Over 40 ex-nurses of the former Sunnyside Royal Hospital near Montrose visited the iconic site to tour the grounds one last time and cut the turf, marking Sunnyside’s new lease of life as a housing development.
During their visit around the grounds of the estate, overlooked by the historic building which they once worked in to support a wide variety of mental health issues, the nurses recalled stories from their time there and found out more about the homes to come.
The psychiatric hospital was the first public asylum in Scotland and among the first in the English-speaking world. Sunnyside Royal Hospital’s most famous patients were Charles Altamont Doyle, father of Scottish author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who struggled with epilepsy, and iconic Shetland sculptor Adam Christie.
The nurses then cut the turf, marking the start of work on a £4.4m development of 35 affordable homes within the estate grounds.
The nurses were joined at the site by Hillcrest chief executive Angela Linton and Sunnyside Estate & Pert-Bruce director Jamie Pert.
The homes, developed by Sunnyside Estates – a partnership between Tayside construction firm Pert-Bruce and Edinburgh based developer FM Group on behalf of Hillcrest Homes, are set to be the first of two phases of affordable homes at the site.
Work on the first phase of homes is expected to be completed in summer 2021, with the second phase which will deliver an additional 59 homes set to begin work that same year. The 94 homes in total will be earmarked for social rent.
The first phase of homes will offer a range of property sizes of one, two and three bedrooms, and will provide good quality housing for a range of family needs.
With energy bills rising, the homes will also be developed with energy efficiency in mind. Some of the measures include gas central heating, advanced cladding and insulation and as well as smart meters in all of the homes.
Angela Linton, Hillcrest chief executive, said: “Sunnyside has a huge historical significance to the local area, and we’re delighted that the hospital building will be preserved for future generations as part of the wider development plans.
“As well as boosting Angus’ affordable housing provision, these 35 properties being developed for Hillcrest in the beautiful grounds of the estate will give families a modern, energy efficient place to call home.”
Jamie Pert, director at Pert-Bruce Construction and Sunnyside Estate added: “Sunnyside Estate Ltd are delighted to be working in collaboration with Hillcrest to build much needed affordable housing for the Montrose area. We were also very privileged to welcome this group of retired Sunnyside Hospital nurses who worked within this highly regarded psychiatric hospital.
“This project will provide an important boost for the local area, securing local jobs not just for Pert-Bruce but the local supply chain in Montrose and Angus, including 10 trades apprentices currently directly employed by us. This project will also allow us to continue to support the Dundee & Angus Shared Apprentice Scheme – of which Pert-Bruce were one of the founding members. This scheme currently offers employment to around 44 trade apprentices in Dundee and Angus, all of which is vital to maintaining a vibrant construction industry and future skilled trades.”
The original building was founded in 1781 by Susan Carnegie as Montrose Lunatic Asylum, Infirmary and Dispensary, and was located on Montrose Links, receiving a Royal Charter in 1810.
A new and improved asylum – the iconic building which still stands today near the village of Hillside was designed by William Lambie Moffat and completed in 1858.
Despite the addition of a new building called Carnegie House at Sunnyside in 1899, the hospital still experienced problems with overcrowding, housing 670 patients as of 1900. As a result, a further two buildings were added – Howden Villa in 1901 and North Esk Villa in 1904.
The asylum passed into the ownership of the NHS in 1946, and changed its name from Royal Asylum of Montrose to Royal Mental Hospital of Montrose, before becoming Sunnyside Royal Hospital in 1962.
Sunnyside Royal Hospital’s most famous patients were Charles Altamont Doyle, father of Scottish author Arthur Conan Doyle, who struggled with Alcoholism and epilepsy, and iconic Shetland sculptor Adam Christie.
After the introduction of Care in the Community in the early 1980s, the hospital went into a period of decline and closed in December 2011. It was bought from NHS Tayside in 2016 by Sunnyside Estates Ltd.