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Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

Identifier: LHB1

Scope and Contents

Management 1728-1974; administration 1854-2002; finance (ledgers) 1729-1969; salaries and wages books 1880-1968; finance (papers) 1727-1974; supplies: drugs, housekeeping etc 1797-1968; plans and buildings 1738-1988; correspondence 1727-1984; societies attached to the RIE 1913-2001; schools attached to the RIE 1913-1985; professional associations 1933-1986; nursing 1828-1998; medical students 1768-1987; Residency 1838-1987; non-nursing staff 1842-1988; patients: financial 1856-1964; patients (bound records) 1762-1987; patients (bound records): surgical ward journals 1841-1977; patients (bound records): medical and gynaecological ward journals 1910-1999; patients (bound records): specialist ward journals 1900-1967; patients (bound records): miscellaneous ward journals 1921-1958; patients (bound records): operation books 1876-1979; patients (bound records): anaesthetic books 1904-1981; patients (unbound records) I 1920s-1970s; patients (unbound records) II 1940s-1990s; patients (microfilms) 1920s-1940s; related homes, hospitals and specialist departments 1867-1978.


  • Creation: 1727-2023


Language of Materials


Language of Materials


Language of Materials


Language of Materials


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Public access to these records is governed by UK data protection legislation, the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, and the current Scottish Government Records Management: Health and Social Care Code of Practice (Scotland). Whilst some records may be accessed freely by researchers, the aforementioned legislation and guidelines mean that records conveying sensitive information on named individuals may be closed to the public for a set time. Where records relate to named deceased adults, they will be open 75 years after the latest date referenced in the record, on the next 1 January. Case records of individuals below 18 years of age or adults not proven to be deceased will be open 100 years after the latest date recorded in the record, on the next 1 January. Further information on legislation and guidelines covering medical records can be found on the LHSA webpage.

LHSA encourages the use of these records for legitimate clinical, historical and genealogical research purposes, and records that are designated as closed can be consulted by legitimate researchers if certain conditions are met. Please contact the LHSA Archivist for more details regarding procedures on how you can apply for permission to view closed records. Telephone us on: 0131 650 3392 or email us at

Biographical / Historical

The original Edinburgh Infirmary, Hospital for the Sick Poor, Physicians' Hospital, or Little House was located at the head of Robertson's Close. A town house was rented from the Town Council and patients were admitted to the four beds then available from 6 August 1729. In 1936 a Royal Charter was obtained under the name The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. A 228-bed purpose-built hospital designed by William Adam soon followed, and the first patients were admitted to it in 1741. It was located between what are now Infirmary Street and Drummond Street. Two further surgical hospital buildings were added in 1832 and 1853. Due to overcrowding throughout this so-called High School Yards site, David Bryce was commissioned to design a new hospital and in 1879 the Infirmary moved to Lauriston Place, its main building conforming to the pavilion style of surgical and medial ward arrangement.

The original appeal for funds was led by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, making the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh the first voluntary hospital in Scotland. Its charitable subscribers were formed into a Court of Contributors who elected annual Managers drawn from the main occupational and professional groups of the City. This form of funding and administration, with few modifications, continued until 1948 when the National Health Service was founded. Thereafter the Infirmary, including the Royal Maternity and Simpson Memorial Hospital which amalgamated with it in 1926, became the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Associated Hospitals group, with its own Board of Management within the South Eastern Regional Hospital Board. Further administrative changes occurred in 1974, 1994 and 1999, over which time the hospital was successively part of the South Lothian District and then a Unit of Lothian Health Board, a Trust in its own right, and it is currently part of Lothian University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Concern over the Lauriston site was first expressed in 1946, when it was felt that the current Royal Infirmary buildings were insufficient to meet the needs of the new National Health Service. Various plans were put forward, including demolition and rebuilding of the existing site, and construction of a brand new Royal Infirmary on a greenfield site, along with another new southern general hospital. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s a number of options were discussed, but the decision was eventually made to rebuild at Lauriston in a series of phases which aimed to minimise disruption to patients and staff. Work was repeatedly delayed however, due in part to financial issues and also to the fact that the Secretary of State for Scotland declared that the listed buildings could not be demolished, and it was not until 1981 that the first phase of rebuilding was completed. Again however this plan did not come to fruition, and in the late 1990s work was begun on a new Royal Infirmary at Little France which would also replace the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion, the Princess Margaret Rose Orthopaedic Hospital and the City Hospital. Although still under construction and not due for full completion until 2003, the first patients moved in in January 2002 as the PMR closed.


1582 shelf metres: bound volumes, papers, photographic material

1582 shelf metres: bound volumes, papers, photographic material


Chronological within record class

Other Finding Aids

Item-level descriptive list available

Custodial History

Records held within the National Health Service prior to transfer

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Royal Infirmary Archives, 23 Chalmers St, January 1981


Further accessions are expected

Related Materials

For post-1948 board and other papers see:

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Associated Hospitals, Board of Management (LHB2)

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Associated Hospitals Unit (LHB42)

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh NHS Trust (LHB43)

See also:

Catford, Edwin Francis, hospital historian (GD12)

Craig, Jean Constance, nurse (GD1/65)

Edinburgh Royal Maternity Hospital and Simpson Memorial Maternity Hospital (LHB3, LHB3A)

Gill, Annie Warren, nurse (GD1/22)

Hope, Mann, Todd and Kirk, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Law Agents (GD13)

Johnstone, Agnes Gibson, nurse (GD1/14)

Kirkwood, Mary Jane Whitelaw, nurse (GD1/87)

Laidlaw, John, hospital administrator (GD1/69)

Leitch, Jean Walker, nurse (GD1/92)

Levin, Ernst, medical practitioner (GD8)

Marshall, Margaret Colville, nurse (GD1/8)

Morrison, William Kenneth, medical practitioner (GD1/23)

National Radium Centre, Edinburgh (GD1/93)

Olroyd, Elizabeth, nurse (GD1/5)

Pathology Department of the University of Edinburgh (GD20)

Penicillin, wartime distribution to civilians in Edinburgh (GD1/74)

Reid, Winifred, nurse (GD1/15)

Robertson, Margaret Buchanan, patient (GD1/56)

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh Samaritan Society (GD2)

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh School of Nursing (GD1/27)

Samuel, Catherine Bruce, nurse (GD1/46)

Social Work Department of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh: HIV/AIDS (GD1/85)

South Lothian District, Lothian Health Board (LHB28)

Spalding, Agnes and Nessie, patients (GD1/72)

Staff Social Activities, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (GD1/84)

Student Tickets, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (GD1/19)

Syme, Lucy M. (GD1/11)

Taylor, Frances, nurse (GD1/21)

Tynedale-Biscoe, Barbara B., nurse (GD1/54)


Catford, E.F. The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh 1929-1979. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press. 1984.
Eaves Walton, P.M. The 250th and 100th Anniversaries of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the 100th Anniversary of the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion. [Edinburgh: s.n., 1979]
Goldman, Martin. Lister Ward. Bristol: Hilger, 1987.
Logan Turner, A. Story of a great hospital: the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh 1729-1929. Edinburgh: Mercat Press. 1979
Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh LHB1 LHB1 LHB1
Mike Barfoot, Jenny McDermott, Laura Gould, Louise Williams, Claire Boyle (LHB1/61A/94), Elspeth Hayes (neurosurgical detail in LHB1/61A/94)
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Revision Statements

  • 18/10/2017: TLFA formatting

Repository Details

Part of the Lothian Health Services Archive Repository

Centre for Research Collections
Edinburgh University Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44 (0)131 650 3392