Century-old time capsule unearthed at RVB site

A forgotten 100-year-old time capsule has been unearthed by building workers as they create a brand new hospital building.

A construction worker made the find as an old building was demolished to make way for the new Royal Victoria Building at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

The treasure trove, which dates back nearly 100 years, was found sealed in a glass jar inside a large stone.

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.”

The capsule was spotted by a construction worker, who saw papers sticking out of the large piece of brickwork during the demolition of the Paderewski Building and alerted his foreman.

 Alistair Johnston, project leader Laing O’Rourke, said:

“We are all really excited. The guys were working as normal when one of them noticed papers sticking out of the stone. 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 had been sealed 97 years ago in 1913 to mark the creation of a new children’s home for the Craigleith Hospital and Poorhouse, which went on to become the site of the modern-day Western General Hospital. 

The children’s home, which was built for just £7180, was erected adjacent to the main building. 

It was requisitioned by the Army in 1914 to treat casualties from the First World War. In 1929, parish councils were abolished, and ownership of the poorhouse and hospital was transferred to Edinburgh Town Council in 1930. 

The council decided to upgrade the facilities and equip Craigleith as a teaching hospital with 280 beds, with the new name of the Western General Hospital. The children’s home became known as the Paderewski Building. 

A special ceremony had been held to mark the occasion and the capsule was inserted into a memorial stone. The stone was then used to form the fabric of the building.

 Local dignitaries of the day then carefully slid in copies of three different newspapers, a signed diary and a copy of the order of service which included speeches and hymns.

 A map of Edinburgh and minutes from a meeting granting planning permission were also sealed inside.

 Laura Brouard, Assistant Archivist, of Lothian Health Services Archive (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.
 “The Edinburgh Parish Council Chairman’s Committee minutes in particular show that planning decisions then were subject to disagreement, just as much as nowadays.”

 The collection will now be added into the LHSA and it is planned that replicas will be put on display in the new Royal Victoria Building when it is complete in 2012.

 LHSA already holds material from a time capsule found at the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion in 1997.

 Laura added:

 “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.”