Murray Royal Hospital, Perth


The hospital was founded by James Murray, a labourer who inherited a fortune in 1809 when his half-brother drowned in a storm which sank the ship carrying him home from India. It was in his own will that James Murray left two thirds of his estate for purpose of establishing an asylum in Perth. He stipulated verbally that the patients from the parishes that he had lived in, namely Perth, Dunbarney and Rhynd would be received at charitable rates, and that his brother John, and his heirs would be, when possible, represented on the management of the Asylum. He died in 1814.

Murray Royal Hospital, designed by the architect William Burn (1789-1870) opened in 1827 as the Murray Royal Lunatic Asylum with accommodation for 80 patients, officials and staff. The building itself is in a neo-classical style in an H plan consisting of a long south front with a central entrance pavilion and rooftop octagon. The building maximised the opportunities of its pleasant open hillside site, and was further extended by Burn in 1833. In 1848 a nearby villa was acquired and modified as accommodation for 'higher class' patients, and in 1888 new infirmary wings were added to the rear of the main building. A chapel was built in 1901, designed by Physician Superintendent Dr A.R. Urquhart it was partly built by the patients. In 1904 two new half timbered villas to accommodate patients were completed by Elco Ward. A new nurses' home was added in 1939 while further additions in the 1960s and 1970s included a new recreation hall, a geriatric unit and a day hospital.

It was designed so that 'the meanest patient could be well fed and clothed, and those among the higher classes who could pay for it were well lodged and cared for as they could be in a palace'. The aim was to provide a stable, homely environment in a spacious building that 'allowed the sun and air to enter at every window', provided plenty of room for exercise, and had views over the surrounding parkland. The hospital was to be 'sufficiently secure to prevent injury or escape' but 'free from the gloomy aspect of confinement'. This regime was relaxed compared with the usual standards of the day.


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