ' was St Thomas' in London, built in 1868 and listed at Grade II (ref no 1358293). The pavilion plan was developed in response to the growing acceptance that patients needed ventilation and light. This view, particularly adhered to by Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) advocated a sufficient amount of air for each patient, windows on either side of the ward and toilets and sculleries attached to each ward.

The round ward to the northeast of the building is one of only two round ward towers in Scotland and the only one where the exterior form has survived. The other was at the Kirkcaldy Cottage Hospital (now demolished). This type of ward was designed in the 1880s to allow for maximum light for a ward in an awkward and small spot, particularly in a north facing area, as here. The first to be built was in London at the former New End Hospital in 1884 and listed at Grade II* (ref no. 1322108).

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Red sandstone was a typical building material for Paisley buildings at this time and can be seen in other types of building across the city, including churches and tenement buildings.

The building has elaborate stonework detailing, particularly in the entrance block to the north, but also extending to the other sections of the hospital. In the entrance block, it includes the elaborate doorpiece, the corner turrets, the arcading and the corbelled tower. The former wards are also well-detailed in their turrets, the different dormerheads, the delicate balconies and the variety of window openings. The different roof shapes add to the richly detailed exterior. Whilst hospitals often had decorative and distinctive entrances, the amount of decorative detailing at the former Royal Alexandra Infirmary is unusual.

The practice of building circular balconies at the ends of each ward was not uncommon for large general hospitals by this date as it allowed the patients access to fresh air. Sometimes these were added to existing ward blocks, and occasionally they were enclosed at a later date. Here the balconies form an important part of the original design. The rounded ends echo the round ward at the northeast corner. They are also decorative, with Doric columns and similar decorative ironwork seen on the staircase. Their survival as open verandas is unusual, and contributes to the importance of the building as a whole.

Thomas Graham Abercrombie (1862-1926) was a prolific architect, whose work is found mainly in his home town of Paisley and the surrounding area. He designed around 130 buildings in Paisley, ranging from villas, tenements, shops, churches and large public buildings. He also designed Dykebar Hospital, a former asylum, in 1909-14 (LB38961). He used a variety of styles for his buildings, including Scots Baronial and Art Nouveau. Abercrombie was also a volunteer, first in the 2nd Renfrewshire Rifles and then in in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Red sandstone was a typical building material for Paisley buildings at this time and can be seen in other types of building across the city, including churches and tenement buildings.

The building has extravagant stonework detailing, particularly in the entrance block to the north, but also extending to the other sections of the hospital. In the entrance block, it includes the elaborate doorpiece, the corner turrets, the arcading and the corbelled tower. The former wards are also well-detailed in their turrets, the different dormerheads, the delicate balconies and the variety of window openings. The different roof shapes add to the richly detailed exterior. Whilst hospitals often had decorative and distinctive entrances, the amount of decorative detailing at the former Royal Alexandra Infirmary is unusual.

The practice of building circular balconies at the ends of each ward was not uncommon for large general hospitals as it allowed the patients access to fresh air. Sometimes these were added to existing ward blocks, and occasionally they were enclosed at a later date. Here the balconies form an important part of the original design. The rounded ends echo the round ward at the northeast corner. They are also decorative, with Doric columns and similar decorative ironwork seen on the staircase. Their survival as open verandas is unusual, and contributes to the importance of the building as a whole.

Thomas Graham Abercrombie (1862-1926) was a prolific architect, whose work is found mainly in his home town of Paisley and the surrounding area. He designed around 130 buildings in Paisley, ranging from villas, tenements, shops, churches and large public buildings. He also designed Dykebar Hospital, a former asylum, in 1909-14 (LB38961). He used a variety of styles for his buildings, including Scots Baronial and Art Nouveau. Abercrombie was also a volunteer, first in the 2nd Renfrewshire Rifles and then in in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Setting

The former Royal Alexandra Infirmary is set in a residential area of Paisley to the south of the city centre. The height of the tower and the semi-circular form of the balconies make it a distinctive building in an area dominated mainly by housing.

The infirmary is close to its former nurses' homes and dispensary, which are listed separately, and forms a good group with buildings which have a functional relationship with it.

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2016).

As the former major general hospital in the city, the building is important in helping our understanding of the history of medical care in the city.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2017. Previously listed with Flats 1-18, Peter Coats Building and the Nursery Times as 'Neilston Road, Royal Alexandra Infirmary'.

References

Bibliography

Canmore: http://canmore.org.uk/ CANMORE ID 198203

Maps

John Wood (1828) Map of Paisley. Edinburgh: Ballantyne

Ordnance Survey (1858) Paisley, Sheet X11.2.19. 25 Inches to the Mile map. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Ordnance Survey, (Surveyed 1895, Published 1897) Renfrewshire Sheet 012.06. 25 Inches to the Mile map. 2nd Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.

Printed Sources

Close, R., Gifford, J. and Walker, F. A. (2016) The Buildings of Scotland: Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. pp.737.

Dow, D. (1988) Paisley Hospitals. The Royal Alexandra Infirmary and allied Institutions 1786-1986. Glasgow: Argyll and Clyde Health Board.

Historic Scotland, (2010) Building up our Health, the architecture of Scotland's historic hospitals. Edinburgh: Historic Scotland.

Online Sources

Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Paisley. https://historic-hospitals.com/gazetteer/renfrewshire/ [accessed 06/02/2017].

About Listed Buildings

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Images

Former Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Neilston Road, Paisley, South elevation of Alexandra Gate, looking northwest during daytime on a sunny day with blue sky.
Former Royal Alexandra Infirmary, Neilston Road, Paisley, entrance section, looking southeast during daytime on sunny day with blue sky.

Map

Map

Printed: 15/06/2021 07:48