Early July Special: Voices from the Belvidere

On the 4th July from 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm we are excited to invite all you ladies to Voices from the Belvidere, a session that will showcase the remarkable resolve and innovation of women during one of the country’s hardest times.

For a little while now, the GWL has been fascinated by the stories of the remarkable, selfless women who served the Belvidere Fever Hospital of the East End during and surrounding the chaos and uncertainty of WW1. Having conducted gripping research, we are thrilled to be presenting their stories. From dramatic monologues to revealing insights of the complexities of society, gender and health at the time, we will bring back to life the extraordinary accounts of the nurses who put their lives at risk to treat fevers they struggled to control, the gender-defying status of the women doctors who stepped up to the plate to cure the sick and the triumphant tales of the forward-thinking, rebellious kitchen staff who brought colour and vibrancy to an otherwise frightening place.

The site that was once home to the imposing Belvidere Fever Hospital is only around one mile east of the GWL, close to Parkhead Stadium and nowadays nestled within the modern Belvidere Village. The building that would become the hospital was originally purchased by Glasgow City as a temporary facility intended to serve and comprise part of the old Belvidere Estate. The city-wide outbreak of relapsing fever in 1870 and bursting capacities quickly met at the Royal Infirmary and Kennedy Street hospitals, however, saw the facility transformed into what became the Fever Hospital, with a patient count of 366 over 250 beds by March 1871. Because of the site’s relatively isolated and leafy location, it was ideal for the treatment of city patients with highly infectious diseases and fevers, and the facility quickly became a permanent smallpox hospital. Over the course of the next quarter century leading into the early 1900s, the Belvidere underwent huge redesign and structural change, most notably with the installation of great wooden isolation pavilions and designation seclusion areas that remained extended from the original structure until 1901.

Through the trails of WWI and II, the hospital endured as the primary location where patients with infectious, and increasingly exotic, diseases were stabilized, treated and often cured. Upon the creation of the NHS in 1948, the Belvidere was placed under the support jurisdiction of the Royal Infirmary, which redesigned its purpose once again and utilized it as a geriatric care home until its eventual closure in 1999. Afterwards, the Belvidere Hospital remained derelict until 2006, when all but the administration and nurses block was knocked down and demolished. This majestic structure, an enduring reminder of the incredible, steadfast women who saved lives while risking their own, is now all that remains of a facility that cared for the health of Glasgow citizens for over a century. This particular building, the home of the hospital’s thousands of nurses and the nursing school that trained them, had quickly acquired a reputation for producing nurses of some of the highest calibre world-over. Attractive in that the nurses’ building was open and airy with separate room for each nurse, it proved an essential factor in attracting “respectable” and intelligent young women to work there. In times of fear and desperation such as those in WW1, relatively luxurious living conditions such as those offered in Belvidere’s nurses home supplied a great deal of compensation for the obvious dangers of working so intimately within a hospital for infectious diseases. Nevertheless, a great number of the brave nurses who worked within the hopsital died from diseases acquired from the patients they were treating.

Let’s never let their sacrifices be forgotten.

Booking

This event is women only and we prefer for tickets to be booked in advance whenever possible. This event costs £2 full price. Select the number of tickets you want to book below, or come in to the Library to book. We offer subsidised free places for students, people on a low income, unemployed or those in receipt of benefit and Friends of GWL. If you are eligible for a subsidised place visit our website, or come in to the Library to book.

If you have booked a place and are no longer able to attend please let us know so that we can make your place available to someone else.

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