Kittymuir Health Spa
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
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,
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
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
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:
(County Medical Officer) and Dr. McLintock
||Mr Dobson and
Mr Stewart (Assistant)
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
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
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
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
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 ideal setting for
rejuvenation and the healthy well being of those fortunate enough to
resort to this most scenic and ancient of places.