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Former Elcho and Birnam Wards, Former Murray Royal Asylum, Muirhall Road, Perth

A Category C Listed Building in Perth, Perth and Kinross

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Latitude: 56.401 / 56°24'3"N

Longitude: -3.4127 / 3°24'45"W

OS Eastings: 312904

OS Northings: 724088

OS Grid: NO129240

Mapcode National: GBR 20.0M86

Mapcode Global: WH6QC.KC3S

Entry Name: Former Elcho and Birnam Wards, Former Murray Royal Asylum, Muirhall Road, Perth

Listing Date: 3 September 2014

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 402560

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB52278

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Perth

County: Perth and Kinross

Electoral Ward: Perth City Centre

Traditional County: Perthshire

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Maclaren and Mackay, 1904. A pair of near identical 2-storey, 4-bay, (6-bay to rear), half-timbered, multi-gabled, villas with single-storey rounded bay extensions, flanking the hospital chapel. Situated on sloping site. Cream render with red sandstone margins and overhanging eaves. The entrance elevations to east have central loggias with pairs of red sandstone columns. There are canted oriel windows to the upper storey and some 4-light and tri-partite windows to ground with stone mullions.

The windows are timber (predominantly boarded up 2014) . There are grey slates to the roof and gently battered wallhead stacks.

The interiors were seen in 2014. The original room layout in both is largely extant. There is a timber dog-leg stair case with timber balusters and newels. Round-arched niches to main hall with some timber decoration. Simple cornicing.

Statement of Interest

The two villas at the Murray Royal Asylum were built by the Perth architects' firm of MacLaren and MacKay in 1904 to provide additional patient accommodation and are unusual in both having survived largely unaltered. Designed in a contemporary Arts and Crafts style with half-timber decoration, the villas have a significant amount of architectural detailing to their exterior, including the oriel windows, battered chimney stacks and open entrance loggias. Situated close to the main building at the Murray Royal and on either side of the early 20th century chapel, they retain much of their original context to the east and are an important part of Murray Royal site. Built in a domestic style, their location within the early 19th century complex emphasises the development of changing attitudes in the care of mental illness in Scotland. Although domestic in style, these large villas were planned for hospital use and are interesting because they demonstrate the shift towards personal rather institutional care.

The Main Building at the Murray Royal Asylum was designed by William Burn and it opened in 1828. This original building is the earliest surviving asylum building in Scotland.

The Murray Royal hospital was founded from a bequest by a local man, James Murray. It is not clear what his motivation was for the bequest, but is likely to have been to provide compassionate care and good surroundings for the mentally ill. Initially, the Murray Royal catered for both pauper and richer patients, but in the mid 19th century, the pauper patients were moved to a new asylum at Murthly, Perthshire.

Care for the mentally ill altered a great deal over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries. Before this, people with mental health problems were generally concealed from society, often in prisons, and confined often in harsh conditions. Some were looked after in private 'mad-houses', which were unregulated and where the care varied widely. The earliest general infirmaries also had a few cells kept aside for the confinement of 'lunatics', sometimes in damp basements, but the doctors complained that the noise from these people disturbed the other patients and separate buildings were proposed.

The first major reform for caring for these patients came from France, particularly Phillipe Pinel (1745-1826) who advocated care and compassion for these patients, rather than confinement and chains. These ideas spread to Scotland and the first asylums here promoted the idea of compassionate care.

By the end of the 19th century, attitudes regarding best way to care for the mentally ill were changing. There was a growing understanding that patients would be better looked after in smaller, more domestic settings, rather than the large, institutional settings. These two villas were built as part of this development at the Murray Royal. The separate chapel, which lies between the villas, was also built at this time. Smaller villas were also built at other large asylums, for example at Sunnyside in Montrose, and at the Crichton in Dumfries. The new sites of Bangour in West Lothian and Craighouse in Edinburgh were also designed with a number of villas to accommodate the patients.

Over the course of the 20th century, other buildings were added to the complex, the majority of which have since been demolished. A new Murray Royal Hospital was built in 2010-12 and the original buildings were unoccupied in 2014.

Listed following a review of the former Murray Royal Asylum site, (2014).

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