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King James VI Hospital

An historic and nowadays unusual place of accommodation on Hospital Street in the centre of Perth, King James VI Hospital occupies an A-listed building which dates from 1750. Constructed at a cost of 1614-10s-7d, the grey-harled edifice comprises a main block of four storeys and an attic, with wings of equal height forming an H-plan. It features ashlar quoins and window margins. The original entrance was to the south, but it is now on the northern facade with a small head on the wall above. Above that a plaque records that the hospital was "Founded by King James the Sixth 1587". The central block is surmounted by an unusual octagonal belfry with an ogee roof, windows and a clock. This is said to have been taken from Nairne House, once located near Bankfoot in Strathord but demolished in 1748 having been forfeit after the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion.

Built to provide a home for the poor, a school and an infirmary to care for the sick, this building occupies the site of a Carthusian monastery (or Charterhouse), which was founded in 1429 by King James I (1394 - 1437). This was the only Carthusian monastery in Scotland and both James and his wife, Jane Beaufort were buried here, together with Margaret Tudor, wife of James IV. The modern Pomarium Street, which lies just to the southwest of the Hospital, is most-likely named after the monastic orchard. The monastery was destroyed in 1559 a victim of the Reformation but a monument in the northeast corner of the Hospital grounds commemorates its foundation. The Hospital was actually founded on 9th August 1569 by a Royal Charter granted by James Stuart, Earl of Moray (1531-70), who was acting as Regent for James VI. The Hospital was wealthy having been granted property and revenues which had belonged to the church, although this was much-eroded over the years and the residents were certainly expected to work in return for their accommodation. When James VI reached his majority and took the reigns of power, he granted the Hospital a new charter dated 29th July 1587, which did little more than confirm the terms of the 1569 charter.

The early hospital occupied different buildings, including the old Mediaeval hospital of St. Anne's. In 1596 a new building was constructed next to the river beside Perth Bridge. This was demolished by Oliver Cromwell's army, after they occupied Perth in 1651, providing stone to build their citadel on the South Inch.

Change came in 1814 when a new infirmary (now the A.K. Bell Library) was opened nearby and the requirement for the poor to live in the Hospital was relaxed.

In 1974-5 the building was converted into twenty-one flats which are still run by a Hospital Master overseen by a group known as the Managers, comprising the Ministers and Elders of Perth's two principal churches (St. John's Kirk and Letham St. Mark's Church). The original Boardroom was left unchanged - and represents a remarkable survival with wood-panelled walls bearing the names of the original donors who gave money towards the hospital.

The Hospital and its charitable works are now maintained by the rents from the flats it contains, augmented by a sum of around 35,000 per annum which represents income from farmland bequeathed to the Hospital in the 17th and 18th centuries (known as the Scones Lethendy Mortification).


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