The Montrose Lunatic Asylum, Infirmary and Dispensary was founded in 1781 by
Mrs. Susan Carnegie of Charleton for the treatment of private and pauper patients. In
later years, Mrs Carnegie described her purpose in creating the asylum: “My view was…
To rid the Town of Montrose of a nuisance, that of mad people being kept in prison in
the middle of the street, and the hope that by providing a quiet and convenient Asylum
for them, by good treatment and medical aid, some of those unfortunates might be
restored to society.”
The first mental hospital in Scotland, the institution was built on the Montrose Links
on a site bounded by Barrack Road, Ferry Road and Garrison Road. Prior to this, insane
patients were treated in the Old Tollbooth in Montrose High Street. The first lunatic
patient was admitted on 6th May, 1782 and Mr James Booth was appointed the institution’s
first keeper, a position he was to hold for the next 40 years.
Medical services were at first provided on a monthly rotation, for no extra payment,
by the local doctors in addition to their other duties. Problems with this system led
to Mrs Carnegie, in 1799, recommending that the managers give consideration to payment
for an attending physician or surgeon for a year at a time.
A new improved Asylum with better facilities was completed in 1858, situated in lands
of the farm of Sunnyside, in the village of Hillside, on the outskirts of Montrose. It
still operates today as a hospital for the mentally ill. Recreation rooms in the main
building, a magnificent Victorian structure, are sometimes used for local functions.
Carnegie House was built for private patients in 1899. However overcrowding was still
a problem, with patient numbers reaching 670 by 1900, precipitating the need for further
accommodation. As a result, Howden Villa was completed in 1901 and Northesk Villa was
completed in 1904. Westmount Cottages were built in 1905 to house the extra staff required
to care of the additional patients. The lease of Sunnyside Farm expired in 1911 and over
52 acres were purchased for the sum of £4500. Angus House was built in 1939 to accommodate
elderly patients suffering from dementia.
The Montrose Lunatic Asylum was originally granted a Royal Charter in 1810. In 1913 the
Royal Charter was amended, after which it was renamed the Royal Asylum of Montrose and that
part of the Institution which consisted of the Infirmary and Dispensary was disjoined and
received its own Royal Charter. With the advent of the National Health Service in 1948,
the Asylum was renamed the Royal Mental Hospital of Montrose and came under the jurisdiction
of the Eastern Regional Hospital Board. It was again renamed in 1962, when it became
Sunnyside Royal Hospital.
Sunnyside Royal Hospital celebrated its bicentenary in 1981, at which time the number of
patients was approximately 400.