The collection of buildings which houses Napier University’s Craighouse Campus sits near the volcanic outcrops of on Easter Craiglockhart Hill dominating a large part of the SW Edinburgh skyline.
The current buildings stand in the grounds of the manor of Craig House that dates from the 16th century and was the seat of the Symsonnes of Craighouse. The old house and estate was sold to the Commissioners of the Edinburgh Lunatic Asylum in 1878 with the house being modified for its new use.
The new Craighouse Asylum was a huge orange sandstone chateau built in the same French (Francois I) style as other buildings of the time such as the Central Library. The design was by Edinburgh architect Sydney Mitchell from original sketch plans by the Medical Superintendent, Thomas Clouston and it was erected between 1890 and 1894 at a cost of then of £100,000. It originally accommodated wealthy paying patients and was representative of the changes taking place in asylum design and the treatment of patients at this time – with open grounds and buildings resembling the Victorian villas that many of its wealthy patients were familiar with.
The new buildings also contained well-appointed public rooms, and entertainment in the form of billiard tables and a bowling alley. The billiard room was the domain of male patients who were apparently offered tobacco and billiards as an incentive for good behaviour.
A number of fascinating drawings of the design and photos of the completed interiors can be found at the archives and libraries section of the splendid website www.scotlandandmedicine.com
In 1972 Craighouse was renamed the Thomas Clouston Clinic. With the advent of the then Government’s Care in the Community programmes demand for such institutions diminished and it closed in the early 1990s.
Napier University purchased the site in 1994 and following a sympathetic conversion, during which many of the existing features of the buildings were maintained, it was opened in 1996 as the Craighouse Campus.