IN GLASGOW’s former infectious diseases hospital, Belvidere, an interesting portion of the premises was known as the Dorcas store.

It was a large apartment which, through the kindness of a number of ladies of the city, was kept stocked with clothing for the benefit of the poorer patients, who on leaving the institution, often had little to wear.

It is a tradition which continues at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where a Dorcas Society was founded in 1863 by Beatrice Cogston and Annie Church during the cholera epidemic, when patients’ clothing was often burned to eradicate disease.

Glasgow Times: Nurses in the polio clinic at the Belvidere in 1957

The Dorcas tradition was continued by Mabel McKinley, who visited patients in hospital after the First World War and established Mabel’s tearoom at GRI.

In the 1860s and 1870s, Glasgow Council acquired powers to prevent disease by the introduction and implementation of sanitary measures, but also to support the cure of infectious diseases.

In 1863, Dr William Gairdner became Glasgow’s first Medical Officer of Health. He took steps to establish a proper Department of Public Health. He promoted the City Improvement Act to clear Glasgow slums, the formation of the health committee in the Town Council, the appointment of a sanitary inspector, and the opening of new hospitals, such as Belvidere.

Shortly after Gairdner’s appointment there was a severe outbreak of typhus fever in the Parliamentary Road area. A temporary hospital was erected there which remained until other hospital accommodation adequate for all contingencies was provided.

Glasgow Times: Nurses at the Belvidere in the 1920s

Those working within the department thought that if they were to lower the death rate in the city, and promote health, the council needed to acquire more powers.

Immediately after the Parliamentary Road Hospital was established, a new Police Act for Glasgow was passed giving the city more powers. Previously Glasgow could only deal with cases of infectious diseases during a temporary outbreak of epidemic diseases among the poor.

Under the new act, the council obtained a general authority for the erection of a hospital on a scale and in a style befitting the city. The council urged that this power should be obtained, not as it had been obtained in England by the poor law guardians, but by the council alone.

Glasgow Times: Belvidere Hospital, Glasgow

This afforded security when an outbreak of infectious diseases took place, and dealt with cases in a hospital where the patients from the infected district would be separate from the general population. Crucially, the benefit would apply not merely to the very poor  - to those who were receiving poor relief  - but would extend to the whole industrial and working classes.

They thought this was the great advantage in the institution. It was not a pauper institution, but a hospital where comforts would be the same as people would expect to have their own homes, and where the patients would be made so happy and so comfortable that they would be sorry when the time came for them to leave.

In 1870 Glasgow Council purchased land and buildings at Belvidere estate as the site for a hospital for infectious diseases.

Glasgow Times: Belvidere Hospital

Initially the patients were accommodated in temporary wooden buildings. Belvidere House was demolished, and a nurse’s home was built, prior to the opening of the hospital’s permanent buildings in 1887.

In 1879 contracts for four brick pavilions were agreed and later, many new pavilions were added. By the late 1880s there were 13 permanent pavilions, or 26 wards, with accommodation for 390 adult patients.

In an official visit after the completion of the buildings, the magistrate commented: “I must say that the buildings have given me much satisfaction ... I may say that they have more than fulfilled my expectations, high though these were, and I think that the buildings and the whole of the arrangement were to the highest credit.”

READ NEXT: 'Forgotten children' buried in Glasgow graves remembered as school turns 150

The boundary walls around the building were completed, and it was completely isolated during any outbreak of infectious disease. It was used in 1900 to house those who had been infected by bubonic plague in Glasgow.

Buildings and extensions and extensions continued until 1901. It remained primarily an infectious diseases hospital until after the creation of the National Health Service in 1948. A respiratory medicine unit opened in 1954, and a maternity unit was added in 1962. It was a general geriatric hospital until its closure in 1999.