Bellahouston Dispensary

M136 Bellahouston Dispensary

Address: Morrison Street, Glasgow
Date: 1896–9
Client: Governors of Victoria Infirmary
Authorship: Authorship category 4 (Office) (Office)

Background

In early 1896 the Victoria Infirmary's medical and surgical dispensary – an early out-patient department – on the south side of Glasgow had been operating in the dockside community of Tradeston, on the southern bank of the Clyde, for over three years when the tenancy at its St James Street building was withdrawn. 1 It had already become clear that these premises were inadequate for the scale of the dispensary's work, and by December 1895 the governors of the Victoria Infirmary, led by Sir Renny Watson, had been awarded 6000 by the Bellahouston Bequest Fund to establish and equip a new dispensary. 2 All surviving evidence points to John Keppie being the architect of the new building. Mackintosh does not appear to have made any creative or other contribution to the work.

For temporary accommodation the Dispensary Committee initially leased, and ultimately bought, 7 Maxwelltown Place, Paisley Road. Following the necessary internal alterations, the dispensary reopened in July 1896 a few months after leaving St James Street. 3 By early July, the purchase of the adjacent 8 Maxwelltown Place, on the corner of Dundas Street (now Laidlaw Street) had been secured. 4 Consideration then turned to properly equipping the new dispensary, to be named the 'Bellahouston Dispensary' in acknowledgement of the gift made by the Bequest Fund. Enquiries by the committee secretary led to a deputation to visit the 'best modern public dispensaries' in London, Birmingham and Leeds. 5

Following their tour of ten dispensaries, the deputation submitted a report and recommendations for the plan of the new Bellahouston Dispensary. Their detailed findings commended above all the arrangements of the dispensary at the Great Northern Central Hospital, Holloway Road, London, which were deemed 'considerably in advance of any of the others'. The layout with separate entrance and exit, the patient-registration procedure and the staffing were highlighted. A sketch plan submitted by the deputation showed 'how the ground and a portion of one of the houses could be utilised' for a scheme on the lines of this dispensary. At the same meeting in November 1896, the Dispensary Committee 'resolved that Mr John Keppie, Bath Street, should be appointed architect for the proposed buildings'. 6 How Keppie came to be selected as architect is not known. It may be that he was already known to the governors of the Victoria Infirmary: he had been an apprentice with Glasgow architects Campbell Douglas & Sellars when they won the Victoria Infirmary competition in 1882, and was an assistant there when building work began in 1888. 7 In December 1896 Keppie met with the Dispensary Committee and was instructed to prepare plans. 8

Design

The design of the new dispensary proved problematic. While the Dispensary Committee generally approved of the plan and internal arrangements of Keppie's initial submission in January 1897, amendments to the two street elevations and roofs were recommended. 9 A month later the elevations remained a cause of dissatisfaction and further amendments were requested. 10

By May, the chairman of the Victoria Infirmary governors, Sir Renny Watson, had received amended drawings 'with which he was not satisfied'. The Committee felt the design was 'still following out the old lines objected to, and requested Sir Renny Watson to see Mr Keppie and instruct him to prepare something on entirely different lines'. 11 In October 1897 the design was finally largely approved, although further alterations were sought for the first floor to provide two flats for dispensary employees rather than the suggested offices. 12 The series of elevation drawings which were the source of dissatisfaction to the committee do not survive, so it is impossible to know what they objected to so strongly.

The design approved by the Dean of Guild Court in March 1898 was for the site immediately behind the two houses in Maxwelltown Place: the basement of no. 8 was connected with the new building and served as the dispensing room. The new building had two storeys on its two street elevations in an austere classical style with a lower podium-like ground floor, taller first floor with Doric pilasters set between the pedimented windows, and a parapet at cornice level concealing the low pitched roof. The principal elevation to Morrison Street was symmetrical, with pedimented, slightly projecting central bay and two apparently undifferentiated doors, on the left the private entrance to the first-floor employee accommodation and on the right, the patient entrance.

Patients entered a registration hall with balustrading to control queues. This led to a large, top-lit waiting hall, with consulting and treatment rooms on the N. side, beyond which a private corridor connected to the basement spaces in both the new building and 8 Maxwelltown Place. On the first floor along the street elevations were two flats, each consisting of parlour, bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Corridors inside each flat overlooked the glazed roof of the waiting hall.

The severe classicism of the elevations – the result of the Dispensary Committee's protracted deliberations – does not appear to have been chosen to continue the style of the exisiting buildings on Maxwelltown Place: the Dean of Guild drawings suggest that these two houses, and the terrace to which they originally belonged, dated from the mid-19th century, were built from blonde sandstone and were similar to surviving town houses a little further E. at Lauriston Place. Nor did the Dispensary reflect the style of the Victoria Infirmary's own buildings.

The surviving plans submitted to the Dean of Guild Court are photo-reproductions with dimensions and material specifications in ink. The lettering resembles Mackintosh's in a general way, but there is none of his handwriting and there is no other evidence linking him with this building.

Reception and later history

The Bellahouston Dispensary was formally opened on 28 June 1899. The report in the Glasgow Herald briefly described the facilities provided in Honeyman & Keppie's building, commenting that 'the institution is thoroughly equipped with the most approved appliances'. The governors of the Victoria Infirmary believed, it continued, that the new building 'would be found to be one of the most suitable and complete dispensaries in the kingdom, thoroughly and efficiently equipped, they having endeavoured to provide every comfort for the patients, as well as to provide the professional staff with suitable consulting rooms and all the necessary appliances for carrying on their arduous duties satisfactorily'. 13

The dispensary appears to have survived the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948: on an O.S. map of 1954 it is labelled as 'clinic'. By 1962, however, the redevelopment of the Gorbals, Tradeston and Kingston districts had begun, and with the likely loss of the patient community through rehousing, the dispensary was demolished to make way for the expansion of the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society's buildings in and around Morrison Street. 14

Notes:

1: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 29 January 1896.

2: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Annual Report of the Victoria Infirmary, 1892, HB 23/2/1, p. 10; 1896, pp. 10–11; Glasgow Herald, 6 December 1895, p. 10.

3: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Annual Report of the Victoria Infirmary, 1896, HB 23/2/1, p. 11; Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 9 March 1896; 4 May 1896; 18 May 1896.

4: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 6 July 1896.

5: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 10 September 1896; Glasgow Herald, 6 December 1895, p. 10; Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Annual Report of the Victoria Infirmary, 1896, HB 23/2/1, pp. 10–11.

6: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 2 November 1896. The vacant plot of land immediately S. of 7 and 8 Maxwelltown Place also appears by this date to be owned by the governors of the Victoria Infirmary; no reference to its purchase appears in the minutes of the Governors' or Dispensary Committee meetings.

7: 'John Keppie', 'Victoria Infirmary', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 14 March 2012].

8: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 18 December 1896.

9: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Great Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 26 January 1897.

10: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 11 February 1897.

11: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 7 May 1897.

12: Glasgow City Archives Collection: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives, Victoria Infirmary, governors' minute book 5, HB 23/1/5, 6 October 1897.

13: Glasgow Herald, 29 June 1899, p. 10.

14: 'Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society Administration Building, Morrison Street', Dictionary of Scottish Architects, 1840–1980, www.scottisharchitects.org.uk [accessed 14 March 2012].