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Social History - Health
Stonehouse Hospital
Kittymuir Health Spa

Stonehouse Hospital

Probably the first hospital in the parish was at Spittal House, dating back to at least 1596. During the 17th century the land of Spittal was said to belong to the hospital of Hamilton, St. Thomas Martyr. The word Spittal, Spittel or Spital (Scots) means either a charity hospital or a hospice (shelter for travellers). Some believe a convent was once established at the Spittal, but there is only a little evidence to support this. It is said that travellers sought shelter and refuge on their journey here under the ‘hospitality’ of the convent.

St. Anthony’s well is also situated here, probably dating back to pre-christianity. This well was recently restored by the Heritage Group but unfortunately the water source was cut off during the surveying of the New Town proposals in the 1970’s. Previously said to cure the ailments of horses, this well had two small statues of St. Anthony resting on its top. This evidence supports the theory that a religious was present here at one time.

One peculiar coincidence connected with Stonehouse's Holy wells and the present hospital is that St. Patrick’s well, was said to cure scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymph glands) and consumption (tuberculosis of the lungs) which are diseases that Stonehouse Hospital was originally designed to treat.

In 1778, eighteen children died from smallpox within a few weeks. During the 18th century smallpox was said to return every four or five years. Diptheria outbreaks during 1876 and 1884 also resulted in deaths within the parish. These diseases and many others were due to a lack of medical knowledge and poor health awareness, as well as inadequate sanitation.

In 1845 it was generally thought that the life expectancy of a man in the upper class was approximately 47 years old compared with
26 years of age for those at the foot of the social ladder. One in four children died within the first year of life. The young and old were particularly at risk. With little medical help or medicine available, they were vulnerable to many illnesses and diseases such as typhus fever, measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, smallpox, dysentery, diarrhoea and cholera. Inadequate nourishment and living conditions did nothing to confront the many ailments. Sleeping arrangements among the weavers also helped spread disease, particularly cholera outbreaks, as it proved almost impossible to isolate cases. Another factor which may have increased the weavers vulnerability to disease was their liking for the ‘amber nectar’. As recently as 1903, an outbreak of scarlet fever saw 25 cases recorded at Stonehouse Hospital, resulting in at least two deaths.

In March 1893 the parochial board met with a deputation of the school board and the community to consider the feasibility of erecting a fever hospital for the first division of the Middle Ward on the land of Tofts. This land was donated by the superior Sir Robert Duncan Sinclair-Lockhart of Castlehill.

Tofts was previously Templar land, as were those of Woodlands and Cat castle. Templar, also known as Knights Templar, were a religious military order of knighthood established in the times of the crusades. Around 1120AD eight or nine French knights vowed to set up a religious order to protect the Holy sepulchre and escort pilgrims spreading the word of Christianity. As the ‘Knights Templar' grew they became a feared powerful army with considerable wealth and properties throughout Europe. They adopted absolute secrecy to protect all their internal activities which in turn lead to fear of the templars, especially in France where King Philip IV sought their destruction in the early 1300’s. The templars are thought by many to be the ancestors of the Freemasons. In 1694 William Lockhart of Lee was knight, ambassador to France.

In January 1896 Stonehouse Hospital was completed and ready for occupancy as part of a scheme to provide the Middle Ward District of Lanark County with a comprehensive system of hospitals to treat Infectious Diseases. Before its opening the community was invited to examine the hospital and its modern equipment. The hospital when opened provided beds for twenty patients. The architect of the hospital was Alexander Cullen. The innovative sinks designed by Cullen in the hospital were adopted by Sir Arthur Bloomfield for the London hospitals, they were described as “a simple and inexpensive invention that would lighten the drudgery work of the hospital staff, and effectively carry off all germs and diseases”. On completion it was said the building was “the best isolation hospital in Scotland”, built at a cost of between £5000-£6000. The medical and management staff of the hospital, at its opening were:
Management Officials Dr. Wilson (County Medical Officer) and Dr. McLintock
Sanitary Inspector Mr Dobson and Mr Stewart (Assistant)
Medical Attendant Dr. McLean
Matron Miss Stevenson and her staff

There was also a Mr Mckenzie working in the hospital but his remit is unclear. Dr. Sutherland was one of the first doctors at the sanatorium, followed by Doctors Smith and Pettigrew, who both served in the hospital during the war years.

In 1900 the hospital’s provisional needs were tendered out locally, including an ambulance hire service from Hugh D. Burns. This service was horse drawn with a pole sited in the hospital for tethering the horses.

In both the first and second world wars, wards were added to the hospital to cope with emergency services and wounded soldiers recuperating. Members of the Canadian army were also billeted here for a time. Some people may still remember that they were responsible for the blowing up of the old Cander bridge in 1942. During the second world war sick parades of the military were seen every day except on a Sunday. At one period a ward was used for German, Italian and Polish prisoners receiving treatment for their wounds. Many expressed their gratitude for their excellent treatment, as many feared they would have lost limbs had they been treated at home. One Polish prisoner is said to have shot himself in the foot to avoid being repatriated, as he was wanted in his own country for bank robbery.

With the reduction in infectious diseases patients in the County, Stonehouse began to concentrate on the treatment of non-pulmonary tuberculosis, with accommodation for 80 patients. During the war government E.M.S. huts were added to provide 14 wards for - patients, with theatres and X-ray room, a hutted garage and store, as well as a hutted nurses’ home with accommodation for 140 nurses. When the war ended the hospital continued as an orthopaedic-tuberculosis and small general hospital. A popular visitor to the hospital shortly after the first world war was Mrs Ferrie on whose ice cream van the late Henry McFarlane remembers working as a boy. Some may also recall the slaughterhouse (Robert Rankin in charge) sited across from the bus stop at Violet Crescent, where the storage sheds stood.

Before nationalisation the hospital and its staff were paid by the County. In the years 1935-1936 a nurse would expect to have been paid £2 per month, with half a day off per week and a day off per month. This rose to £3 in 1936-37.

In 1942 there were seventeen wards full of patients. Many TB patients were evacuated to fever hospitals at Dalserf and Calderbank to allow for military casualties. Pavilion 1 was said to have been used as an officers mess. Pavilion 2 and wards 1 to 6 were accommodated by T.B. patients, while wards 7 to 14 were for general patients. Pavilion 3 was used for treating ENT patients (Ears, Nose and Throat).

In 1948 the hospital was incorporated into the National Health Service under the control of the Board of Management for Motherwell, Hamilton and District hospitals. Thereafter, the hospital developed as a general hospital and was continually upgraded and improved to bring it up to modern standards. In 1949 it became a Nurses’ Training School.. Several nurses from Germany came here for training during this time. A new outpatients department and theatre were opened and many more clinics held. Casualty and X-Ray departments functioned on a 24 hour ‘On Call’ basis and Pavilion 1 was converted into a Laboratory.

Throughout the war years and the 1950’s fund raisers and charity events were especially popular in raising funds for the hospital and local needs. These events were well organised and attended and occasionally celebrities such as Stanley Baxter (September 1958) were invited to take part.

In 1950 improvements were made, such as, laying concrete paths, erecting iron railings, removing some trees and widening the eastern entrance. The following year improvements were made to several wards and the nursing home to bring them in line with other hospital facilities throughout Scotland. In 1954 chest operations were being carried out in the hospital as part of the ever increasing service being provided, including ENT and eye surgery.

With the reorganisation of the N.H.S. in 1974, the Board of Management was dissolved and the hospital passed to the control of the Hamilton/East Kilbride District of Lanarkshire Health Board. Since a change in government policy allowing hospitals to manage
their own affairs, the hospital has gained Trust Status. Around 1990 there was a gradual run down of services until the hospitals demolition of the old buildings in 2001. However, the community campaigned vigorously during the 90’s and was successful in persuading the NHS to invest in a new ‘cottage hospital’ supporting geriatric care, various outpatient clinics and physiotherapy.
Kittymuir Health Spa
In 1877 a company was formed to investigate and establish a ‘hydropathic’ health resort on the banks of the Avon near Birkenshaw. Much desired by those who could afford the luxury, such institutions were popular but considered exorbitant to the majority of people.

Resting in picturesque romantic surroundings overlooking the Avon Valley, this location was reckoned to be well suited to the requirements of such establishments. With excellent roads and easy access throughout the Middle and Upper Wards of Lanarkshire, the scheme was seen as a welcome addition to the recreational and medicinal needs of the population. The company also hoped to incorporate, on the opposite bank, a mineral spa, utilising St. Patrick’s Well (Kittymuir Well) which was famed for its considerable curative properties.

The word ‘Hydropathic’ itself is a method of treating disease by the use of large quantities of water, both externally and internally.

Formerly known locally as the ‘Hawthorn den of Lanarkshire’ the company envisaged a wire bridge connecting the well with the hydropathic establishment.

It was believed this ‘Holy’ Well assisted in the healing of cutaneous (skin) diseases, scrofula (tuberculosis of the lymphatic glands) and scurvy; a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C resulting in weakness and bleeding beneath the skin. This ancient well was probably used in Celtic times, possibly before the introduction of Christianity when the supernatural powers of nature were worshiped and part of daily life itself. With the magical appearance of a bubbling spring flowing from the centre of the earth, it is no wonder these people believed in such healing properties. The well was still in use in 1836, but the earliest record of its existence dates to 1790, when the Rev. Morehead stated in his statistical account that “the well, would probably, be more resorted to, if some attention were paid to it, and if there were better accommodations near it”.

Resting on a natural shelf, with gentle gradients, Stonehouse parish possesses an abundant supply of water for such a facility. Indeed, the village itself was well serviced in this respect, with wells throughout the village centre numbering nearly 70 in 1859. Equally fortunate, the parish is well protected from flooding and rivers breaking their banks; resting 400-700 feet above sea level. However, primitive sanitation in the use of water from the well, pump or spigot did not ensure a clean, disease free water supply, where it wasn’t always possible to boil water.

Disease in the water supply caused outbreaks of diptheria in 1876 and 1884, in part due to a lack of knowledge, as recovery from such contagious diseases was not aided by children sleeping together, eating the same food, or drinking from the same vessels. In response to health concerns, the councils restricted access to authority maintained wells and spigots, such as those at Wellbrae, Townend and Loch park, where the water level was only four feet below ground level. A catchment tank was formerly sited at Townhead Street, maintained by the district council. However, this became redundant around 1904, when cast iron or lead piping was gradually introduced to all dwellings in the village, some of which still remain today.

In 1950, Fourth District Council supplied our water from reservoirs at Camps and Glengavel through a filter works in Glassford. The sewage from Lawrie Street and Green Street was run through pipes directly into the Avon and can still be evidenced today. Our water is now procured from Daer and Camps reservoirs.

In 1994, I incorrectly located St. Patrick’s well nearer to Cloxy Mill where a farmer had utilised a natural spring to fill an old ceramic bath tub to allow his cattle to drink fresh water. After four unsuccessful attempts to find the well, I located an ordnance survey map from 1859 which accurately pinpointed the location of the well beneath an overhanging cliff face, directly down from Glenavon House. The former path which led to the site has almost disappeared and landslides have made the descent extremely hazardous. Accessing the well should not be made alone. The easiest route being via the Avon from Cloxy Mill, if you don’t mind getting wet.

Resting immediately below the overhang of a cliff, the well is not at first definable. Water from the strata above is seen seeping through the rock into a circular collection of stones, some two metres across, approximately five metres from the edge of the Avon. The well is much broken down and I fear will be lost in the not too distant future. A strong smell is present at its source, but whether this is sulphur or something I had stood on, I couldn’t tell. The inaccessibility of the well would make any attempts to preserve it questionable. The fact that the well is still identifiable is incredible in itself. It may be that the seclusion and remoteness of the Avon gorge could conserve its existence for generations to come.

What became of the Health Spa is unclear, as I can find no other reference than that of the 1877 article in the Hamilton Advertiser. I am sure, however, that if this venture had gone ahead, the location of such a scheme would have been an ide
al setting for spiritual rejuvenation and the healthy well being of those fortunate enough to resort to this most scenic and ancient of places.

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