Aug 102020

9 Sciennes Rd, Edinburgh EH9 1LF

Royal Hospital for Sick Kids (2017, CC-SA by Kim Traynor)

The Royal Hospital for Sick Children (RHSC), also known as ‘Sick Kids’ was established at this location on Sciennes Road in 1895. At that time, the life expectancy for children under 5 was particularly low. In response, Dr. John Smith campaigned for a designated children’s hospital to be run by volunteers and used to train new doctors. In 1863, the hospital was opened in Meadowside House and was the first in Scotland dedicated to the care of only children. Despite having a purpose-built fever room, an outbreak of typhoid in 1890 required the hospital’s patients and staff to be moved to a temporary location. After further inspection Meadowside House was deemed unsuited to house patients again and was closed. The current location, previously a maternity hospital designed by Scottish architect George Washington Browne, was then acquired. Dr Joseph Bell, who was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, was the first appointed surgeon at the hospital in 1887 and remained there until his retirement.

Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children in 1960.
Photo of the MacKay Smith Ward from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children, c.1935.
Apr 032019

Site of hospital today

Meadowside House, 7 Lauriston Lane, Edinburgh EH3 9EN

On 15th February 1860, the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children opened its doors at 7 Lauriston Lane with 20 beds and a dispensary. Three years later, in 1863, it was given royal patronage by Queen Victoria and moved to Meadowside House which increased its capacity to 40 beds. The opening of the hospital meant that Edinburgh at last fell in line with other cities worldwide who had opened hospitals dedicated to children.  Given Scotland’s alarmingly high child mortality rates – in the late 1850s, almost half of Scottish children died before their sixth birthday – such as hospital was sorely needed. One of the original team of four doctors at the hospital was Dr Henry Littlejohn. Like Professor Alison, Dr Littlejohn would go on to become an important figure in public health in Edinburgh. He was appointed Edinburgh’s first Medical Officer of Health, the first role of its kind in Scotland, and the conclusions of his ‘Report on The Sanitary Conditions of the City of Edinburgh’ that he published in 1865 were key to providing the motivation for the founding of the Edinburgh Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor.

Royal Hospital for Sick Children, 1890









Photo credits: Lucy Ridley, Our Town Stories Collection