Demolition of Victoria Infirmary’s 133-year-old domes by housing association branded ‘act of architectural vandalism’


The old infirmary on the south side is being converted into living quarters.

The distinctive cupolas of Victoria Infirmary on the Service Division were demolished as part of plans for new accommodation.

MSP Paul Sweeney tweeted his dismay at the demolition of the spiers over the weekend, writing: “This morning @WeAreSanctuary brutally tore down these beautiful 133 year old sandstone cupolas on the original James Sellars service pavilion of 1888 at the Victoria Infirmary. A blatant and unnecessary act of architectural vandalism. As if they hadn’t damaged their reputation enough.

This prompted other social media users to join the conversation, with the team behind Cathcart Cemetery tweeting: “Just at the cemetery to see Ebenezer Duncan (one of Viccy’s founders and first doctor) spinning in his grave . What an absolute shame to cry.

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Photo: Sanctuary accommodation

South Glasgow Heritage & Environment Trust wrote: “It’s almost as if there is still no real understanding at policy level of the historic environment and landscape, and embodied carbon, and the huge role of demolition and construction in carbon emissions… just a few gestures and a dying world.

Mr Sweeney added: “What is the plan for this site, you may ask? Nothing. They secretly sought to alter their planning consent from what was originally approved to demolish this toilet block, just to leave it empty ‘for future development’. Shame on Sanctuary and everyone involved in this filthy spectacle.

Victoria Infirmary, which opened to patients in 1890 and was to become a major teaching hospital, finally closed in 2015 as the future of the huge Langside site was uncertain.

Sanctuary Housing has taken over the development and the £29.3million first phase will see the creation of 135 affordable homes and 11 retail units.

Speaking late last year, Peter Martin, Group Director of Sanctuary – Development, said: “The Victoria is one of Scotland’s most eagerly awaited housing projects, so it is gratifying to see the phase 1 in progress.

“These affordable homes will be highly sought after and will breathe new life into a historic site, sowing seeds for the new community on the south side.

“We thank Glasgow City Council for sharing our vision for Victoria and helping to fund 135 affordable and accessible homes that local residents desperately need.

“The new public realm will complement this first phase of homes, creating an attractive, traffic-free route through the development from Battlefield to Queen’s Park.”

The Sanctuary Housing website contains this description of the development: “The regeneration of Victoria’s rich architectural heritage has been a carefully designed project since 2016 and much appreciated by all involved. Renowned Scottish architects have worked closely with Sanctuary’s team of property experts to ensure the plans for the Victoria development evoke a real sense of Glasgow pride.

In a separate statement, Paul Sweeney MSP said: ‘I had a stomach ache when I saw the beautiful sandstone cupolas of James Sellars’ original 1888 service lodge at Victoria Infirmary being brutally demolished on Saturday morning. It was a blatant and unnecessary act of architectural vandalism that opened a gaping wound in the historic skyline of Battlefield and Queen’s Park, giving it a sense of place for 133 years.

“The level of public dissatisfaction with what they have done reveals the gross imbalance of powers in our planning system and the lack of proper democratic oversight of decisions that are agreed privately with unelected council officers using information commercially confidential that cannot be reviewed. Sanctuary could have salvaged the domes and rebuilt them as landscape features, which would have only cost around £20,000 to do, or 0.02% of the site’s £100m development, on which they should make a substantial profit.

“If they wish to regain their shattered reputation among the people of Glasgow, they must undertake to commission a faithful reconstruction of the cupolas as ornamental features on the grounds of the new development. It’s hard not to feel discouraged by the constant battle of wills to preserve our heritage after this week, but I hope the councilors on the planning committee will make a statement this week refusing to consent to the demolition of the Temple sawmill listed art deco on Bearsden Road, which developers want to demolish completely to build even more generic apartments.

A spokesperson for Sanctuary said: ‘We are proud to be investing over £100m in new social housing and much needed homes for sale in Glasgow, securing and creating new jobs and helping to regenerate this iconic site. These plans have been the subject of a comprehensive planning and consultation process lasting more than 18 months, and construction is progressing in accordance with these approvals.

“We recognize and share the public’s affection for domes. Unfortunately, the cupolas at the rear of the building were in too poor condition to be salvaged. But we are happy to be able to keep and improve the cupolas of the three Nightingale districts on Battlefield Road. This improvement includes recreating the well-known and beloved balconies of these buildings, preserving their heritage and history for generations to come.


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