Saughton House

Government Buildings at Broomhouse Drive, Edinburgh

Saughton House, Government Buildings in Broomhouse Drive ©

Saughton House, Government Buildings in Broomhouse Drive ©

Saughton House, Government Buildings in Broomhouse Drive ©



Gerry Smith

Saughton, Edinburgh

Gerry Smith wrote:

History of Saughton House

"I'm seeking your help, or possibly the help of EdinPhoto's viewers, in solving a puzzle over the history of a Scottish Government Building - Saughton House, Broomhouse Drive, EH11 3XD. 

I currently work in Saughton House, which used to be called Government Buildings, Broomhouse.  In fact I started my civil service career here 33 years ago - although, between then and now, I also worked in several other Scottish Office/ Executive/ Government offices dotted around the city."


"Many of my colleagues claim that Saughton House was originally built as a post-WW2 emergency hospital, possibly with a military use in mind.  In fact a colleague in our Estate Management team has suggested it was constructed using a model that was also used to build hospitals at:

-   Stracathro (near Brechin) and

-  Bridge of Earn and Raigmore (Inverness)."

Purpose Built Building?

"My contention, based on a conversation I had many years ago with a then much older colleague, is that the building was purposely built as office accommodation, although I readily confess that the layout of the two-storey building (a long central corridor with many spurs (wards?) off does give it the appearance of a hospital."


"The building is shown on a 1955 map as 'Government Offices'.

Incidentally, I might add that some visitors to Edinburgh, arriving by train from Glasgow Queen Street (the line passes directly in front of Saughton House) gain the mistaken impression that my place of work is actually Saughton Prison!

Whilst it sometimes feels like that ,we are actually allowed home at the end of each day!"


"Hopefully someone might be able to provide a definitive answer to this conundrum.   If I'm wrong I have promised a bacon roll to a colleague, a bet which I shall grudgingly concede - but not without a fight!"

Gerry Smith, Saughton, Edinburgh:  July 21, 2010

Reply to Gerry?

I don't know the answer to Gerry's question.  I usually find answers to such questions in John Gifford's book: 'The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh' but was surprised to find that the book seems to make no reference to Saughton House.

If you are able to help answer Gerry's question, please email me, then I'll pass your message on to him.    Thank you.

Peter Stubbs:  July 21, 2010




Peter Stubbs


This Wikipedia page gives the following brief comment about Saughton House:


"Saughton House is a large Government building fronting on Broomhouse Drive and houses

-  The Scottish Executive

-  HM Revenue and Customs

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

a number of other Government offices.

Originally built as a hospital, its distinctive spurs are now used as office accommodation."

Wikipedia Page

Note:  This Wikipedia page was last modified on July 19, 2010.

However, the page quotes no  source for the information given, and is described by  Wikipedia as 'a stub'  i.e.  an article that provides no more than rudimentary information about a subject.

Perhaps one of the EdinPhoto readers will be able to provide further details.

Peter Stubbs:  July 21, 2010



Terry McGuire

Coventry, Warwickshire, England

Thank you to Terry McGuire, Coventry, Warwickshire, England for adding ta comment in the EdinPhoto guest book.  Terry wrote


"My wife, maiden name, Jean Moncur, moved from Duddingston House to the new Government Buildings at Saughton House with the Scottish Dental Estimates Board.  It was said to have been designed as a hospital in case of national emergencies."

Message posted in EdinPhoto guest book:  July 22, 2010



Gerry Smith

Saughton, Edinburgh

Thank you to Gerry Smith who added:


"I'm still on the case.  I've been looking at Canmore and Scran sites, as well as some other online sources.  There is mention of 7 or 8 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) hospitals built in Scotland in the early years of WW2, but no reference to Broomhouse.   A feature of these EMS hospitals was that, unlike Saughton House, they were all single-storey."

Government Buildings

"I'm still not at all convinced Saughton House was built as a hospital.  There is another similar Government building (of the same vintage) at Bankhead Avenue, Sighthill.  It can be seen on this Google map.  I've also visited similar buildings in England over the years"

Message posted in EdinPhoto guest book:  July 22, 2010



Danny Callaghan

Saughton, Edinburgh

Thank you to Danny Callaghan who also replied.  Danny's comments arrived before I had added Gerry Smith's comments (Answer 3) to the web site.

However, both Gerry and Danny referred to the two government buildings in the area:

1.  Saughton House

2.  Sighthill

Emergency Hospitals

"I've worked in Saughton House many times in my role in the supply of office furniture, supplying many government depts. throughout the building.

My friend also worked there in the early 1970s.  At that time he was told that if there was a major emergency, the offices would have to be vacated urgently so that Saughton House could be turned back into a hospital.  

The government offices in Sighthill are similar design, although single storey, and the same applied there.


About 12 or 15 years ago, Saughton House underwent a major refurbishment with new roofs and windows being fitted.  I think that previously it was flat roofs but I'm not quite sure.

The offices, called spurs, are very pleasant as due to the layout they all have lots of windows and natural light, but yet a footprint which allows plenty space. 

They are surrounded with lots of green space.    Its major problem is lack of parking, so much so that households close by rent out their drives to staff.

Danny Callaghan:  July 23, 2010



Jim Cairns

Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Jim Cairns who also commented on both sets of government buildings, Sighthill and Saughton House.

Jim wrote:


"I worked in the government offices at Sighthill in the 1970s.  They were single-storey, flat-roofed with corridors and 'spurs'. 

It was generally known that the offices were intended to double up as a hospital in the event of casualties being on a par with, or worse than, those in the First World War.  Thankfully they were not needed.

Bankhead Avenue

"The Bankhead Avenue offices have been given a great face-lift.

When I started there in the 1970s, the offices had whitewashed interior brick walls and metal windows which leaked and streamed with condensation.  Changed days!"

Jim Cairns, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland:  July 321, 2010



Jim O'Rourke

Stenhouse, Edinburgh

Jim O'Rourke wrote:

HM Inspector of Taxes

"Iím sitting in Saughton House now.  It was the site of my first full-time job in 1975, working for HM Inspector of Taxes London Provincial 21.

The Inland Revenue had two other offices in what was then the Government Buildings, Broomhouse; LP 23 and LAO 7 (Collector of Taxes).  LP 21 moved out in 1976 to the, then, brand new Trinity Park House, which was demolished last year!"


"Iíve lived in  Stenhouse all my life.  As as a lad, we heard stories that Saughton House was a hospital and had been built by German prisoners of war. I also heard tell it was built as Commonwealth Games athletes accommodation as Edinburgh had hoped to hold them after the war.

Do we know what year it was built?"

Jim O'Rourke, Stenhouse, Edinburgh:  December 8, 2010



Sheila Stewart

Stenhouse, Edinburgh

Thank you to Sheila Stewart who wrote:


"I lived in Carrick Knowe during the 1940s and 1950s and remember 'The Government Offices' being built on what had originally been lovely fields where, as small children, we were taken for walks and picked poppies.  There were no horrible offices then.  We climbed the 'steps' at the railway to watch the trains."


"I was not born during the war, so I don't know where the hospital story comes from."

Sheila Stewart:  February 17, 2011



C (David) Davie

Stenhouse, Edinburgh

Thank you to C David Davie who wrote:

Designed as a Hospital?

"I lived in Stenhouse Road from 1934 until about 1947/48 when our family moved to the upper part of Broomhouse Grove when the new housing estate was being built.

Saughton House was built after the housing construction was completed, probably about 1950/1, although I cannot recall it being named as such then.  I can assure you it was built as a Government Office Complex and occupied as such

I left Scotland in 1955 and until I came across this site to-day, I had never heard of any reference as to Saughton House being designed as a Hospital."

Saughton House Site


"During the war years, I used to play on Pat Shaws Farm.  Their Dairy and farm buildings were situated about 100 meters SE of where the shopping complex is now

The dairy herd used to graze where Saughton house now stands."

C David Davie:  May 29, 2012

Designed as a Hospital?

I've checked the Wikipedia page for Saughton.   It has a very brief note about Saughton House, ending with this comment about the building:

"Originally built as a hospital, its distinctive spurs are now used as office accommodation."

This Wikipedia page does not give any citation for the comment above.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  June 5, 2012



Lisanne Valente

Sighthill, Edinburgh

Thank you to Lisanne Valente who wrote:

Built as a Hospital

"Saughton House was not built as offices, but as a hospital.

It was built in the late-1940s in a prefab condition, and was used to house war wounded.  It was used to help those with severe problems, both mentally and physically, and get them back on their feet with a purpose in life.

In the 1970s, the building became Government Offices, LAO7 and LP23 together with teacher superannuation division.  It housed the Data Information Centre and was a centre for data input.

I believe it changed in the 90's to a driving centre."

Lisanne Valente, Sighthill, Edinburgh::  December 10, 2012 (2 emails)



Lisanne Valente

Sighthill, Edinburgh

Thank you to Lisanne Valente for writing again with further details about the early days of Saughton House.

Lisanne wrote:

Saughton House Hospital

"My dad was an officer during the war, based at Redford barracks where he trained new soldiers.

He was also part of the Officers' Committee involved in the project, 'Saughton House Hospital' for the rehabilitation of war wounded.

An emergency hospital (prefab) was originally put in place but this was not suitable for some of the severely injured men.  The war wounded remained in this hospital into the late-1950s.

It was then taken over by government services who eventually made it into offices. I worked in LAO7 which was beside LP23 in the late-1970s."

Lisanne Valente, Sighthill, Edinburgh::  December 14, 2012



Reginald Birkenhead

Thank you to Reginald Birkenhead who wrote:

Saughton House

Built as a Hospital?

"I  used to live at Carrick Knowe,  just after the war.  I also used to work in Saughton House.

I was told by a neighbour that Saughton House was built as a hospital but never used as such."

Reginald Birkenhead,:  2 February 2017


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