Records of Crichton Royal Hospital

  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


Records relating to the Founding of the Hospital, 1823-1859; Management, 1839-1972; Administration, 1858-2008; Financial Records, 1873-1986; Patient Records, 1838-c.1999; Staff Records, 1843-2005; Recreation and Occupation, 1842-2000; Photographic Material, 1873-2005; Prints, Engravings and Drawings, 1892-2002; Associated Published Material, 1840-2007



Physical description

110 linear metres

Biographical note

Crichton Royal Institution was Scotland's seventh and last royal asylum to be established. It was done so by means of an endowment of around £100,000 left by Dr James Crichton (1763-1823) to his wife, Elizabeth Crichton (1779-1862), and his other Trustees to be used for charitable purposes. Elizabeth Crichton was the driving force behind the hospital's establishment and put forward a proposal to use the funds for 'founding and endowing a lunatic asylum in the neighbourhood of Dumfries' in 1833, after the first proposal to establish a college in Dumfries was delayed and eventually opposed. In 1834 the Trustees purchased forty acres of land to the south of Dumfries comprising the Mountainhall Estate at Hillhead. Edinburgh architect William Burn (1789-1870) was employed to design the asylum building, although his original design plans were not fully implemented due to restricted funds. Building began in 1835 with the laying of the foundation stone in June of that year. By 1838 the building work was completed and the Trustees looked to appoint staff to run the new asylum. The first staff members appointed were Dr W. A. F. Browne (1805-1885) as Physician Superintendent and Sir Andrew Halliday (1872-1839) as Consulting Physician, both taking up post on 1 July 1838.

The Institution, initially called Crichton Institution for Lunatics, opened on 3 June 1839 with accommodation for around 120 beds, with 54 allocated for private paying patients and 50 for pauper patients. Crichton Royal Institution was a charitable institution with facilities to serve all classes of the local community and also patients from out with the area. When reporting the opening of the hospital in the press, Crichton Royal Institution was said to 'surpass everything of the kind that has yet been established in Europe' (Saturday Magazine, 20 July 1839). It gained its Royal title in 1840. Under Dr W. A. F. Browne moral treatment was extolled, encouraging patients to engage in recreation and occupation as part of their treatment. During his period as Physician Superintendent he oversaw the establishment of a patient's library in 1839; the first theatrical performance in a mental hospital in 1843; the production of a hospital magazine, the New Moon in 1844, to which patients contributed; and a museum was established in 1846.

The Institution soon became overcrowded and the Board of Trustees and Directors decided to build a second establishment within the grounds specifically to accommodate pauper patients. Southern Counties Asylum was opened in 1849 and operated as a separate establishment, with separate staff and accounts, but with Dr W. A. F. Browne as Physician Superintendent of both. In 1884 the two establishments merged and from 1885 became the First and Second Houses of Crichton Royal Institution.

Under the third Physician Superintendent, Dr J. Rutherford, an extensive programme of building works was initiated in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to move towards a segregate or colony system, with different buildings for different categories of patient. During this period, in addition to patient accommodation, new buildings and works included the Crichton Memorial Church, Farm, Artesian Well and Electricity Station. This programme of building was continued under Dr C. C. Easterbrook, Dr J. Rutherford's successor, with both patient and staff accommodation being greatly expanded. The last building to be completed was the multi-purpose building for recreation and therapeutic use, Easterbrook Hall, in 1938. Under Dr C. C. Easterbrook patient accommodation was divided into the First, Second and Third Departments, with the higher fee paying patients in the First, the intermediate fee paying patients in the Second and lower fee paying and rate-aided patients in the Third. These Departments each had their own Matron and staff. The hospital was, in many respects, self sufficient with a farm, laundry, fire service, market gardens, bakery, butcher, tailor and shoemaker.

Crichton Royal Institution began to be referred to as Crichton Royal Hospital around 1945. The hospital also had a successful School of Nursing which joined with the Dumfries and Galloway School of Nursing in 1971 to form the South West Scotland College of Nursing. Out-patient clinics began to operate throughout the region in the 1940s and included Child Guidance Clinics, and in 1951 Scotland's first Children's Psychiatric Unit was opened at Crichton Royal Hospital, followed by an Adolescent Unit in 1972. Crichton Royal Hospital was also committed to research and advances in the field of mental health with Departments of Clinical and Psychological Research being established in the late 1930s and early 1940s respectively.

A Board of Trustees and Directors, instituted under the Crichton Acts of 1840 and 1897, managed the hospital. In 1948 Crichton Royal Hospital became part of the National Health Service and operated under the Western Regional Hospital Board with a new Board of Management of Crichton Royal Mental Hospital. In 1972 the management system altered again after joining with Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, to become the Board of Management for Dumfries and Galloway and Crichton Royal Hospitals. In 1974 administration altered again with the creation of Dumfries and Galloway Health Board. In 1995 Dumfries and Galloway Community Health NHS Trust was formed, taking over the management of Crichton Royal Hospital and in July of the same year the majority of the Crichton estate was transferred to Dumfries and Galloway Council. NHS Dumfries and Galloway was formed in 2004 with the abolition of NHS Trusts. Crichton Royal Hospital officially closed in November 2011 when the last patients were moved to a new mental health hospital at Midpark, located across the road from the Crichton estate.

Copyright note

Enquiries for reproduction for commercial purposes should be directed to the Archivist, Dumfries and Galloway Archives and Local Studies.

Terms of use

The papers are available at Dumfries and Galloway Archives subject to conditions of UK Data Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and NHS Records Management Code of Practice 2012. Subject to these restrictions, this material is being digitised by the University of Glasgow as part of a Wellcome Trust funded project. Material that is digitised will be accessed freely online through the Wellcome Library catalogue.

Accruals note

Further accruals expected from NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Ownership note

Material was transferred from an Iron Mountain storage facility to Dumfries and Galloway Libraries, Archive and Information Service in early 2009 after an agreement was reached between NHS Dumfries and Galloway and Dumfries and Galloway Council. Previously the records had been held at the Crichton site under the care of the Health Board Archivist. The collection was brought together when an Archivist was employed by Dumfries and Galloway Health Board in 1983 and the records were housed in Crichton Royal Museum and Archive from 1989 until 2004 when the Museum was closed. The records were then housed in Solway House on the Crichton site until the Health Board Archivist retired in 2008 and the records were moved to a commercial storage facility out with the region.


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Accession number

  • 1030a