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Archives and Special Collections: Royal Scottish National Hospital

Collection information

Collection: Royal Scottish National Hospital

Collection Ref.: GB 0559 RS

Administrative History:

The Royal Scottish National Hospital opened in May 1863 as the Scottish National Institution for the Education of Imbecile Children. It was one of the first institutions in Scotland to care for children with learning disabilities and took patients from across the country. The success of the institution is seen in the steady increase in the number of patients, from 43 in 1863, to 120 in 1881, increasing to 350 in 1911. The facilities at the hospital also expanded to accommodate this growing patient population with new buildings being erected including an infectious disease hospital, covered playgrounds and staff cottages.

Further expansion followed in the 1920s with the purchase of Larbert House and estate. A nurses’ home was added and an industrial colony was created where patients could work on the land and learn various trades. In 1948 the institution became part of the National Health Service, ending the charitable status it had held since its foundation. The hospital finally closed in 2002. The site was re-used for the new Forth Valley Royal Hospital which opened in 2010.


Patient records, administrative records, correspondence, staff records, financial records including accounts, photographs. Patient records include: admissions registers (1863-1988); registers of discharges and removals (1864-1962); applications and case files (1865-1954); registers of deaths (1879-1951); registers of accidents (1892-1980); records of expiry of detention orders (1915-1987); registers of escapes (1935-1968); registers of restraint and seclusion (1937-1968); and student evaluations (1929-1924 and 1993-1996).


164 volumes; 3,120 files; 343 photographs

Catalogue information

The collection is fully catalogued and is available for consultation on our online catalogue.

The cataloguing and conservation of the collection was made possible through the support of the Wellcome Trust's Research Resources Scheme.

Additional collection information


No further accruals are expected

Related collections:

The University of Stirling Archives holds the historical records of NHS Forth Valley which also include the archives of Stirling District Asylum.

Records of Baldovan Hospital (later known as Strathmartine Hospital), an institution with a similar remit to the Royal Scottish National Hospital, are held at  University of Dundee Archive Services.


To protect patient confidentiality there is a 100 year closure period in operation for clinical records. Please contact the University Archivist for further details.


Hutton, Guthrie, The Royal Scottish National Hospital, 140 Years (Forth Valley Primary Care NHS Trust, 2000)

Hutchison, Iain, 'Accepted and Rejected: Late Nineteenth-Century Application for Admission to the Scottish National Institution for the Education of Imbecile Children', in Voices in the History of Madness: Personal and Professional Perspectives on Mental Health and Illness, editors Robert Ellis, Sarah Kendal and Steven J Taylor (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021).

Hutchison, Iain, ‘Institutionalization of mentally-impaired children in Scotland, c1855-1914’, History of Psychiatry, 22(4), pgs. 416-433 (2011). (The full article is available here.)

Hutchison, Iain & Hoole, Dee, 'Discharge, Disposal, and Death: Outcomes for Child Inmates of the Scottish National Institution, Larbert, and Stanley Hall, Wakefield, to 1913', Journal of Family History (full article available here).

UNESCO designation


In 2013 the Royal Scottish National Hospital Archives were added to UNESCO's UK Memory of the World Register as a collection of outstanding national importance.


Collection image

Photograph of staff and patients in the grounds of the hospital, c1910.

Using the collection

Archives Reading Room

Opening Hours:

10 am - 1 pm / 2 pm - 4 pm

Monday - Friday

Please note our current service arrangements

Contact us:

Tel. 01786 466619


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