Hospital History: Settling at Sciennes 1895-1896

Illustration by Cate James


clean clothes and good grub,
they came to fill up the stores:
The butcher, the baker,
the furniture maker,
The Hospital ate like a horse!

The first fit-for-purpose Royal Hospital for Sick Children was finally built, an opening ceremony held, and they moved in. But think of all the supplies they now needed and all the things that could go wrong!

The 1895 Annual Report shows £413:15:3d was spent on 'Coals and firewood', very high considering nurses and servants' wages cost £758:0:1d for the year. And at what cost was this supply to the cart-horses (see this page)? 

The Directors bought bedding from William Martin, 22 George Street, (who appears to have recently opened then and to still be in business today): Lawson Tait mattresses for 35 nurses' beds (6' 6" x 3') and 50 to 100 children's cots (5' x 2' 4 inches), also 3000 yards of cotton sheeting and 1500 yards of linen sheeting for pillow slips. The beds were provided at £1:4:6 and the cots at £1:17:3d each.

By May 1896, the following traders were recorded as supplying the hospital:
Groceries: William Thorburn, 31 Argyll Place. Contract 6 months.
Milk: William Nisbet, Bucklaw Farm, Colinton. 12 months.
Fowls and butcher meat: James Wilson, 144 George Street. 6 months.
Butter, eggs, ham and bacon: Andrew Lindsay (new store). 6 months.
Bread: David D Martin, Morrison Street bakery. 6 months.
Fish: Robert Bryson, 1 St Patrick Square. 6 months.
Coals: Bruce Lindsay Bros, Lanarkshire.
Soaps: William Taylor and Sons (Broughton Soap Boy). 6 months.

I have already written about teething problems at Sciennes here. Quite apart from issues with the chimney, the boilers, the plumbing, and a 'beef tea kettle' which turned out to be a 'meat boiler' which Matron said was unnecessary and had replaced with a 'stock pot', there was.....:
'The washing machine and ironing machine question' 
The former was tearing the clothes, the latter still undelivered, according to the Directors' letter to Miss Piggott, Matron, of 10th of February 1896.

Perhaps all was not well in the kitchen either, as implied by another letter to Miss Piggott, on 22nd of January 1896 which opens: 
'What about the Cook and her dripping?' 

And then there was the whole business of the location, still considered non-central to the City by some.  In 1906, Flora Masson wrote in the Story of the Hospital:
'Some people seem to think the Sciennes a rather out-of-the-way suburb in which to build a hospital; but it is quite easily reached, from the middle of Princes Street, by walking up the Mound and across the old High Street of Edinburgh, along George IV Bridge and down the Broad Walk of the Meadows. There is no more picturesque or historically interesting walk in Edinburgh. At the entrance to the Meadows, you pass, on your right, the Royal infirmary, which has swallowed up the site of Old Meadowside House, and Lauriston, where the first Children’s Hospital was opened in the small house in the Lane.'
And Cate has illustrated it in this beautiful poster which would surely promote a walk through Edinburgh to anyone! 

Illustration by Cate James

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