Records of Erskine Hospital Ltd, veterans charity, Renfrewshire, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Minutes, 1916-1969;
  • Annual Reports, 1916-2015;
  • Patient Registers, 1916-2001;
  • Workshop Registers, 1925-2001;
  • Administrative Papers, 1916-c2015;
  • Projects, Reports and Strategic Plans, 1993-2007;
  • Property and Estate, 1939-2009;
  • Publications, 1916-;
  • Films, 1966-c1989;
  • Photographs and postcards, c1913-c2010;
  • Personal Papers, c1915-1997.

Administrative / Biographical History

Erskine Hospital Ltd often referred to as Erskine, was established in  1916  as the  Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers. The creation of the hospital was a direct response to the need for specialised medical facilities to deal with the unprecedented number of injured and maimed service personnel returning from the First World War (1914-1918).  Sir William Macewen Regius Professor of Surgery at the University of Glasgow, headed the committee to establish a hospital, with the support of many prominent citizens including Sir Thomas Dunlop, the Lord Provost of Glasgow. They were joined by Princes Louise, Duchess of Argyll, who became the patron of the hospital.

The committee's first task was to find suitable premises for the hospital. Thomas Aikman, owner of the Mansion House of Erskine, offered free use of the house and grounds for the period of the war and for 12 months after the declaration of peace. He also gave the committee the option to make the institution a permanent one on payment of the agricultural value of the grounds. Sir John Reid, later Vice President of the hospital, bought the house and grounds and gifted them anonymously to the charity. The committee held a public meeting on 29th March 1916 to formally launch the scheme, within two months £20,582 was raised in public donations.

A Sub Executive Committee was appointed in April 1916 to transform Erskine House into a hospital with accommodation for 200 patients. While this work was being carried out a temporary base was set up at Culzean Castle to receive urgent cases. Within 6 months Erskine House was ready and the hospital received its first patient on 10th October 1916, by January 1917, 144 patients had been treated at Erskine. Demand for beds grew and in November 1917 construction began on the Huts, funded by the Red Cross, which would accommodate a further 200 patients.

One of the main challenges facing the hospital was the shortage of artificial limbs in Britain at the time. Sir William Macewen was adamant that the hospital would design and produce its own limbs with input from the patients. He enlisted the help of several Glasgow shipbuilding firms including Yarrow & Co Ltd whose owner, Sir Harold Yarrow served on the Executive Committee. A Limbs Committee of expert engineers and surgeons was appointed for the making, standardisation and improvement of the artificial limbs, with Yarrow as Convenor and Professor Archibald Barr, of Barr & Stroud Ltd, as Sub-convenor. Limb manufacturing workshops were established on the River Clyde where trained craftsmen designed and produced the first Erskine Limbs. Production moved from the shipyards to the hospital in late 1917.

Sir William Macewen believed that patients should be offered vocational training as a logical stage in their aftercare and recovery. It was decided to establish training workshops at the hospital in various trades to give the men choice. A building on the estate was divided into three sections. One was devoted to the construction and adjustment of artificial limbs, another equipped with two weaving looms, and a third with up-to-date wood working machines, a turning lathe and planing machine. Basket making, a staple product of the Erskine Workshops throughout the 20th century, was also taught. Soon there was a range of training options including hairdressing, commercial training, tailoring and French Polishing. Agricultural or smallholder's courses provided training in market gardening, bee-keeping, pig and poultry rearing and agricultural carpentry. By 1920 the workshops were expanded to provide increased space for 140 trainees. Throughout the twentieth century the workshops were an important function in the care provided by the hospital, offering men interesting and financially rewarding work.

By December 1917 the number of patients admitted to the hospital was 1,613 and of those 1,126 had been discharged with artificial limbs. By the end of 1919 over 6000 patients had been treated at Erskine. After the war the number of patients entering the hospital due to amputation naturally decreased. The number of major operations performed in 1920 had dropped to 69 making a total of 470 since opening. The Executive Committee shifted focus towards providing long-term residential care to veterans whose disabilities prevented them from living independently. In 1928 the limb manufacturing workshop closed as demand had returned to pre-war norms. As veterans of the First World War aged they were more often admitted for conditions like chronic respiratory ailments linked to their war service. In 1934 a convalescent holiday scheme was introduced which allowed ex-servicemen who had been ill and could not afford to pay for a holiday to come to Erskine for a break. In 1935 a special paraplegic section was formed to accommodate patients from Ralston Hospital who were transferred to Erskine on its closure.

Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War Erskine was informed by the Ministry of Pensions that it would be expected to deal with wounded servicemen. The hospital had provided treatment for 221 patients in 1939, many of whom had sustained their injuries in 1914-1918 and throughout the Second World War they continued to receive patients from the this conflict. In 1944, 471 patients were treated at Erskine, 324 from the ongoing conflict and 147 from the First World War.

Despite feeling the effects of wartime shortages and rationing, Erskine continued to look to the future. In 1944 a new wing was opened with up-to-date massage, gym, physiotherapy, physical training, occupational therapy and diversional therapy facilities. After the end of the war it was decided that Erskine required a new two story building to accommodate surgical wards; x-ray and operating theatre units; a one story building occupying an occupational therapy unit; a 25 bed convalescence wing and admission section; a two story building for a staff home; and a two story hostel for workshops employees. Work began in February 1946 and was completed in 1950.

That same year building began on the first of 50 cottages to be built on the grounds to house disabled ex-service men and their families so that they could live in close proximity to their place of work and the hospital on which they depended for regular treatment. Expansion continued in the 1950s and by 1962 a large extension was added to the permanent buildings in the form of four large wards with modern medical and surgical equipment. It was known as the Ross Wing in memory of Herbert M Ross, who lost a leg while serving with the Scottish Horse in the First World War. In 1966 Erskine celebrated its 50th anniversary, marked by a civic reception in Glasgow's City Chambers.

Further expansion took place in the 1970s when a new 25 bed unit was added. During the 1980s Erskine continued to adapt and redevelop its facilities for support services such as social work and speech therapy, while the physiotherapy department was refurbished.

In the early 1990s another new wing was added. However it was becoming increasingly clear the 19th century mansion house was no longer equipped to deal with the demands of the busy convalescent home. In 1997 the Executive Committee put forward a plan for new purpose built facilities and fundraising began. In 2000, a £16 million purpose-built care centre was opened within the existing hospital grounds, with regional care homes in other parts of the country. 100 years after its inception, and having cared for over 85,000 veterans, Erskine is now known as Scotland's foremost provider of care for veterans and their spouses. For further information please see their website


Arranged chronologically within record series

Access Information

There is a 75 year closure period on medical records of adults. If you seek patient records within this period please contact Archives and Special Collections for advice on how to apply for access to these files, email:

Acquisition Information

Deposit : Erskine Hospital Ltd : 27 Mar 2015 : ACCN 3934

Deposit : Erskine Hospital Ltd : 01 Dec 2015 : ACCN 3992

Deposit : Erskine Hospital Ltd : 19 Jan 2016 : ACCN 3998

Deposit : Erskine Hospital Ltd : 12 Feb 2016 : ACCN 4006

Other Finding Aids

Digital file level list available in searchroom

Alternative Form Available

No known copies

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

None which affect the use of this material

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to Archives and Special Collections, email:  .

Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents

Any work intended for publication must be approved in advance by Erskine Hospital Ltd. Apply in the first instance to Archives and Special Collections, email: . The collection should be referenced as follows: University of Glasgow Archives & Special Collections, Erskine Hospital collection, GB 248 UGC225.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 248 procedures

Custodial History

Received directly from the creator


An annual accruals process has been agreed

Location of Originals

This material is original


John Calder, The Vanishing Willows: The Story of Erskine Hospital. Bishopton: The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital (Erskine Hospital) , 1982 .

Harry Diamond, Do You Sleep with that Leg On? The Story of Erskine Hospital. Bishopton: Erskine Hospital Ltd , 2001 .

Anne Johnstone, Jennifer Cunningham and Russell Leadbetter, A Century of Care: Erskine 1916-2016. Bishopton: Erskine Hospital Ltd , 2016 .

Additional Information

Description compiled in line with the following international standards: International Council on Archives, ISAD(G) Second Edition, September 1999and National Council on Archives, Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names

Scotland is the location of all place names in the administrative/biographical history element, unless otherwise stated.

Fonds level description compiled by Orla O'Brien, Cataloguer (Erskine Hospital Ltd), 4 August 2016.

Geographical Names