Demolition of Victoria Infirmary’s 133 year old cupolas by housing association branded “act of architectural vandalism”

The former infirmary in the southside is being turned into homes.

The Victoria infirmary’s distinctive cupolas on the ward division have been torn down as part of plans for new housing.

MSP Paul Sweeney tweeted his dismay at the demolition of the spires at the weekend, writing: “This morning, @WeAreSanctuary brutally tore down these beautiful 133 year-old sandstone cupolas on James Sellars' original 1888 ward pavilion at the Victoria Infirmary. A flagrant and unnecessary act of architectural vandalism. As if they haven't debased their reputation enough.”

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

Picture: Sanctuary Housing

South Glasgow Heritage & Environment Trust wrote: “It's almost as if there is still no genuine understanding at policy level of the historic environment & landscape, nor of embodied carbon, and demolition and construction's huge role in carbon emissions... just some gestures and a dying world.”

Mr Sweeney added: “What is the plan for this site, you may ask? Nothing. They covertly sought to amend their planning consent from what was originally approved to tear down this ward block, just to leave it empty 'for future development'. Shame on Sanctuary, and all involved in this foul spectacle.”

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

Sanctuary Housing took on the development and the £29.3 million first phase will see 135 affordable homes and 11 retail units being created.

Speaking at the end of last year, Peter Martin, Sanctuary’s Group director – Development, said: "The Victoria is one of Scotland’s most eagerly-anticipated housing projects so it’s rewarding to see phase 1 underway.

"These affordable homes will be highly sought after and bring new life to a historic site, sowing seeds for the South Side’s newest community.

"We thank Glasgow City Council for sharing our vision for the Victoria and helping fund 135 affordable, accessible homes 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."

Sanctuary Housing’s website has this description of the development: “The regeneration of The Victoria’s rich architectural heritage has been a project carefully crafted since 2016 and highly valued by all involved. Reputable Scottish architects have worked very closely with the Sanctuary team of property experts to ensure that the plans for The Victoria development evoke a true sense of Glaswegian pride.”

In a further statement, Paul Sweeney MSP said: “I felt sick to my stomach when I witnessed the beautiful sandstone cupolas on James Sellars' original 1888 ward pavilion at the Victoria Infirmary being brutally torn down on Saturday morning. It was a flagrant and unnecessary act of architectural vandalism that has opened a gaping wound in the historic skyline of Battlefield and Queen's Park that has given it a sense of place for 133 years.

“The level of public upset at what they have done reveals the gross power imbalance in our planning system, and the lack of proper democratic oversight of decisions that are agreed in private with unelected council officers using commercially confidential information that cannot be scrutinised. Sanctuary could have salvaged the cupolas and rebuilt them as landscape features, which would have only cost around £20,000 to do, 0.02% of the £100 million cost of developing the site, which they stand to make a substantial profit on.

“If they wish to recover their shattered reputation amongst Glaswegians then they should commit to commissioning a faithful reconstruction of the cupolas as ornamental features in the grounds of the new development. It's hard not to feel despondent about the constant battle of wills to preserve our heritage after this week, but I hope Councillors on the Planning Committee will make a statement this week by refusing consent to demolish the listed art deco Temple Sawmill on Bearsden Road, which developers want to completely demolish to build yet more generic looking flats.”

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

“We recognise and share the public’s fondness for the cupolas. Sadly the cupolas at the rear of the building were in too poor condition to be salvaged. But we are pleased to be able to retain and improve the cupolas on the three Nightingale wards on Battlefield Road. This improvement includes the recreating of the well-known and well-loved balconies on these buildings, preserving their heritage and story for generations to come.”