Erskine Archive Project

Erskine Archive Project

In 2014 the University of Glasgow Library and the charity Erskine formed a partnership to catalogue and preserve the records of Erskine Hospital, which opened in 1916 as the Princess Louise Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers. This partnership is the result of Prof Tony Pollard’s research into pioneering surgeon Sir William Macewen’s connections with Erskine.

The Erskine archive has great potential to provide a foundation for a new analysis of the practice & impact of military medicine on British society, particularly in relation to prosthetics. The cataloguing undertaken by Archive Services will open up new avenues of research into the impact of the charity’s work in supporting veterans through the 20th century and beyond.  

The collection catalogue is now available to view here

This project is funded by the Wellcome Trust’s Research Resources Grant Scheme, which aids research by supporting projects to catalogue and preserve significant primary source collections in libraries and archives across the UK and Ireland.

Dr Jennifer Novotny, who was in receipt of a Wellcome Trust Research Bursary, has published an article To 'take their place among the productive members of society': Vocational rehabilitation of WWI wounded at Erskine and a blog post What we learned from World War I’s wounded veterans based on her research on the Erskine collection.

In War and Peace: The Erskine Story

Photograph showing a corner of the limb store with parts of artificial limbs ready for assembly, take from ‘The Manufacture of Artificial Limbs for the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers’,1917

Hunterian Museum exhibition to commemorate Erskine Centenary

Exhibition runs from 23 Sep 2016 – 26 Mar 2017, Hunterian Museum, University of Glasgow

  • Click here to see Prof Tony Pollard give an exclusive tour of the exhibition
  • See twitter highlights from our Erskine Night at the Museum here

Erskine Project Blog

Find out more about the prPatients and nurses outside Erskine House with a grammophoneoject, including the conservation methods used for some of the items here ‌


UGC225/8/6_33 Group of patients at Erskine Hospital fitted with artificial limbs- from 'The Manufacturing of Artificial Limbs for the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers'

UGC225/8/6_33 Group of patients at Erskine Hospital fitted with artificial limbs- from 'The Manufacture of Artificial Limbs for the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers'

Erskine was established as a direct response to the need for specialised medical facilities to deal with the unprecedented number of injured and maimed service personnel returning from the First World War. Sir William Macewen, an eminent Glasgow surgeon was the driving force behind the scheme to establish a hospital for limbless sailors and soldiers. He assembled a provisional committee of Scotland's finest business and medical minds to promote the scheme.

The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital Erskine Glasgow

UGC 225/8/5 'The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers' printed by James Maclehouse and Sons

Sir John Reid bought Erskine House from Thomas Aikman and gifted it to the charity. Within 6 months the House was transformed into a hospital with beds to accomodate 200 patients.

Erskine Hospital Admissions Register first page

UGC225/3/1 Patient Admissions Register 10th Oct 1916-30th Oct 1936

The hospital opened on 10th October 1916, by the end of that year 144 patients had been admitted. Within a few months of opening demand for beds grew and in November 1917 construction began on the ‘Red Cross Huts’, funded by the Red Cross which would accommodate a further 200 patients.

Workshop on the Clyde where artificial limbs were produced for Erskine

UGS225/8/6 Workshop on the Clyde where artificial limbs were produced for Erskine

One of the main obstacles facing the new hospital was the shortage of artificial limbs in Britain. However the hospitals founder Sir William Macewen saw this as an opportunity to mobilise ‘Clydeside's creative genius’ and create a new industry in Scotland. Companies such as Yarrow &Co Ltd, lent their workforce to design and manufacture artificial limbs  at cost price for the hospital

Limb workshop at Erskine Hospital

UGC225/8/6_23 Limb workshop at Erskine Hospital

The limb workshops were moved to Erskine in 1917 and patients were trained in production as well as contributing to design improvements

UGC225/1/1/2 Pamphlet: 'Erskine House Workshops' from The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital Minutes (20 Feb 1918-10 Dec 1918)

UGC225/1/1/2 Pamphlet: 'Erskine House Workshops' from The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital Minutes (20 Feb 1918-10 Dec 1919)

Workshops were also established for curative as well as vocational purposes. Classes were set up in basketry, shoemaking, tailoring, woodwork, hairdressing and commercial training. The idea was to give the men a variety of trades to choose from according to their tastes and ability to work and also to prevent any one trade receiving too great an influx

Group	photograph of patients, nurses and doctors

UGC225/10/1/35 Patients and staff, c1917

By December 1917 the number of patients admitted to the hospital was 1,613 and of those 1,126 had been “discharged with limbs”. More than 2,145 ex-service pensioners also attended Erskine to be fitted with new limbs or limb repairs. Between the opening in October 1916 and December 1919 over 400 major operations were performed.

Drawing from an autograph book

UGC225/11/17 Autograph book containing poems, messages, cartoons and drawings by patients, staff and visitors.

‘To obtain best results sympathetic care and encouragement are required, besides advice and guidance’- Sir William Macewen 29 March 1916. The staff at Erskine took these words to heart creating a warm friendly atmosphere, in which patients and staff treated each other as family.

Telegram from Princess Louise regarding patient care at Erskine

UGC225/5/1 Telegram from Princess Louise

At the official opening of the hospital on 7th June 1917, the hospital's patron Princess Louise spoke of her ‘intense pride and pleasure to be asked to join the efforts here at Erskine’. She continued an active interest in the running of the hospital throughout her life and was a regular visitor there.

Erskine Hospital patient rules

UGC225/5/5 Patient Rules

After the war the number of patients entering the hospital due to amputation naturally decreased. The Executive Committee shifted focus towards providing a permanent home for ex-servicemen requiring longterm care.

UGC225/10/1/40 Patients and nurses outside in the sunshine.

As well as being a busy functioning hospital Erskine became a permenant home for paraplegic residents unable to live independently. Additionally in 1934, a convalescent holiday scheme was introduced which allowed ex-servicemen who had been ill and could not afford to pay for a holiday to come to Erskine for a break. 

Erskine Bugle 1969

UGC225/8/19 'Erskine Bugle', a magazine produced my residents of Erskine

Cottages for independent living

UGC225/10/1/42 Cottages for independent living

In September 1946 the first of 50 cottages was built in the grounds of Erskine, allowing disabled men and their families to live near their place of work and close to the hospital facilities on which they depended

Aerial photograph of Erskine Hospital with Erskine Bridge in the background

UGC225/10/4/28 Aerial photograph of Erskine Hospital with Erskine Bridge in the background


The hospital was continually being added to in the second half of the 20th century, with new wings being built in 1950, 1962, 1975 and the 1990s. However it was clear the 19th century manner house was no longer equipped to deal with the demands of the busy convalescence home. In 2000 the new state of the art facility was completed to provide long term residential care for veterans.