The Astley Ainslie Hospital is a rehabilitation hospital in the south of Edinburgh. It was set up in 1923 thanks to the generous bequest of David Ainslie made in memory of his nephew John Astley Ainslie. The site of the hospital was selected for its open parkland feel and beautiful landscaping which persists today. It was originally five large villas with their gardens and a nine hole ladies’ golf course. The trees and planting were to be kept as were the stone boundary walls. (See the page about trees). The site includes a number of listed buildings (see this list).
It has an interesting history being the site of the Chapel of St Roque which cared for patients with bubonic plague quarantined from the city of Edinburgh in the 16thcentury. (See History of the site)
Of the five villas, Canaan House (The Administrative Block), Canaan Park, St Roque and Morelands survive. All are now used for administration or as meeting rooms.
Historic Environment Scotland gave Canaan House C listing and described it as “Dating from 1805, with additions 1877 & 1904, a 3/4 storey classical square-plan villa with later additions, located in the centre of the site to the east of Millbank Pavilion. With a largely intact 19thC interior, it is the earliest surviving building on the AAH site and one of the earliest houses in the Grange.”
Canaan Park is an Italianate villa to the east of Canaan House. It is not listed. Southbank was demolished and replaced by a nurses’ home and later by private town houses. Millbank was also demolished and replaced by a ward building and the Balfour Pavilion now stands in what were its gardens.
St Roque is B listed and described by HES – “Originally built as a residential villa it has been part of the AAH site since 1946 and is currently used as offices and meeting rooms. Dating from 1850-2, with 1895 additions and alterations, St. Roque is a 2-storey L-plan Italianate style suburban villa with distinctive 3-storey tower and linked service wing, retaining its domestic character.”
A C listed bungalow in front of Canaan House is described as “Consultants’ Office (Former Assistant Medical Superintendent’s House). 1932 single storey 5-bay C-plan neo-Georgian house with wide swept roof, located just to the north of the Admin Block.”
There are gate lodges at Canaan Lane – “North and South Lodges including Gatepiers and Railings. 1930-32 pair of 2-storey 2-bay diagonally set neo-Georgian gatelodges at the Canaan Lane entrance, linked by curving walls with late 17thC style gatepiers and railings.” They are B listed.
Also B listed are “Sentry Pavilions, including Gateposts, Railings and Gates. 1932 pair of single storey square plan neo-Georgian sentry lodges, with late 17thC style locked gates and railings, making an important contribution to the streetscape at the junction of Grange Loan and Whitehouse Loan, with pedestrian access to the AAH site on the east side of the east Pavilion.”
Two butterfly-shaped wards, the East and West Pavilions, lie in the south of the site facing the hills and there is the C listed Scientific Building – “Located between and immediately to the north of the West and East Pavilions, this is a 1929 single storey 15-bay symmetrical purpose-built hospital technical building, combining neo-Georgian and modernist details.” To its east are an occupational therapy unit and three wooden huts. The hospital canteen is in the Blackford Pavilion to its west. It has large picture windows facing the hills to the south. Behind this is another villa, Woodlands House.
Another C listed feature is “Garden Wall, incorporating carved panels, to the north of Millbank Pavilion. This is to the north of the Millbank Pavilion, a formal 1930s garden wall incorporates a niche containing fragments of early 16thC stonework.”
Behind Canaan Park is an abandoned walled garden which was used by patients but closed because of reputed soil contamination. . At one time there was a dummy coalface within a corrugated steel tunnel. Just north of St Roque is a school building and north of that the modern Charles Bell building, originally a children’s’ ward but later the head injuries unit. The slope down to the railway was once a market garden but is now a conifer plantation. The newest building is the Southeast Mobility and Rehabilitation Technology (SMART) centre looking down this slope.
The hospital has gradually become less suitable for patient care because of outdated buildings and lack of the backup facilities of a larger hospital. In the early 2000s the Health Board started to consider transferring the hospital to new purpose-built facilities on the Royal Edinburgh Hospital site. It was thought the Astley Ainslie site might be suitable for a new school but this plan was dropped. It was clear that re-development of this prime site was inevitable and, in 2002, in order to protect the site, a Development Brief was drawn up by the City Council; this Brief has been confirmed to be still valid. The site is also protected by the Grange Conservation Area Character Appraisal which was updated in 2014. This document has a long section on the AAH grounds and their value to the area.