Another in our occasional series from Archive Services on how Dundee has changed. Dundee Royal Infirmary (DRI) was once one of the UK’s leading teaching hospitals. It had a rich 200 year history before its final closure in 1998, and the old main building, now converted into flats, remains one of Dundee’s most striking works of architecture.  First known as Dundee Infirmary, it was originally located just to the south of Bucklemaker Wynd (the forerunner of Victoria Road), though access was from a long drive off King Street.

The original infirmary from Edward’s plan of 1846
It became Dundee Royal Infirmary in 1819 following the granting of a royal charter. The first building was from the start much too small , being able to house only 56 beds.
The building of extensions later increased this to 120 beds, but this was still much too small for the growing Dundee population and there was little room on the site to expand further. Thus a move to a new building was somewhat inevitable and in 1851 this course was decided upon. The old Infirmary became a model lodging house and was later Victoria Road School.  The area was transformed in the last quarter of the 20th century, with Ladywell Avenue now occupying part of its site.
The location chosen for the new DRI was a site off Barrack Road between Dudhope Park and a bleachfield and close to the original route of the Dundee and Newtyle Railway.
The proposed new location
29 designs for the new building were submitted for consideration, with the plans by Messrs Coe and Goodwin of London for a grand building that echoed Oxbridge college winning the day. Building work started in 1852 and the new building was formally opened on 7 February 1855 to much excitement in Dundee.

The new hospital would greatly expand as additional buildings and facilities were added to the site. Notably Sir James Key Caird provided new buildings for maternity services and cancer patients.

DRI in 1908
The hospital gained a reputation for its high standard of medical care and treatment. Its presence also allowed for the development of a medical school in Dundee in the 1890s and a close link was forged between the hospital and the University.
By the 1950s it was realised that Dundee’s hospital infrastructure was becoming outdated and insufficient for a city of Dundee’s size, and also that the medical school desperately needed more space and more modern facilities. After a long process a new teaching hospital would be built at Ninewells, but it would take until 1974 for it to be completed. During this period DRI’s future was uncertain, but it was eventually decided it would be retained and Maryfield Hospital would be closed. Nonetheless, many of DRI’s core functions moved to Ninewells (though it remained the home of Dundee’s Neurosurgery and Casualty Departments). Though it remained a major hospital for another quarter of a century it had lost much of its status and was decidedly old fashioned compared with Ninewells. Thus, it was eventually decided that it should close, with most of its remaining services moved to Ninewells. Closure was completed in 1998 and the site was sold for redevelopment.
View from the Law in 1996

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