Located on an elevated site to the south of the town centre, above the eastern bank of the Nith sits the Crichton Campus. This pleasant 100 acre park, centred on the Crichton Memorial Church today plays host to the University of Glasgow, University of the West of Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway College, the OU, a hotel, conference and leisure facilities as well as a number of businesses, charities and public bodies. There is even a dairy research and innovation centre onsite, once the farm attached to the hospital. Whilst it is now a site of learning and enterprise, as well as providing a pleasant green recreational space, the campus was founded by a wealthy widow and philanthropist Elizabeth Crichton in 1838 as the Crichton Institute for Lunatics (later renamed the Crichton Royal Hospital). The hospital became known for its progressive care of mental illness with novel techniques such as occupational therapy and art therapy being deployed, as well as sport (the imposing Easterbrook Hall near the main entrance contains a swimming pool, which is still there today, but once formed the Hospital’s hydrotherapy facility).
In the 1890s the Church (designed by the Edinburgh architect Sydney Mitchell) and farm were established. Also, around time of completion of the Church (1897) the hospital’s Physician Superintendent, Dr James Rutherford became impressed by reports of advances in psychiatric care in continental Europe, where patients were grouped and treated in separate buildings tailored to their needs. Rutherford undertook a study tour with Mitchell to Germany to see the approach in action. The learning from their visit to Europe influenced the development of hospital’s infrastructure and the approach to treatment. Rutherford’s contribution are commemorated in the naming of Rutherford House on the campus, which forms part of the University of Glasgow and University of West of Scotland in Dumfries.
In the 20th Century the Crichton became widely known as a location for psychiatric research, under the leadership of German-Jewish émigrés, including Dr Willi Mayer-Gross who fled Nazi Germany in 1933. First working at the Maudsley Hospital in South London, Dr Mayer-Gross later moved to Dumfries to become Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of Clinical Research at Crichton Royal Hospital in 1939, staying at the Crichton until his retirement from clinical practice in 1955. Whilst in Dumfries he wrote “Clinical Psychiatry” which was regarded as a critical post-war Psychiatry textbook.
There are several cafes and restaurants on the campus, in Easterbrook Hall, the Hotel, Crichton Central and the University buildings. It is a perfect place to grab a coffee and rest your legs, or spend some time enjoying the surroundings.