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Iconic Glasgow Royal Infirmary commemorates medical block centerary

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A special event has been held to mark the centenary of one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings . 

The Glasgow Royal Infirmary’s (GRI) medical block, formally known as the Queen Victoria Jubilee block, was opened by King George V, the Queen and Princess Mary to commemorate the 1897 Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. 

Albert Hodge was employed to model the carved decoration on the infirmary's facade and in 1914 produced the bronze statue of Queen Victoria which sits above the entrance. The statue is inscribed ‘This building was erected to commemorate the sixty-five years illustrious reign of Queen Victoria. The work was commenced in the year 1905 and completed in 1915’. 

When opened in 1915, the new block was in the forefront of hospital design with stress being laid upon minimising noise and the importance of cleanliness. 

The building comprises of 10 medical wards, housing 171 beds and includes the Glasgow Royal Infirmary Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre. 

Andrew Robertson, former chairman of NHSGGC, said: “The Glasgow Royal Infirmary is a facility that has played a central role in not only caring for the west of Scotland’s sick, but has revolutionised healthcare around the world. 

“Joseph Lister pioneered antiseptic surgery while at the GRI, it was the first hospital in the world to have systematic training courses for nurses and the first hospital known to have an X-ray unit.

“Another proud first for the hospital is James McCune Smith, the first African American to hold a medical degree, who trained at this very hospital. This was while he studied at the University of Glasgow after being denied admission to New York universities due to racial discrimination. 

“This fine building now plays host to around 100 of our wonderful staff on a daily basis. They are carrying on the hospital’s fine traditions and their compassion and hard work can be seen every single day. 

“I want to say a heartfelt thank you to them for their ongoing dedication, but also to all those who have worked here over the years and played their role in shaping Glasgow’s healthcare. 

“The Queen Victoria Jubilee block is a proud part of a Glasgow icon and I’m sure we’ll see the Queen sitting proudly in her spot here for many years to come.” 

The original Royal Infirmary building was opened in December 1794 on the ruins of the Bishop’s Castle which dated from at least the 13th century. It was a huge achievement of the time, being the first permanent facility offering emergency care to the city.

When first opened, the four storey hospital, designed by Robert Adam and completed under the direction of his brother James, had just 136 beds. The GRI is now a large teaching hospital with more than 1,000 beds, a range of local and national services including one of the busiest emergency departments in Scotland.

By the 1890s it was felt that there was an urgent need to replace the old infirmary buildings due to a lack of bed spaces and outdated operating facilities. 

The Lord Provost of Glasgow, David Richmond, told the hospital’s board in March 1897 that he wished to commemorate the 60th anniversary year of the reign of Queen Victoria by replacing the historic Adams’ medical block with a modern hospital building – the Queen Victoria Jubilee block. 

The GRI has provided treatment for people across the west of Scotland for more than two centuries. During that time, the Royal has seen some remarkable people work in its wards. 

Lord Joseph Lister, the father of modern surgery, introduced his antiseptic methods in the hospital’s wards and theatres in the 1860s. The world’s first organised training course for nurses was introduced by Sir William Mcewan and the matron in 1893. 

In 1896 John Macintyre established the world’s first X-ray unit at the hospital and the UK’s first specialist burns unit was opened in the hospital in the 1920s.

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Last Updated: 02 December 2015