LHB1 Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

Collection Summary

Reference Code: GB239 LHB1
Title: Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
Dates of Creation of Material: 1727-2013
Level of Description: Fonds
Extent and Medium of the Unit of Description: 1582 shelf metres: bound volumes, papers, photographic material

Name of creator(s): Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh
Administrative History: The original Edinburgh Infirmary, Hospital for the Sick Poor, Physicians' Hospital, or Little House was located at the head of Robertson's Close. A town house was rented from the Town Council and patients were admitted to the four beds then available from 6 August 1729. In 1736 a Royal Charter was obtained under the name The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. A 228-bed purpose-built hospital designed by William Adam soon followed, and the first patients were admitted to it in 1741. It was located between what are now Infirmary Street and Drummond Street. Two further surgical hospital buildings were added in 1832 and 1853. Due to overcrowding throughout this so-called High School Yards site, David Bryce was commissioned to design a new hospital and in 1879 the Infirmary moved to Lauriston Place, its main building conforming to the pavilion style of surgical and medical ward arrangement.

The original appeal for funds was led by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, making the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh the first voluntary hospital in Scotland. Its charitable subscribers were formed into a Court of Contributors who elected annual Managers drawn from the main occupational and professional groups of the City. This form of funding and administration, with few modifications, continued until 1948 when the National Health Service was founded. Thereafter the Infirmary, including the Royal Maternity and Simpson Memorial Hospital which amalgamated with it in 1926, became the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Associated Hospitals group, with its own Board of Management within the South Eastern Regional Hospital Board. Further administrative changes occurred in 1974, 1994 and 1999, over which time the hospital was successively part of the South Lothian District and then a Unit of Lothian Health Board, a Trust in its own right, and from 1999 part of Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust. In 2004 NHS Trusts in Scotland were abolished and Lothian University Hospitals is currently a Division of NHS Lothian.

Concern over the Lauriston site was first expressed in 1946, when it was felt that the current Royal Infirmary buildings were insufficient to meet the needs of the new National Health Service. Various plans were put forward, including demolition and rebuilding of the existing site, and construction of a brand new Royal Infirmary on a greenfield site, along with another new southern general hospital. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s a number of options were discussed, but the decision was eventually made to rebuild at Lauriston in a series of phases which aimed to minimise disruption to patients and staff. Work was repeatedly delayed however, due in part to financial issues and also to the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland declared that the listed buildings could not be demolished, and it was not until 1981 that the first phase of rebuilding was completed. Again however this plan did not come to fruition, and in the late 1990s work was begun on a new Royal Infirmary at Little France which would also replace the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, the Princess Margaret Rose Orthopaedic Hospital and the City Hospital. In January 2002 the first patients and services moved in as the PMR closed, and the move was completed in 2003. Chalmers Hospital, the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion and the Lauriston Building remain at the Lauriston site, the remainder of which is under development to create new leisure, office and residential facilities.
Archival History: Records held within the National Health Service prior to transfer
Immediate Source of Acquisition or Transfer: Royal Infirmary Archives, 23 Chalmers St, January 1981

Scope and Content: Management 1728-1974; administration 1854-2003; finance (ledgers) 1729-1974; finance (papers) 1727-2004; salaries and wages books 1880-1968; supplies: drugs, housekeeping etc 1797-1968; plans and buildings 1738-1988; correspondence 1727-1984; schools attached to the RIE 1913-1985; professional associations 1933-1986; nursing 1828-2008; medical students 1768-1987; Residency 1838-1987; non-nursing staff 1842-1988; patients: financial 1856-1968; patients (bound records) 1762-1987; patients (bound records): surgical ward journals 1841-1984; patients (bound records): medical and gynaecological ward journals 1910-1999; patients (bound records): specialist ward journals 1900-1967; patients (bound records): miscellaneous ward journals 1921-1958; patients (bound records): operation books 1876-1979; patients (bound records): anaesthetic books 1904-1981; patients (unbound records) I 1920s-1970s; patients (unbound records) II 1940s-1990s; patients (microfilms) 1920s-1940s; related homes, hospitals and specialist departments 1867-1991; papers relating to the sale of the Lauriston Place site, c.1994-2006; papers of the Women's Maintenance Council/RIE Volunteers, 1938-2009; Chaplaincy, 1897-c2003
Accruals: Further accessions are expected
System of Arrangement: Chronological within record class

Conditions Governing Access: Public access to these records is governed by UK data protection legislation, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, and the current Scottish Government Records Management: NHS Code of Practice (Scotland).
Conditions Governing Reproduction: Reproduction is subject to closure periods and physical condition
Language/Scripts of Material: English

Related Units of Description:
For post-1948 board and other papers see:
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Associated Hospitals, Board of Management (LHB2)
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Associated Hospitals Unit (LHB42)
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh NHS Trust (LHB43)
See also:


Catford, Edwin Francis, hospital historian (GD12)

Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital and Simpson Memorial Maternity Hospital (LHB3, LHB3A

Hope, Mann, Todd and Kirk, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Law Agents (GD13)

Laidlaw, John, hospital administrator (GD1/69)

Rules and Regulations of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (GD1/125)

South Lothian District, Lothian Health Board (LHB28)

Staff Social Activities, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (GD1/84)

Surgery Teaching Notes, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, n.d. (GD1/68)

Departments/Specialist Centres

National Radium Centre, Edinburgh (GD1/93)

Pathology Department of the University of Edinburgh (GD20)

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Department of Dietetics (GD1/17)

Social Work Department of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh: HIV/AIDS (GD1/85)


Gregory, John, medical practitioner (GD1/66)

Levin, Ernst, medical practitioner (GD8)

Morrison, William Kenneth, medical practitioner (GD1/23)

Rose, Joan Kennedy, medical practitioner, 1912-1915 (GD1/24)

Saunders, Matthew Brown, medical practitioner, 1886-1888 (GD1/20)


Anderson, Catherine Euphemia, nurse (GD1/38)

Anderson, Mary Leslie, nurse, 1932-1938 (GD1/16)

Cassels, Jessie Alexandra, nurse, 1910 (GD1/39)
Craig, Jean Constance, nurse (GD1/65)
Eccleston, Hannah Church, nurse (GD1/27)
Gill, Annie Warren, nurse (GD1/22)
Johnstone, Agnes Gibson, nurse (GD1/14)
Kirkwood, Mary Jane Whitelaw, nurse (GD1/87)

Lamb, Ann, nurse, 1932-1936 (GD1/61)
Leitch, Jean Walker, nurse (GD1/92)

Macpherson, Morag McLeod, nurse, 1909-1912 GD1/89)
Marshall, Margaret Colville, nurse (GD1/8)
Olroyd, Elizabeth, nurse (GD1/5)
Reid, Winifred, nurse (GD1/15)

Samuel, Catherine Bruce, nurse (GD1/46)

Scott, Isabella Boyd, nurse (GD1/25)

Smith, Annie Murray, nurse, 1924-1973 (GD1/10)

Taylor, Frances, nurse (GD1/21)

Tynedale-Biscoe, Barbara Bettina, nurse (GD1/54)


Abbot, Lewis, UK's first successful kidney transplant patient, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 1960-2003 (GD1/114)

Hendeson, James, patient, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 1929 (GD1/98)

Mr Lockie, patient, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 1965 (GD1/99)

Spalding, Agnes and Nessie, patients (GD1/72)


League of Subscribers, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, c. 1924 (GD1/113)

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Samaritan Society (GD2)

New Royal Infirmary, Little France

Papers of the New Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Project (LHB60)


Hospital Chaplains, Edinburgh Diocese of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, 1940-1962 (GD1/51)
Penicillin, wartime distribution to civilians in Edinburgh (GD1/74)
Reid, Thomas, bookbinder (GD1/97)

Theatre course work, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 1968-1972 (GD1/129)

Publication Note:
Catford, E.F. The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh 1929-1979 Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1984
Eaves Walton, P.M. The 250th and 100th Anniversaries of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the 100th Anniversary of the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion [Edinburgh: s.n., 1979]
Goldman, Martin. Lister Ward Bristol: Hilger, 1987
Logan Turner, A. Story of a great hospital: the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh 1729-1929 Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 1979

Archivists' Notes: Compiled by Mike Barfoot and Jenny McDermott using existing handlists
Rules or Conventions: Description based on ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description International Council on Archives (2nd edition), 2000
Date(s) of Description: May 2000; revised September 2002, May 2007, Jan 2009, June 2009, March 2010, July 2010, January 2011, November 2013