Foundation and early history
It received a Royal Charter in 1736, and in 1741 moved to a new William Adam-designed facility with 228 beds in High School Yards, near Infirmary Street. In 1832, a surgical hospital was added. The surgical hospital was rebuilt in 1853. The Infirmary had public baths attached later.
In 1879, the infirmary moved to a new location, then in the fresher air of the edge of the city. The site, on Lauriston Place, had been occupied by George Watson's Hospital (a school, known then as a hospital). The school moved a short distance away to the former Merchant Maiden Hospital (another school) in Archibald Place. The original school building, by the same William Adam as the earlier infirmary, was incorporated into the new David Bryce-designed infirmary buildings and the chapel remained in use for the entirety of the infirmary's occupation of the site.
The earlier Infirmary Street buildings were demolished in 1884, replaced with public swimming baths and a school. Part of the colonnade of the original building may still be seen in a monument outside the city's Dreghorn Barracks. The original surgical theatre, which was on the roof of the 1741 building, was re-erected in the garden of a South Side villa. The surgical hospital of 1832/1853 later accommodated the Geography Department of the University of Edinburgh, and other university departments, including Natural Philosophy (now Physics), filled up the High School Yards site.
In the 1920s the hospital required to expand, and once again George Watson's College was asked to move. An arrangement was reached to acquire the school's site, with the school to remain there until new premises could be built elsewhere. By 1932 the school's new premises in Colinton Road were ready, and the old Archibald Place building was demolished to make way for the Simpson Memorial Pavilion, used primarily as a maternity wing.
In 1948, the infirmary was incorporated into the National Health Service (NHS). Over the years it has maintained close ties to the University of Edinburgh.
The present site
The Edinburgh Royal Infirmary has often been described in works of fiction, biography and history, and depicted from both sides of the blanket. A recent example is the series of mainly humorous novels by Colin Douglas, which cover the postwar era up to the 1980s. The first of these was filmed for BBC television in 1986.