Century Old Time Capsule Unearthed At New Hospital Site

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By Cara Sulieman

IT had lain forgotten for the past century.

But builders unearthed more than just foundations when they knocked down an old building to help make way for a new hospital.

Buried beneath the rubble was a 100 year old time capsule packed full of newspapers, maps and pictures showing what life was like in Edinburgh all those years ago.

An eagle eyed construction worker spotted papers sticking out of a large piece of brickwork during the demolition and stopped the work.

Now the treasure recovered from the Paderewski Building at the Western General Hospital is to be preserved go on display in the new Royal Victoria Building that will replace it.

Alistair Johnston, project leader Laing O’Rourke, described the moment when workers found the stash.

He said: “We are all really excited.”

“The guys were working as normal when one of them noticed papers sticking out of the stone.

Bottle

“They started to investigate and realised what they had found. It was a large glass bottle, filled with lots of old newspapers, maps and pictures.

“We picked it out of the earth and the rubble while trying to keep it as intact as possible.

“But we knew straight away it was really old.”

The time capsule was part of celebrations to mark the creation of a new children’s home for the Craigleith Hospital and Poorhouse – which went on to become the Western General Hospital.

The children’s home was later requisitioned by the Army in 1914 to treat casualties from the First World War.

The ownership of the poorhouse and hospital was passed over to Edinburgh Town Council in 1930 who decided to upgrade the facilities and equip it as a teaching hospital.

Renamed the Western General Hospital, it held 280 beds and the children’s home become the Paderewski Building.

Stone

Included in the glass jar were three different newspapers, a signed diary and a copy of the order of service from the time capsule ceremony including speeches and hymns.

Dignitaries also popped in a map of the city and minutes from the meeting that granted planning permission for the site.

The papers were placed inside a sealed glass jar that was inside a large stone that formed part of the brickwork in 1913 and reveal the story of the building.

Currently being looked after at the Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA), copies of the documents found will be put on display in the new Royal Victoria Building when it is completed in 2012.

Project Manager Sue Gardiner said: “We were unaware that a time capsule had ever been created and stored on the site.

“It came as a real surprise.

“We intend to keep the contents for generations to come and will create a display in the new Royal Victoria Building.”

Laura Bruard, Assistant Archivist, of (LHSA), said: “Surprisingly, given the length of time that it has been buried, the capsule’s contents are extremely well preserved.

“They provide a fascinating insight into the origins of the Children’s Home at Craigleith Poorhouse, later part of the Western General Hospital.

Planning

“The Edinburgh Parish Council Chairman’s Committee minutes in particular show that planning decisions then were subject to disagreement, just as much as nowadays.

“We are really excited to add the time capsule to our collection.

“We can help ensure that the Paderewski time capsule also remains accessible for generations to come.”

The archives at NHS Lothian already stores material from a time capsule found at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion in 1997.

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