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The History of St Columba’s Hospice

History of St Columba's Hospice


In 2017 St Columba’s Hospice is marking its 40th year. We opened in 1977 and in the four decades that have passed since then we have seen many changes. Here, we look to delve a little in to the history of St Columba’s Hospice. 

The history of St Columba’s Hospice goes back to the mid-1960s when, following a visit to St Christopher’s in London, Ann Weatherill – Matron of Corstorphine and Beech Mount Hospital in Edinburgh – was so inspired by the care given to the dying that together with Dr Derek Doyle she created a committee to raise the money needed to build Scotland’s first modern hospice.

After many years of fundraising, St Columba’s Hospice first opened its doors in 1977 with 15 in-patient beds and three months’ running costs. Over the years it has grown and evolved into an exemplary provider of specialist palliative care for thousands of people with terminal illnesses in Edinburgh and the Lothians, while also providing support to their relatives and loved ones.

The first building acquired by the Hospice was Challenger Lodge, a Grade B listed building designed by William Playfair. It had been used as a headquarters by the Royal Navy in WW2.

The building, with its four columns at the front, overlooked a generous lawn and was surrounded by many mature trees. There was also several other smaller buildings on the site, including a gatehouse, a potting shed, a classroom and a physiotherapy swimming pool.

In order to get Challenger Lodge ready for the first patients to be welcomed, work had to be done on the building. Two wards were created, as well as single rooms and rooms for clinical staff to work from. The basement floor housed the kitchen, laundry and storage facilities. The Hospice was ready to open and welcome patients from 5 December 1977.

Later on, a thirty bed inpatient unit was built, connected to Challenger Lodge through a covered walkway. The rooms in Challenger Lodge were converted in to a day room, chapel, staff room, offices, a seminar room and a plant room. The conversion of Challenger Lodge and new inpatient unit was completed in 1986.

In the timeline below, you can click through to see some of the key moments in our history, as well as some of the quirky things that have happened at the Hospice over the last four decades.

If you want to know about the latest activities and developments at the Hospice, click here to read our news.

Thank you to all the people who have provided information and insight to help make this timeline. If you have been involved with the Hospice throughout the years and would like to tell us about your experience please email us.

Our interactive timeline