In 1788 a public dispensary was founded in Paisley. From this a House of Recovery (HoR) was established in 1795. A variety of hospital buildings grew on this site at the west end of Abbey Bridge. Fever wards were sprung up and for a time cholera was treated there.
In 1878 grounds adjacent to the HoR were acquired by the parish council which built an epidemic hospital on the site for 60 patients, although it was managed by the infirmary. By that time there were already calls to move the hospital to Calside, but sufficient funds were not available.
Still nothing was done. Various sums were offered to kick start a building fund. A Dr Fraser offered £1,000 with the condition that he would double if a new building was erected. William Barbour added £500 to the fund. But the directors dragged their heels. Finally, in 1894 the trustees of William Barbour announced their intention of donating £15,000 to build a new hospital.
The old hospital was overcrowded, out-dated and its proximity to the fever hospital was not a point in its favour. There was not even an operating theatre, operations were carried out at the patients’ bed – merely with a curtain drawn around it.
Following W. Barbour’s generous donation, a site was offered for the new hospital at Calside in two areas sitting adjacent to each other being Egypt Park and Blackland Place.
The Royal Alexandra Infirmary (RAI) was built to designs by T. G. Abercrombie. The foundation stone for the new hospital was laid on 15 May 1897.
The project was richly endowed by W. B. Barbour who gifted £15,000 to the building fund and by a local mill owner, Peter Coats, who gifted the nurses’ home.
The Clark family were also particularly generous in their financial support.
In all the new buildings were to cost some £73,000, providing 150 beds and ten rooms for private patients.
The plan of the infirmary is of particular interest from its incorporation of circular wards in a three storey block to the north.
Another distinctive feature was the ward pavilions to the south which terminated in semi circular open verandas or balconies.
The first part of the new complex to be built was the nurses’ home, which had been funded entirely by Peter Coats. Occupying the north-west corner of the site, it was formally opened in July 1896. It was ‘sumptuously furnished’ and provided accommodation for about 40 nurses.
In 1948 it joined the National Health Service under the Paisley & District Hospitals Board of Management for and in 1974 was transferred to the Renfrew District of Argyll & Clyde Health Board.
The Infirmary closed in 1987, after which part of the main range was used as a care home the rest was converted into flats in about 1995. The former nurses’ home was converted into flats in 2005-6.
The Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH)
This second completely rebuilt hospital was then built on the site of the former Riccartsbar Hospital and renamed and renamed as above.
The RAH was officially opened by Princess Alexandra in May 1988. It is the main hospital in Paisley serving a large catchment area as much as 200,000 from Renfrewshire, stretching all the way to Oban and Argyll.
The hospital provides a range of services including inpatient beds, general medical and surgical services, trauma and emergency surgery centre, HDU, medicine for the elderly, maternity hospital including a Community Maternity Unit, Panda Children's Centre and Accident & Emergency.
The Paisley Maternity Hospital the Community Maternity Unit. It was built before the main hospital and sits adjacent to the RAH. It opened its doors in September 1969 with 112 beds and two authorised places for private patients.