Dundee Combination, Angus (Forfarshire)
The East Poorhouse
In November 1852, the Parochial Board of Dundee agreed to set up a poorhouse for the parish and set up a special 10-man committee to pursue the matter. The adjoining parishes of Monifieth, Barry, Liff and Benvie were invited to combine resources for the construction and use of the building but all declined — Liff and Benvie doubted whether Dundee would "look after" their poor. In March 1853, a five-acre site was acquired from the Craigie Estates near Stobswell, at the west side of Mains Loan, on what is now Molison Street.
In July 1853, following newspaper advertisements, five architects submitted plans and specifications for the Poorhouse and those of William Lambie Moffat of Edinburgh were chosen. The building was planned to house 800 paupers, 100 sick and 100 lunatics. On 10th January, 1855, the final version of plans were approved and local tradesmen were invited to tender for the work which commenced in June. The building was financed by a loan of £10,000 from the National Bank of Scotland repayable at 4% interest. Its location and layout are shown on the 1873 map below.
The main building was an H-shaped structure, three stories in height. A separate block for sick and lunatic inmates stood to its north.
On 26th August, 1856, Mr and Mrs Gunn were taken on as Governor and Matron of the Poorhouse. Mr Gunn, a former wines and spirits merchant, was paid a salary of £79 per annum, and his wife's £25, together with "the usual rations of the house". The first inmate was admitted to the poorhouse on 19th November, 1856.
On 25th November 1856, the Dundee Perth and Cupar Advertiser visited the poorhouse and reported:
In 1879, Liff and Benvie had a change of heart and joined with Dundee to form the Dundee Combination. The Dundee poorhouse became the Combination's East Poorhouse, later known as the East House Poor Law Institution. During the Second World War, 60 of its beds were taken over by the nearby Maryfield Hospital. In 1946, the establishment accommodated 454 inmates. It later became the Rowans old people's home before its demolition in 1977.
The former poorhouse bell which had marked the inmates' daily routine ended up in a local scrapyard.
The Poor Hospital (Maryfield)
A parochial hospital, or hospital for the poor, was erected at the north of the East Poorhouse in 1893. It was a typical pavilion layout with a central administrative building, with two ward blocks for males at the west, and two for females at the east.
When the hospital was taken over by the local authority in 1929, it began to concentrate its efforts on maternity and child care. After 1948, it became know as Maryfield (Maternity) Hospital then later as Maryfield General Hospital. It closed when Ninewells Hospital was opened in 1972.
The West (Liff & Benvie) Poorhouse
The Liff & Benvie parish poorhouse was erected at the north side of Blackness Road and opened its doors on Tuesday 5th April 1864. Its construction cost £7,000 and it could accommodate up to 200 inmates. Male quarters were at the west of the site, and female at the east. Male and female lunatics were located at the far end of each section. The site location and layout are shown on the 1873 map below.
By the late 19th Century, the West Poorhouse was mostly accommodating the elderly, infirm or insane while younger paupers were accommodated in the more spacious East Poorhouse.
In 1887, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, the inmates of the East and West Poorhouse (approximately 720 and 280 inmates respectively) were given a substantial dinner of mince and potatoes, rhubarb tart and milk. The adults received either snuff or tobacco from Mr Baillie Hunter and Mr Sharp gave all inmates one shilling.
In 1914, the West Poorhouse was taken over for military occupation and its occupants transferred to the East Poorhouse. A striking photograph of the building from 1913 shows the R29 airship over the poorhouse. It was taken from the top of a tram on the Blackness Road.
After the war, the West Poorhouse was taken over by Logie School, which later became Harris Academy Annexe. The old poorhouse building was demolished and replaced by a new building in around 1930. In 2000, the then unoccupied buildings were destroyed by a fire.
As well as the poorhouses, Dundee also operated the Ashcliffe Children's Home.
The University of Dundee's Archive Service hold an interesting item: "an excerpt of minutes of special meeting of Poorhouse Committee of Dundee Combination Parochial Board, 1887, approving an application of the anatomical committee of Dundee as made by Dr [A. Melville] Paterson and Dr [Robert] Sinclair for the bodies of deceased persons."
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.
Dundee City Archive & Record Centre, 21 City Square Dundee, DD1 3BY.
- Dundee Parochial Board minutes (1848-95); Dundee Parish Council minutes (1895-1930).
- Dundee East Poorhouse: Register of inmates (1856-1908); Register of admissions and discharges (1928-56); Registers of staff (1865-1962); Register of accidents (1887-1919); Abstracts of weekly returns of admissions and discharges (1885-1961); Newscuttings (1926-34); Visitors' book (1893-1973); Register of bedding and clothing (1902-1973); Hospital patients book (1907-09).
- Dundee Poorhouse: Minutes (1852-57).
- Liff and Benvie Parochial Board: Minutes (1869-83); Register of poor (1854-65).
- Archive Services, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN.
- Maryfield Hospital: Admissions (1929-71); Daily statement of admissions (1945-71); Indexes of admissions (1958-76); Intensive care unit admissions (1967-74); Casualty admissions (1968-69); Discharges (1949-58); Births (1938-68); Theatre operations (1950-74); Out-patients (1957-60); Indexes to registers (1937-58).
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.