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Main Steps, former Ruchill Hospital, 520 Bilsland Drive, Glasgow

A Category C Listed Building in Glasgow, Glasgow

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Latitude: 55.8882 / 55°53'17"N

Longitude: -4.2661 / 4°15'57"W

OS Eastings: 258370

OS Northings: 668438

OS Grid: NS583684

Mapcode National: GBR 0J8.9Z

Mapcode Global: WH3P2.F8SC

Plus Code: 9C7QVPQM+7H

Entry Name: Main Steps, former Ruchill Hospital, 520 Bilsland Drive, Glasgow

Listing Name: Main Staircase at former Ruchill Hospital, 520 Bilsland Drive, Glasgow

Listing Date: 6 April 1992

Last Amended: 31 October 2018

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 377645

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB33746

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Glasgow

County: Glasgow

Town: Glasgow

Electoral Ward: Canal

Traditional County: Lanarkshire

Tagged with: Building Architectural structure

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The staircase was built as part of Ruchill Hospital, which was designed by Alexander Beith McDonald from around 1892. The hospital complex was completed in 1900.

The broad, straight stone staircase leads up a steep slope. It is comprised of two flights separated by a landing. Each flight is further separated by a smaller landing. The staircase leads from the entrance of the site and forms an axial approach to the water tower (LB33750).

The staircase has a pierced balustrade with geometric stylised oval balusters decorated with a circular design. This is topped with plain coping stones forming a handrail. There is a landing between each double-flight of steps, and the double-flights are separated by a concrete walkway. The first pair of flights is made up of 27 steps (including the landing), the second pair of flights is made up of 28 steps (including the landing). At the bottom of the staircase is a pair of octagonal newel posts, with later domed octagonal caps. Each landing is bordered by four corniced square piers. Some sections of balustrade, coping and newel posts have been restored on both sets of flights using the original stonework.

Statement of Interest

The main staircase of the former Ruchill Hospital is one of the few surviving components of this large late 19th century municipal complex. Ruchill Hospital was one of the earliest purpose-built infectious disease hospitals established in Scotland, pre-dating the 1897 Public Health Act which formalised this new type of healthcare provision. As a fragmentary survival, the staircase is a tangible reminder of the innovations in health provision in Scotland in the late 19th century. The staircase's design quality is seen in its Flemish Renaissance style with stylised balustrade and corniced piers. Its survival complements the remaining hospital structures on the site, in particular, creating an axial approach to the large, ornamented water tower (LB33750).

Age and Rarity

In 1892 the Glasgow Corporation bought the 91-acre Ruchill Estate, roughly 3 miles northwest of Glasgow Cross. 53 acres of the estate was turned into a public park and 38 acres set aside for building a hospital for infectious diseases (Glasgow Corporation, 1914, p. 219). Following the expansion of the city boundaries in 1891, Ruchill was selected for its accessibility from numerous districts, and its relatively rural location. Its position on a hill, with the park adjacent, was chosen to ensure plenty of fresh air and sunshine for patients in an otherwise expanding industrial area.

The establishment of this hospital was significant as it set the standard for local authority infectious diseases hospitals before the 1897 Public Health Act made the provision of such hospitals compulsory. Ruchill Hospital was purpose-built to treat infectious diseases. Its layout as a self-contained 'village', with separate blocks, ward pavilions and staff housing was similar to other hospitals for infectious diseases in Glasgow, beginning with Belvidere (timber structures built 1874-7, with 1880s stone extensions and additions) and, later, Stobhill (built 1900-04; LB52237, LB33290, LB33291, LB33289) (Williamson et al., pp. 65-66).

Building of the Administration Block began on 29th August 1895 and the hospital was formally declared open on 13th June 1900 (Glasgow Corporation, 1914, p. 219). The 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1894, published 1897) shows Ruchill Park was laid out by 1894 and a sanitary wash house had been built in the northeast corner of the hospital site. The staircase and the main hospital buildings, including the ward pavilions, enquiry and administration blocks, are shown on the 3rd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1909, published 1914) in much the same layout as in 2010 prior to demolition works on the site. There was expansion to the south of the ward pavilions in the 20th century, creating further medical blocks and a Nurses' Home. The main staircase led the approach from the entrance gateway, flanked by gatelodges (now demolished), up the hill through former estate parkland towards the Enquiry Block and the hospital buildings beyond.

Ruchill Hospital had 440 beds when it opened. By 1915 a further 272 beds had been added for tuberculosis patients and to cope with the rise of infectious diseases, including influenza, after the end of the First World War. By 1948, when the hospital was absorbed into the National Health Service, Ruchill had 1,000 beds (JISC Archives Hub). From the 1940s onwards, innovations in medical treatment meant the need for isolation decreased and the numbers of infectious cases reduced. Ruchill hospital adapted and focussed more on the care of geriatric, chronically sick young, and psychiatric patients. By the 1980s and 1990s Ruchill was one of two principal hospitals in Scotland (the other was Edinburgh City Hospital) offering important AIDS and HIV services, including a drop-in facility (LGBT History Scotland).

Ruchill Hospital closed in 1998 due to the drop in the number of in-patients from 586 in 1975 to 280 in 1990 (JISC Archives Hub), and the opening of the Brownlee Centre for Infectious and Communicable diseases at Gartnavel General Hospital, Glasgow (Farewell and Johnson, p.942). The hospital was sold, and the site was allocated for housing development as part of the North Glasgow priority area for regeneration (Glasgow's Strategic Housing Investment Plan, p.9). All the former Ruchill hospital buildings, except the water tower (LB33750) the staff cottages (LB33748) and the main staircase, were demolished between the early 2000s and 2014.

Ruchill Hospital was one of the earliest purpose-built infectious disease hospitals established in Scotland, pre-dating the 1897 Public Health Act which formalised this new type of healthcare provision. The surviving staircase, together with the few other surviving hospital buildings at this site, particularly the water tower, are an important reminder of the social and historical development of hospital design in the late 19th century. Large infectious disease hospitals were once common in large cities, such as Glasgow, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Surviving and largely unaltered buildings of these hospitals from this period are now rare.

External stone staircases are not a particularly rare building type, in the context of street architecture found across large cities or estate landscapes. Although now an architectural fragment of a former hospital site, this staircase at Ruchill is of notable architectural quality in its own right, designed in a Flemish Renaissance style to complement the main hospital buildings. The staircase also provided a practical solution to the hillside site as well as forming a formal axial approach to the main hospital buildings.

Architectural or Historic Interest



Plan form


Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The stone staircase was designed as part of the Ruchill Hospital complex by Alexander Beith McDonald, the City Surveyor for Glasgow (Williamson et al., p.416). It is a broad and straight staircase ascending a steep hill in four flights with landings in-between. The staircase has some distinguished stonework details including the stylised balustrade, octagonal newel posts and corniced piers, creating an imposing approach up the hill connecting the former entrance to the site beyond. The stylised balustrade of the staircase complements the Flemish Renaissance style of the former Ruchill Hospital. In particularly the design of the staircase mirrored the scalloped gables of the former buildings.

The staircase is one of the few surviving building associated with the former Ruchill hospital. The staircase's position continues to creates a formal axial approach and grouping with the water tower (LB33750), complementing the stone dressings and decorative features of the tower.

The staircase was repaired and conserved in 2012 (application reference 12/02218/DC). The staircase is largely unaltered because these works recovered and reused stone where possible. For replacement stonework suitable stone was salvaged from the demolished hospital buildings. The domed octagonal caps on the newel posts have replaced the original octagonal caps.

Alexander Beith McDonald (1847-1915) entered the offices of the City Architect, John Carrick, in 1870, assisting in works related to the Glasgow City Improvement Trust. He succeeded Carrick as City Architect in 1890, the title of which subsequently changed to City Engineer (as his occupation was more civil engineer than architect), becoming City Surveyor in 1891 (Dictionary of Scottish Architects). McDonald's work, while City Surveyor, included the Belvidere Fever Hospital, Glasgow (which no longer survives), tenement improvements and welfare buildings including police stations, fire stations and public baths and washhouses. McDonald also designed the layouts of Ruchill (1892), Bellahouston (1896) and Richmond Parks (1897), and the south approaches of Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum. Ruchill Hospital, and the staircase in particular, is an example of the improvement works implemented within the City of Glasgow for its ever-expanding urban population at the turn of the 20th century.


The setting of the staircase remains of interest because it continues to create a formal axial approach to the former hospital site and still forms part of a functionally related group with the category A-listed water tower (LB33750). The staircase's design complements that of the water tower as well as the Flemish Renaissance curved-gable design features of the staff houses and cottages (LB33748) which flank the former site entrance.

The wider setting of this staircase has been significantly altered by the loss of many of the other hospital buildings. Second and later edition Ordnance Survey Maps show the progression of Ruchill from being on the edge of the city boundary at the turn of the 20th century, to a suburb of the much-expanded city by the mid-20th century. The demolition of all the main hospital buildings to the south, and the pair of gatelodges to the north, has altered the landscape.

While the wider setting has changed considerably, the staircase retains its prominent position on the site as intended when constructed, and as such is recognisable as a distinctive historic feature in an otherwise vastly changed landscape.

Regional variations

Ruchill Hospital was a purpose built fever hospital. Ruchill's layout as a self-contained 'village', with separate blocks and wards, and grouped around an elaborate water tower, was very much in the style of other infectious disease hospitals such as Belvidere (1874-7) and Stobhill (1900-04; LB52237, LB33290, LB33291, LB33289) (Williamson et al., pp. 65-66).

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2018).

Statutory address, category of listing changed from B to C and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as '520 Bilsland Drive, Ruchill Hospital Administration Block, Kitchen Block, Enquiry Block, Clearing House, Mortuary Block, Main Stairway and Stables'.

External Links

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