Christmas: Mount Stuart in WWI

05 December 2017

We’ve been looking in our archive for Christmas stories this festive season (some more loosely linked than others!) and have found this photo of staff and patients surrounded by Christmas decorations from Mount Stuart’s time as a naval hospital during World War One.

Staff and patients at Mount Stuart dated 1 January 1915.

Augusta Crichton Stuart, Marchioness of Bute, wife of the 4th Marquess, offered Mount Stuart to the Admiralty as a naval hospital at the outbreak of War.  Far enough away from the main theatre of war, but close to the clearing hospital in Edinburgh and near to Glasgow, the Isle of Bute was in the perfect position for a hospital of this kind. Lady Bute oversaw the transformation of the house and organised the provision of wards, x-ray facilities and an operating theatre.


The Horoscope Room’s conservatory in use as an operating theatre. From their position in this room patients were ‘looking up’ at the spire of the Marble Chapel. The Marchioness is the figure second from the left.

Mount Stuart was run as a hospital from 1914 to January 1919 under the direction of William McEwen (1848-1924) who was a Bute native and pioneer in brain surgery.

During this time the Marchioness assisted with the treatment of over 2,000 patients, after completing nurses training at the Scottish General Hospital at Stobhill. She was made a Dame of the British Empire by King George V in recognition of her work during the War. Over the course of its life as a hospital Mount Stuart saw many soldiers pass through its wards with a variety of injuries and diseases such as influenza, malaria and syphilis, TB, pneumonia, epilepsy, neurasthenia (related to shellshock), and bronchial issues in soldiers gassed in the trenches. There were 834 operations carried out under general anaesthetic at Mount Stuart including 48 appendectomies, 14 amputations, 28 bones plated together and the removal of 2 testicles; of the 2,120 men admitted to the hospital 13 died while at Mount Stuart.

The Marble Hall, or Middle Ward, accommodated 50 patients.

Entertainment was organised by the staff, or the patients themselves, with concerts and amateur dramatic productions performed in the wards. Other performances were provided by professional artists, who came once a fortnight and gave a concert in the afternoon. The patients also enjoyed picnics, cricket matches, games of lawn bowls, races on the lawn and other sporting activities in the summer. Free trips to take in the local scenery and fresh Highland air were organised by locals and excursions were made to local cinemas where the soldiers were admitted free of charge and given free cigarettes. Officers who were convalescing at Mount Stuart were able to go fishing in the lochs and, in the winter, shooting was organised in the grounds or woods.

During its use as hospital no graffiti or marks where ever reported on any furniture or paneling at Mount Stuart indicating the respect the staff and patients had for the house.