Records of Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow, Scotland

Scope and Content

  • Articles of Association and Minutes, 1861-1974;
  • Committees and Divisions, 1929-1994;
  • Reports, 1883-1973;
  • Financial Records, 1881-1964;
  • Staff Records, 1913-1970
  • Patient Registers, 1893-1995;
  • Ward Journals, 1883-1941;
  • Nurses’ Records, 1882-1982;
  • Property Records, 1887-1995;
  • Public Relations and Promotional Material, 1884-1994;
  • Biochemistry Department Records, 1967-1990;
  • Papers of Dr John Ross Munro, Consultant Anaesthetist, RHSC, 1927-2000.
  • Balvicar Centre, 1960-1996;
  • Chaplaincy, 1991-c2004
  • Glasgow University Department of Child Health, 1954-1999;
  • Yorkhill Children's Trust, c1988-2012
  • Public/Patient Involvement, 2003-2007
  • Ladies' Auxiliary Committee, 1941-1991;
  • Photographs, c1895-c2002.

Administrative / Biographical History

Glasgow Hospital for Sick Children was officially opened in December 1882, with the first patients being admitted in January 1883. Glasgow was one of the last major European cities to have a specialist children’s hospital even although it had a high child mortality rate due to diseases associated with poverty, malnutrition and over-crowding. The organising committee took 21 years to establish the hospital, due to opposition from the Royal Infirmary staff, delays negotiating with Glasgow University for a site at the new Western Infirmary, and lack of funds.

The hospital was in Scott St, Garnethill, in a house that was altered and extended by the architect James Sellars to provide 3 wards, 58 beds, an operating theatre, accommodation for nurses and for the Lady Superintendent, Mrs Harbin. The buildings were extended in 1887 and 1894 to provide a fourth ward and nurses’ accommodation. The hospital was managed by a Board of Directors and, until 1948, was funded by public subscriptions and donations. It was staffed by two Visiting Surgeons and two Visiting Physicians who visited at least twice a week. Initially there was one resident medical officer, later increased to two. The Lady Superintendent (later Matron) was responsible for all nursing and domestic arrangements.

The hospital treated poor children between the ages of 2-12, but after a few years more babies were admitted since some conditions could be successfully treated in children younger than two. Staff of the hospital engaged in research into children’s diseases and it was also a teaching hospital, training children’s nurses and giving instruction to medical students.

The hospital was granted the use of “Royal” in its title in 1889, and become The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow.

An out-patient department, the Dispensary, was opened nearby in West Graham Street in 1888, designed by James Sellars. A nurses’ home was added in 1897. The Dispensary was open every morning, except Sunday, and poor children received free treatment without an appointment. The staff of Hon Extra Surgeons and Physicians saw over 100 patients each morning, gave advice, medical and surgical treatment, dispensed medicines and could refer urgent cases to the hospital. Day surgery was pioneered there, especially by Dr James Nicoll, who operated on cases of cleft palate, hare lip, spina bifida and pyloric stenosis. The Dispensary sisters also visited patients in their homes to check on their progress and, with the backing of the Ladies Committee, give clothes and money for food for needy cases. In the 1920s the Dispensary had a diabetic clinic and cardiac clinic and, in the 1930s, a speech therapy clinic. It closed in 1953 as the clinics and out-patient facilities were transferred to the RHSC at Yorkhill. The buildings were adapted for use by the Department of Clinical Physics and Bio-engineering, but are now empty.

A Country Branch of RHSC was built at Drumchapel, to the north west of Glasgow, in 1903 with funds donated by Miss Margaret Montgomery Paterson of Edinburgh. It had two wards, each with twelve cots, and a sun-room. It was not a convalescent home, but was to continue the treatment of the children, especially those with tubercular bone diseases, in the country. It also relieved pressure for beds on the RHSC in town. It was extended in 1930 to provide 80 beds. In 1968 one ward was turned into Drumchapel Geriatric Hospital and children’s facilities were closed there in 1985.

By 1907, the directors and medical staff knew that the existing hospital was too small to cope with the demand for treatment –there was a waiting list of over 100 cases. A public fund-raising appeal was launched and Yorkhill House and 19 acres of ground were purchased to build a new hospital on an airy, green-field site. The new buildings were designed by the architect, James Burnet, and by Donald Mackintosh, Superintendent of the Western Infirmary and incorporated the best design features of European and American children’s hospitals. King George V and Queen Mary performed the opening ceremony in July 1914. It was the second largest children’s hospital in Britain after Great Ormond Street. The hospital had 200 beds in separate blocks with room to construct additional blocks to provide 300 beds. It provided 12 wards, laboratories, two operating theatres, a nurses’ home and a pathology block. From 1915 four wards were used as a military hospital for officers with the result that the hospital did not function fully as a children’s hospital until 1919.

On 19 January 1922 the hospital was incorporated as a limited company, but without the addition of the word “limited” in its title, as an Association limited by guarantee, and not for profit. A Memorandum and Articles of Association were drawn up. There were changes to the hospital management structure, including the addition of hospital governors and two new directors who were representatives from the employees in public works, warehouses etc who subscribed to the hospital.

University lectureships were established at the hospital, the first ones in 1919 being the Leonard Gow Lectureship in the Diseases of Infancy and Childhood and the Barclay Lectureships in Paediatric Surgery and Orthopaedics. In 1924, Leonard Findlay was appointed to the Samson Gemmell Chair of Medical Paediatrics, the first permanent chair of child health in Britain. The hospital became a major research hospital of international renown, particularly into the causes and treatment of rickets, metabolic diseases, kidney disease, orthopaedics, and heart disorders.

From 1948 until 1964 the RHSC was under the Board of Management for Glasgow and District Children’s Hospitals, along with Drumchapel and Strathblane Children’s Home Hospital, which became part of the group in 1953. When the new Queen Mother’s maternity hospital opened in 1964 at Yorkhill, the Board of Management changed its title to Yorkhill Children’s and Maternity Hospitals. The title changed again in 1968 to Board of Management for Yorkhill and Associated Hospitals.

In 1965 it was discovered that RHSC buildings were structurally unsound. The patients and staff were temporarily evacuated to Oakbank Hospital whilst demolition and rebuilding took place. Between 1967 and 1971 a series of new buildings were opened at Yorkhill, designed by Baxter Clark and Paul and Burnet Bell and Partners. The new RHSC was opened by the HRH the Queen and Prince Phillip in 1972. The Yorkhill complex provided an 8-storey ward stack, laboratory accommodation, 4 operating theatres, Accident & Emergency department, and accommodation for university departments. It had 336 beds plus 100 at Drumchapel and 40 at Strathblane. However, the next ten years were taken up with remedial works, including the replacement of plumbing, windows and floor screeds.

In 1974, the RHSC and QMH group of hospitals was placed in the Western District of the Greater Glasgow Health Board.

In 1989 GGHB decided to centralise all paediatric care within RHSC, excluding infectious diseases. Previously there had also been children’s units at Stobhill Hospital and at the Southern General Hospital.

The GGHB established a Yorkhill Unit in 1991. In 1993 Yorkhill was granted NHS Trust status, becoming Yorkhill NHS Trust, comprising of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Queen Mother’s Hospital, Strathblane Children’s Home Hospital and Community Child Health Services. The Trust Board of Directors was made up of a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Chief Executive, four executive members and four non-executive members.

In its first year the Trust began an ambitious capital investment programme to help absorb all paediatric in-patient activity in Glasgow onto the Yorkhill site. The £11.5 million scheme included new operating theatres, expanded Intensive Therapy Unit, improved facilities in Haematology and a new department of Child and Family Psychiatry. Ear, Nose and Throat and Orthopaedics were transferred from the Royal Infirmary and Infectious Diseases from Stobhill. Directorates were established, including 8 clinical directorates, –Medical; Paediatric Surgery; Anaesthesia, Intensive Care and Day Surgery; Diagnostic Imaging (title change to Diagnostic Imaging and Medical Physics by 1996); Laboratory Services; Maternity and Neonatology; Child and Family Psychiatry; Operational Support Services; Nursing and Patient Services; Human Resources; Child Health; Pharmacy Services; Finance and Information. By 1995 there was a Directorate of Contracting Services. By 2000 there was also a Directorate of Corporate Planning.

A Combined Child Health Service was created for the whole of Glasgow. The Yorkhill NHS Trust was abolished in April 2004 and the Yorkhill complex became an Operating Division, (Yorkhill Division) of NHS Greater Glasgow. In line with “Partnerships of Care”, city-wide reorganisation of management structures is ongoing (2006) to create single-system working to make better use of resources and reduce duplication. Management of services such as HR, finance, planning. laundry, laboratories are being centralised. The acute hospitals and specialist children’s services will become one single operating unit supported by a number of specialised directorates. In 2005 the Scottish Executive agreed to allocate £100 million to NHS Greater Glasgow to build a modern replacement for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and is expected to open in 2015. This is to be built at the Southern General Hospital alongside adult and maternity services. An extension to the Southern General Maternity Hospital was constructed and all maternity services were transferred from the Queen Mother’s Hospital to the Southern General and to the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital on 13 January 2010.


Arranged in series.

Access Information

There is a 75 year closure period on medical records of adults, and a 100 year closure period on the medical records of minors. The 75 year closure period also applies to staff records.

If you seek patient records within these periods, or information regarding your own treatment or employment, you should contact the Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

A paper-based finding aid can be located in the searchroom.

Archivist's Note

These records were organised and arranged by Mrs Alma Topen, Archivist.

EAD finding aid created by Laura Stevens, Assistant Archivist, using the cheshire for archives ead creation tool 2013-10-16.

Appraisal Information

Appraised according to standard GB 0812 procedure.


Further accruals expected.

Related Material

GB 0812 QMH, Records of the Queen Mother's Hospital, Glasgow.