The Lock Hospital was founded for the care and treatment of women suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. No admission or discharge records have survived and, because patients stayed for only a few weeks, it has not been possible to identify more than a small number of them, using the Glasgow censuses from 1841 to 1911. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the following article may give a glimpse into a corner of society for which only limited written evidence remains.
Syphilis had reached Scotland by the fifteenth century, possibly arriving in 1495 with Perkin Warbeck and his band of supporters. Warbeck claimed to be Duke of York, one of the missing “Princes in the Tower” and, as such, the rightful heir to the English throne which Henry VII occupied. Warbeck was well received at the court of Scots king, James IV, and in September 1496 the Scottish forces, together with Warbeck’s multinational mercenaries, made a half-hearted foray into northern England. The invasion soon fizzled out but Warbeck’s followers left Scotland with an unexpected and unwelcome legacy.
A year later, legislation was enacted to protect the King’s “liegis fra this contagius seikness”, involving the transportation of all those infected with the disease to the island of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth. This early experiment in social hygiene failed and the disease continued to spread. It affected every level of society. Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary Queen of Scots, suffered from syphilis and when her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, died chained to a pillar in a Danish gaol, it is likely that he was in the tertiary stages of the illness.