The Crichton Royal Hospital
In the years since 1839 'The Crichton Royal' has achieved international renown as a mental hospital. The following selective extracts taken from the 'History of Crichton Royal Hospital 1839 - 1989', by archivist Morag Williams, describe the founding and early years of the hospital.
On 4th June 1839 the first patient was admitted to the brand new purpose-built asylum, the Crichton Institution, on the southern side of Dumfries; she was admitted from Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary just a mile down the road. The new asylum was described by the Saturday Magazine of 20th July l839 as "surpassing everything of the kind that has yet been established in Europe."It would have been most interesting if that first patient had been able to leave for us an account of her impressions of her new abode. However, what we do know with hindsight is that for her and for the asylum the prospects were good.
DR.JAMES CRICHTON 1765-1823.
In the year 1765 when James Crichton was born, his father, a Writer(Solicitor), was Provost of Sanquhar. After training in medicine, and on taking up service with the East India Company, Dr. Crichton made his fortune as a trader in India and China and in his profession, particularly as physician to the Governor General of India. His book of oriental maps and engravings, published in 1796, is a prized possession of the Crichton Royal Hospital Archives, as is his teapot of Chinese origin bearing the Crichton Crest and motto 'God Send Grace'. The teapot was made at Ching te Shen towards the end of the Ch'ien Lung period, 1736-1795, of the Ch'ing dynasty.Unfortunately the crest as depicted on the tea-pot is thought to be incorrect.It seems that errors were sometimes created in detailing armorial porcelain because orders were placed at Canton and relayed to Hong merchants who then transmitted them to Ching te Shen. It is therefore not clear whether the error in the Crichton crest was deliberate.
After returning to his homeland in 1808, Dr. Crichton purchased in the following year the estate of Friars' Carse, situated on the banks of the River Nith and neighbouring the property of Ellisland, recently tenanted by the poet, Robert Burns. It was to this property that he took in 1810 his bride, Elizabeth Grierson, aged 31 years and 14 years his junior. She was a daughter of Sir Robert Grierson of Lag and Rockhall and a descendant of the notorious persecutor of the Covenanters.After only thirteen years of marriage Dr.James Crichton died. Having made provision for his family and friends by the terms of his will dated l2th November l82l, which included granting the liferent of Friars' Carse to his wife, a codicil dated 20th November 1821 stated:
"It is my wish that such remaining means and estate shall be applied in such charitable purposes .... as may be pointed out by my said dearly beloved wife with the approbation of the majority of my said Trustees."
The sum involved was about £100,000. Mrs.Crichton's Co-Trustees were her brother, Captain William Grierson,(later Colonel Grierson of Bardannoch); her neighbour, Captain Charles Johnston (later Admiral Johnston of Cowhill); her brother-in-law, John Crichton of Crichton Hall,Sanquhar (Writer); and Thomas Manners, W.S., her husband's Edinburgh lawyer.
In Mrs.Crichton's own words of December 1823:
"It was my most anxious wish to attend in the STRICTEST manner to the wishes and positive instruction of my husband." In attempting to execute his wishes she met with a major obstacle to immediate progress: "My intentions in this respect, however, have for the present been put a stop to by a summons from Mr. John Crichton by which I perceive that he has determined to dispute in a court of Law the validity of his Brother's Settlement."
THE FOUNDING OF THE HOSPITAL.
It was 1829 (by which time her fellow Trustee, Thomas Manners, was dead) before Mrs. Crichton was legally empowered by "an unanimous judgement of the Court of Session, affirmed in the House of Lords" to proceed with her plan.
As she expressed it in a letter to the Trustees of 4th June 1829 there were three main conditions to fulfil: one, "the charitable purposes"; two, the bequests to "friends"; and three, the bequest to "relations": "incomparably the first in importance are charitable purposes. As to these the question which I have felt it to be my duty to consider, is, what species of charitable purpose is best calculated to answer the benevolent intentions of my Husband - to do honour to his memory and at the same time most effectually to advance the Interests of the Public. I have bestowed much reflection on this subject, and the result has been a deep-rooted and conscientious conviction that nothing can so happily correspond with my Husband's intention often expressed to me .... as to appropriate by far the large proportion of the Residue of his Fortune in Founding and Endowing a College at Dumfries .... for the Education of poor Scholars."
She was hoping that having obtained the approval of the other Trustees, including her brother-in-law, the Government might be prevailed upon "to take the charge and direction of the proposed College, so as to give it from the first the station and advantages of a University." Before concluding the letter she said: "you will see that I ask nothing for myself. I am satisfied with the provisions made for me, because they were such as my husband sought fit to assign. The only reward I look for is the consciousness that I have left nothing undone on my part, to render his memory an object of public respect and private affection."
Her optimistic mood of 1829 resulting from her communications with Robert Peel and His Majesty's Government and the Commission on the "Scotch Universities" was overturned in the course of the next 4 years.
An interesting letter of October 1829 (by which time a proportion of the fortune had been expended) from Dr.Henry Duncan of Ruthwell to Mr. Hope-Johnstone of Annandale gave an assessment of the scheme:
"The pecuniary means offered by Mrs.Crichton from her husband's Trust Fund are £85,000. This sum though considerable cannot be regarded as ample when the magnitude of the scheme in view is contemplated. I must therefore take for granted that government will at once relieve the funds from the burden of the Annuities, and also of the necessary buildings, in the expectation perhaps of raising one half of the sum requisite for the latter's object by public subscription, otherwise I do not see how even a respectable commencement can be made. This would leave the Trust Fund untouched for the endowment of the different chairs, bursaries, etc. and for various other necessary or useful objects."
Mr.J.J.Hope-Johnstone, M.P. for Dumfriesshire, who had been pressing the Trustees' case with the government, was obliged to convey a refusal "to bestow such privileges as would render the Institution respectable and efficient." The existing under-utilised Scottish universities had also helped doom the scheme.
However, on the 31st October 1833 when the Trustees formally abandoned the university scheme Mrs. Crichton bounced back with a new set of proposals that "a certain part of the funds should be appropriated towards founding and endowing a Lunatic Asylum in the neighbourhood of Dumfries upon the most approved plan and capable of accommodating 100 patients."
"Mrs. Crichton further proposed that a sum not exceeding £3,000 should be appropriated to founding a free school at Sanquhar where Mr. Crichton was born for the education of the poor classes of the Community in that parish." (By the terms of Dr. Crlchton's will Dumfries Academy was to receive £3,000. too, on the death of Mrs. Crichton.)
Her brother, though absent from the meeting, was no doubt in accord with his fellow Trustees in granting unanimous approval to the two schemes. The public, however, were not so well disposed to the idea. A scurrilous attack on the proposed establishment, labelled as the "Crichton Foolery" , appeared in the Dumfries Times dated 19th November 1834. "They (the Trustees) should know that the erection of a public madhouse is a mode of appropriation which the town and neighbourhood entirely object to as wasteful and uncalled for." The article proceeded to argue that other asylums in Scotland could answer the needs of the local population. Furthermore, what had roused the "Correspondent" to such ire was the "absurdly disproportionate magnitude of the scale on which it is planned."
In February 1834 forty acres of the Mountainhall Estate at Hillhead were purchased for almost £5,000 by the Crichton Trust, which was reduced to three members that same month with the death of John Crichton.
An eminent Scottish Architect, Mr. William Burn of Edinburgh, was invited to draw up plans for the new asylum. Mr. Burn had designed Murray Royal Asylum at Perth and also the present Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh; his local works included Craigielands at Beattock and several churches in the South West, for instance Morton Church at Thornhill.
By the mid 1830's the Crichton Trust reserves would not permit of the building of Burn's entire plan which was composed of two linked Greek crosses. The trio of Trustees gave approval to the erection of just over half of the original plan, that is the northern portion of the present building known as Crichton Hall, which at the outset was called the Crichton Institution. On 20th June 1835 Mrs. Crichton delivered her prayer of blessing for the building which was soon to take shape.
"It is my earnest wish and desire that this building should be founded on the faith of God. It is built from the funds of my husband, which were acquired solely by the great blessing of God upon his honest industry.* From a poor youth he became a rich man, but he ever acknowledged with the deepest feelings of gratitude that to Him who had been his God and his Guide the praise alone was due."
"Deeply impressed by those feelings, it is the sole and most earnest wish of my heart to present this Building and Institution as a humble offering of gratitude to God, and humbly, and upon my knees, in the presence of Him who seeth the hearts of all His creatures, I dedicate it to Our Father in Heaven, humbly and earnestly beseeching Him to turn His eyes from the sins of her who offers it, and for Christ's sake to hear her prayer:- 'O. Lord God Almighty. I draw near, and with humility and trust I commit this Asylum to Thy care. I am alone, weak, feeble, and friendless. But Thou art Almighty. Take it, therefore, into Thy Keeping. Oh, bless it with Thy best blessings. Keep it from corruption, and from sin. Take it entirely into Thy care; let not the Devil or man prevail against it to hurt it; and in everything relating to it, from the greatest to the least. Oh ! be thou its Director and its Keeper, its Guide and its God. Never leave it, never forsake it. Keep it as the apple of Thine eye. Bless it, oh my God, and it shall be blessed'."
* Mrs. Crichton stressed that her husband had acquired his riches "upon his honest industry". One wonders if this was her way of answering those who have questioned over the years the nature of his trade in the East.
Seven days later on 27th June 1835 there was no ceremonial laying of the foundation stone, merely feasting for the 160 men working on the site. The Dumfries and Galloway Courier of 1st July records: "They took the road to their lodgings as well as they were able .... some of them a good deal top heavy .... and in the evening there was rioting and fighting."
Two oil paintings in the hospital's possession exhibit interesting features of the design of the asylum. One depicts the buildings as they were designed by William Burn - not as they were executed - that is, the whole main building with its identical twin towers, an elaborate central dome, and a high wall running round the periphery. The service buildings which included laundry, stables, stores, and dung heap are also shown; not surprisingly this range of buildings was not permitted to 'grace' the front (western) aspect for long, and after other sites were found for them they were demolished in 1857. This move would have pleased Mrs. Crichton herself because writing to Admiral Johnston, possibly in 1856, she said: "The present offices have always been a great eyesore, particularly the smoke and the great want of having no place for the Horses and Carriages of the Directors whilst at the Asylum on business." (However, she was philanthropic enough to add the rider, "still if we could in any way do good to a larger portion of our fellow creatures, I would prefer it.")
It is interesting that this precise scene was also featured as a woodcut accompanying an article describing the new asylum which was printed in the 'Saturday Magazine' of July 20th 1839. Furthermore, in the hospital's collection of early artwork by patients the same scene recurs several tirnes. It is not clear who the original illustrator was: it is hardly precise enough to have been commissioned by the architect himself.
The other painting dated 1847 is by Joseph Watson, a local professional artist, who resided at Castlebank, Glencaple Road. (Other examples of his work are owned by Dumfries Burgh Museum). The artist has detailed his impression from the high ground to the North East of the hospital (where the golf course is now located). The main asylum building, set against a charming backcloth of Glencaple and Criffel, is seen as two-storeyed from this vantage point because of the lie of the land and reveals the caged balconies where patients exercised in bad weather and which were glazed in stages towards the end of the nineteenth century. Crichton House (Campbell House) where the Superintendent lived, is in the foreground.
Mr. Ernest Errington, who became Secretary and Treasurer to the Crichton Board of Management in 1960, calculated that it cost £38,149 to erect the original hospital and a further £4,506 to equip it.
One of the regulations of the new asylum was that a patient's name was known only to the Visiting Committee, the Medical Officers, and Matron.
The first patient as we have already learned, was admitted on 4th June 1839, the day after the Hospital opened. She would have been placed on the west side of the building as gentlemen were housed in the east. This thirty-year-old childless blacksmith's wife was suffering from delusions. Her illness was purported to have been brought on by a fit of jealousy at seeing her husband hand his snuff box to a good looking young woman in the next pew during a church service: "the patient walked to the asylum under the charge of some friends. She is much emaciated, the skin sallow and dirty looking; the aspect that of prostration and dejection."
Some four years later on 15th May 1844 the patient was discharged: "the progress .... towards a healthy and happy tone of mind has been very gradual .... the light of reason rendered her almost good-looking."
DOCTOR W. A. F. BROWNE 1838-1857
While the hospital was being built Mrs. Crichton in casting around for a worthy medical officer had her attention drawn to a book published in 1837. The book, called 'What Asylums Were, Are, and Ought To Be', had arisen from a series of five lectures delivered to the Managers of Montrose Royal Lunatic Asylum (which had the distinction of being the first of Scotland's Royal Asylums) by the Superintendent, Dr. William Alexander Francis Browne.
Dr.C.C. Easterbrook and Dr.J. Harper, later Superintendents at Crichton Royal, described the book as "epoch-making" and a "fighting book written under the impulse of burning indignation" respectively. As well as indicating various systems of classification of patients Dr.Browne included his own system:
|I. Idiocy. Non-development of faculties.||II. Fatuity. Obliteration of Faculties.|
|1. Gradation. Non-development of all the powers.||1. Partial.|
|2. Gradation.External senses developed.||2. Complete.|
|3. Gradation.A propensity or affection developed.||..|
|4. Gradation.An intellectual power developed.||..|
|III. Monomania. Derangement of one or more faculties.||IV. Mania. Derangement of all the faculties.|
|Section I||Section II||1. Mania with increased activity.|
|1.Satyriasis.||1.Incapability of perceiving relations of ideas.||2. Mania with diminished activity.|
|2.Homicidal and destructive.||2.Incapability of perceiving relations of external things.||..|
|3.Proud.||3.Incapability of perceiving qualities of external objects.||..|
|6.Cunning and suspicious.||..||..|
|7.Religious and superstitious.||..||..|
|8.Desponding and suicidal.||..||..|
|11.Benevolent or affectionate.||..||..|
In step with the perceived requirement of the times the Hospital expanded and contracted again. At its peak it extended to some 1000 acres in area and housed up to 1300 patients. In addition to its own water supply it had power station, farm, gardens, and various ancilliary services with all the necessary trades-people to run them assisted by suitable patients as part of their therapy. It was at one stage virtually self sufficient.
The expansion of the hospital resulted in the erection of some attractive and interesting buildings by such architects as William Burn, Sidney Mitchell, and local man Walter Newall amongst others.Virtually all the buildings on the site have been recognised as being of architectural significance and are protected by being listed as either Category A or Category B buildings.
A gradual contraction began in the 1970's with the farm being taken over by The West of Scotland Agricultural College, wards closed when no longer required, and surplus buildings being leased out. This contraction accelerated in the 1990's and in 1995 the site, excepting those buildings still required by the Hospital,was purchased by the Regional Authority to preserve it as an amenity for the people of the region. It is now known as 'The Crichton' as separate from Crichton Royal Hospital and is run by 'The Crichton Development Company' which was set up to run and develop the site.
In 1999 on the threshold of the new millennium it could be said that Mrs Elizabeth Crichton's original wish may eventually have been achieved with the establishment of the Crichton University Campus. This unique development in Britain if not the world hosts two Universities and a College - an extension of Paisley University, Crichton College of the University of Glasgow, and a section of Bell College, Hamilton. The three establishments although operating independently combine to share certain facilities such as Library and Students Union.
On May 19th 2000 His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, unveiled a bronze statue of Mrs Crichton during a visit to the Crichton University Campus. The sculpture was commisioned by the Crichton Trust with funding from the Universities of Glasgow and Paisley and the Landale Family Charitable Trust. The Sculptor was Professor Bill Scott (born in Moniave) of Roslin, Midlothian and the statue was cast by John Brazenall. The statue, mounted on a single block of local Lacharbriggs sandstone sited between Crichton Memorial Church and Easterbrook Hall, shows Mrs Crichton seated looking towards the campus area and holding in her hand a book depicting the Goddess Athena.CLICK here to return,