Aug 102020
 

High School Yards, Edinburgh EH1 1LZ

surgeon's square
High School Yards with Old Surgeon’s Hall.

The four buildings inside High School Yards have a long history of medicine and surgery within Edinburgh. Old Surgeons’ Hall (OSH), built in 1697 by Scottish architect James Smith, was designed as an anatomy theatre and the first public dissection occurred in 1703. By 1832, the surgeons moved to New Surgeons’ Hall on Nicolson Street and OSH and the New High School building (where the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation is currently located) were converted to surgical hospitals. The current School of Geoscience was built in 1853 as a surgical hospital. Known as Drummond Street Surgical Hospital, it was built as part of the Royal Infirmary. When the Royal Infirmary moved to Lauriston Place in 1879, the already established surgical hospitals and Chisholm House were converted into medical facilities for contagious patients. Under the control of Sir Henry Littlejohn, Edinburgh’s Medical Officer, this group of buildings became known as the City Fever Hospital. In 1903 the City Fever Hospital moved to a new location on Coliston Mains and the buildings at HSY were sold to the University of Edinburgh.

Postcard of a painting by J Sanderson of the old Royal Infirmary Edinburgh building at Infirmary Street.
An etching (published in 1829) of Old Surgeon’s Hall and adjacent buildings.
Perspective View of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Infirmary Street.

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Apr 032019
 

High School Yards today

High School Yards, Edinburgh EH1 1LZ

The Edinburgh University Settlement (EUS) was established by the University of Edinburgh on this site in 1905. The founding was part of a larger settlement movement in the UK and US, in which ‘settlement houses’ were established in poorer areas where middle-class volunteers would live and attempt to improve the lives of locals. Professor Richard Lodge, one of the founding members of EUS, remarked that Edinburgh was ‘a fair city but it had some foul spots on it, and if the members of the University could do anything to brighten the lives and bring sympathy and gladness into some of the homes in these darker spots, they would be doing something to repay the debt which the town’s college owed to city.’ Both students and staff of the University lived and worked in the EUS, where they undertook a range of educational and outreach initiatives, including founding Scotland’s first school of art therapy, one of the first ever thrift shops, computer skills training, women’s education, and community volunteering. The Edinburgh University Settlement closed in 2010 due to severe financial difficulties but many of their projects have managed to continue after finding alternative sponsorship.

High School Yards today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credits: Ema Smekalova, Lucy Ridley

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