From cradle to the grave, Simpson's starts to bite dust

DEMOLITION crews have started the painstaking job of pulling down the city's famous Simpson's maternity hospital.

Within six weeks there will be no sign of the building which holds magical memories for generations of Edinburgh people.

Almost a third of a million babies were born at the old maternity hospital over its 70-year history, but around two years from now, a complex of one, two and three-bedroom flats will stand in its place.

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The concrete frame of the Lauriston Place landmark is expected to be dismantled in three weeks. It is being pulled apart piece-by-piece due to asbestos in the structure. The entire building is expected to be flattened by the end of November.

It is four years since doctors and nurses moved from the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion to modern facilities at Little France.

The Simpson's is the latest part of the ERI complex to be knocked down as part of the 350 million Quartermile development.

Evening News columnist and Forth One DJ Grant Stott saw both his children - nine-year-old Sam and five-year-old Lori - born at the Simpson's.

He said: "I have great memories of the place, but you could tell when Sam was born that it had had its time and new facilities were needed. The advice when Sam was born was that although I was welcome at the birth, it was very much about the mother, which was spot on.

"But I was doing a bit of TV at the time and the nurses were all fussing about me at first, and my wife Claire always ribs me about it as she was the one lying there needing the attention.

"The staff on both occasions were great and the memories of the place will still live on." The Simpson's first opened its doors in 1939 but closed in March 2002 when the facility was moved to the new ERI site in Little France.

When the hospital moved to its new base, the Evening News ran a successful campaign to retain its historic name.

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The Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion was named after pioneering doctor James Young Simpson, but later became universally known to generations of city residents as simply "the Simpson's".

Yvonne Clark, 52, of Queensferry Road, clinical manager of the labour suite at the new ERI, worked as a midwife at the Simpson's for more than 20 years, and was one of the last to leave the old building.

She said: "When we left the old Simpson's it was the building that we left behind, not the memories. It was quite an eerie feeling being one of the last ones to leave, but to be honest we didn't get too much time to dwell on it because we were all really busy with the move.

"It was only in the months that followed that you began to really appreciate what had happened.

"The difference in facilities with the new building is noticeable, but I think the level of care is still as strong as ever.

"I still drive past and peer in to see what progress has been made with the site and I expect a lot of people will be doing that over the coming years."

A spokeswoman for Gladedale Capital, the developer behind Quartermile, said the building's deteriorating condition meant there was finally no option but to demolish it.

She said: "The building has significant asbestos content and has experienced a series of structural difficulties since it was built in the 1930s. These resulted in the building being clad with low cost fibreglass panels backed with polystyrene, to resemble sandstone in the 1970s.

"Since then there has been significant further deterioration, and demolition is the only option to allow for the regeneration of this important part of the city centre."

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