The first hospital at Gartnaval was the Glasgow Royal Lunatic Asylum, which opened on the site in 1843. However, this was the second site of the asylum, having originally opened in the Cowcaddens area in 1814.
The College was involved in all aspects of the early development of asylums in the city. It appointed physicians to the asylum, for example its first, Dr Robert Cleghorn in 1814. It was also responsible for inspecting asylums and reporting on their conditions as part of the 1815 Act to Regulate Madhouses in Scotland. This continued until 1857, when the Lunacy (Scotland) Act changed the way asylums were monitored. These records are held in the College’s archive.
The hospital became Gartnaval Royal Hospital in 1963, and in 1972 the Gartnaval General Hospital was also opened at the site.
Cleghorn was a physician, pharmacologist, and president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow from 1788-1791. He was the first physician appointed to Gartnavel when it opened in 1814. A collection of Cleghorn's case books are held within the College's archives and give insight into his works in operations, treatments, and patient cases.
At the beginning of 2020, the College hosted four undergraduate students from the University of Glasgow’s Scottish Literature department. These students studied Cleghorn's case books searching for "voices of humanity" within medical writings.
Jennifer Finn analysed the writings of Cleghorn on the patients at the Glasgow Asylum for Lunatics, notes which were added to by John Balmanno who took over from Cleghorn as physician to the Asylum. Finn writes:
"Cleghorn presents his notes in a professional and clinical manner, giving an interesting insight into medical views of mental health in the early nineteenth-century. It is clear from Cleghorn’s notes that when observing and caring for patients in the Asylum there is a greater focus on the patient’s physical health, rather than mental health – something which might suggest belief of a correlation between a person’s physical and mental wellbeing."
Cleghorn had a particular interest in the correlation between a patient's digestive health and their mental health. He focuses on the bowel movements of his patients and gives treatments to purge the system in order to better their mental states.
Finn also compares the writing styles of Cleghorn and Balmanno found within the case book:
"Doctors Cleghorn and Balmanno, in this notebook, present their experiences at the Glasgow Asylum in writing in different ways. Cleghorn conforms to clinical, medical roots, whereas Balmanno embraces the more humanity-bearing informality of comedy, and real experience. There is no claim that either doctor is more or less compassionate or capable at their job than the other, however for the purpose of finding evidence of humanity in the notebook, the stark differences between these two have been instrumental to the exploration of this concept."