The history of Hospitalfield House and Estate


A hospital was built on the site in 1260 to support the new Benedictine Abbey in Arbroath. In 1664, after the reformation, the Reverend James Fraser bought the estate and in 1843 the artist Patrick Allan met and married Elizabeth Fraser. In 1902, following the terms of their bequest, Hospitalfield became an art school, later developing into a post graduate residential college.

In 1260 the Tironensian Benedictine order of monks built a hospital, later converted in to a monastery, with a vantage point over the North Sea, to provide for the many pilgrims travelling across sea and land to their new abbey at Arbroath. After the reformation the estate became privately owned and was acquired in 1664 by the Reverend James Fraser, Minister of Arbroath, and stayed in the Fraser family until 1890. In 1813 Walter Scott visited and was inspired to write his novel the Antiquary published in 1816. The home of The Antiquary, Monkbarns was based on Hospitalfield. The artist Patrick Allan is commissioned to make a series of illustrations for a new edition of the Antiquary, he returned from his London base to his home town of Arbroath and meets and marries the last heir to the estate, Elizabeth Fraser in 1843. They remodel the house creating a significant early Arts & Crafts building including the Picture Gallery, one of Scotland’s most important Victorian rooms. The Allan-Frasers’ left their estates and collections in trust to support artists and education in the arts. In 1902 Hospitalfield opened as a residential art school later altering the constitution in the 1920s to become a post graduate school. So the building became an important home and/or place of study for the early Scottish Modern painters including James Cowie, Robert Colquhoun, Robert MacBryde, Joan Eardley. So strong was the relationship between the four main art schools that there is an imprint of Hospitalfield in many artist’s experience of their student time; the alumni covers an impressive number of generations.

Mortuary Chapel

For Angus Doors Open Day 2020 we have filmed a virtual tour of the Mortuary Chapel led by volunteers Blythe Stockdale and Vika Buharova.

The Mortuary Chapel was designed by Patrick Allan-Fraser as a memorial to his late wife Elizabeth and her deceased parents John Fraser and Elizabeth Parrot Fraser. Work began in 1875 based on an outline plan by Allan-Fraser to which he added details as building progressed. Everyone who visits quickly realises that this is a remarkable building, possibly the most unusual and most instantly appealing of the many fine buildings within Arbroath. However, it is also very important on a national scale. It could claim to be one of the best buildings of its date in Scotland. The building is also notable for its eclectic mix of styles, including reference to Scottish, English and possibly other precedents from East European Gothic. Every part of the building is important because every part received great care in design.

The Mortuary Chapel is located in the Western Cemetery about 25 minutes walk from Hospitalfield.