Memories of St Joseph’s

Please enjoy this short film commissioned for our Centenary on the History of St Joseph’s.

Our beginnings

On the 20th January 1924 four sisters from the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul first arrived at the Whitehill estate in Rosewell to get the house ready to support children with a learning disability.

The House was now called St Joseph’s as St Joseph had watched over a small house in Nazareth – he was chosen as the patron of this new large house and family.

Although the house was large, there was no water, no light and no heating except for coal fires – the water had been turned off by the Lothian Coal Company as water was only for private houses and not a hospital.

  • 1924

    The first 20 young people arrived at St Joseph’s.

  • 1930

    Whitehill house first got electricity – this meant no more gas or paraffin lamps.

  • 1932

    An extension was opened that could accommodate 100 males.

  • 1934

    By this time there were 160 people living and being supported at St Joseph’s

  • 1937

    Occupational therapy begins – this was originally focused on supporting people to channel their energy into various types of craft activity. This evolved over the years into person centred creative and leisure pursuits and also for paid work opportunity.

  • 1940

    The chapel, dining room and recreational room were opened.


With the introduction of the National Health Service Act of 1947, St Joseph’s began its contractual agreement with the Regional Health Board – which became the Lothian Health board. This led to a significant increase in the size of St Joseph’s, there were now over 200 people living in St Joseph’s.

  • 1942

    The General Nursing Council for Scotland granted approval for a Nurse Training School to be established, this was a 3 year course. There was always a focus within St Joseph’s on training and development.

  • 1951

    A Boy Scouts and Girl Guides troop was formed.

  • 1960’s

    Some people supported by St Joseph’s from the 1960’s were supported to move into homes in the community, developing their skills in full time employment and completely independent lifestyles.

  • 1962

    The General Nursing Council approved the School of Nursing for the two year enrolled nurses course.

  • 1969

    A special school was built in the grounds of the Whitehill estate for younger children with a learning disability to attend.

  • 1971

    ‘The children’s ward’ another purpose built facility for children was opened.

Early 1980’s

4 / 5 Houses were provided by Midlothian Council for people to live independently in their own homes, visiting support was given.

  • 1980’s

    Occupational Therapy is focusing on a ‘readiness model’ supporting people to be ready to live in the community with individual and group programmes designed to teach people the necessary skills required for community living.

  • 1981

    The swimming pool was opened offering the opportunity for enjoyment, learning to swim and for physiotherapy.

    Music Therapy was available on an individual and group basis.

  • 1982

    Pope John Paul II visits St Joseph’s – In June 1982 His Holiness Pope John Paul visited St Joseph’s, delivering a special address in the chapel. He was met by about 4000 people and he spent time speaking to residents, parents, relatives, Sisters, Staff and Visitors.

  • Late 1980’s

    3 more houses in the community were established, with 24 hour support being provided.

  • 1993

    The Care In the Community White paper transferred responsibility (and funding) from Health to Social Services. St Joseph’s was invited to continue supporting people in smaller care homes in a community setting.

  • 1995

    People are now being supported in 9 houses in the community as well as in St Joseph’s Hospital.

  • 1998/1999

    An additional 8 community houses were completed.

In 1999 St Joseph’s Hospital / The Big House closed.

  • 2000 – 2003

    St Joseph’s focuses on the establishment of the houses in the community.

  • 2009

    Winnie Tuohy became the first Lay Director of Services of St Joseph’s Services.

    St Joseph’s Services Signs up for the Charter for involvement.

  • 2010

    The first 3 Circles of Best Practice are created – with the person supported at the centre of their support.

  • 2011

    ‘The Big Plan’ with the people St Joseph’s Supports was undertaken.

  • 2011/2012

    All of St Joseph’s Services (apart from one small care home) were de-registered as care homes and registered as Housing Support / Care at Home ensuring everyone has choice and control over their lives.

  • 2012

    The Board of Advisors was formed, made up of people St Joseph’s Supported, Staff members and professional volunteers.

  • 2013

    The Board of Advisors present their first easy read policy to the Trustees.

  • 2015

    St Joseph’s was registered as an independent charity and company with its own governance structure and became a member of The Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul Services.

    St Joseph’s Services becomes a Living Wage Employer.

  • 2016

    The First Minister of Scotland visits St Joseph’s Services.

    Robert Jahoda is appointed as St Joseph’s Chief Executive Officer.

    Having been so taken with the hospitality of St Joseph’s the First Minister invites the Board of Advisors for lunch at the Scottish Parliament.

  • 2017

    The Fourth Circle of Best Practice was created.

  • 2018

    A person we support was elected as chair of the National Involvement Network.


St Joseph’s launched its new logo and our new strapline – ‘Where the Person Matters’.

  • 2020

    St Joseph’s Homes was created and registered as an independent charity.

  • 2021

    St Joseph’s Homes bought its first properties.

    Sister Eileen Glancy retires as St Joseph’s Chair and Sister Kathleen Fox is elected chair of St Joseph’s Services.

  • 2024

    St Joseph’s celebrates our centenary

A reflection on St Joseph’s History

‘You are not today what you were yesterday or what you will be tomorrow’

This insight of St Vincent de Paul shared in a conference with the Daughters of Charity on 13th February 1646 is as applicable to us today as it was at that time.

The Daughters of Charity and the staff at St Joseph’s always ensured that the ‘big house’ was a home for the people who lived there. Our Vincentian values were embedded and governed our practice and people with a learning disability were supported to lead a fulfilling life at a time when society believed that people would receive the best care if they lived in a hospital/ institution. It is very difficult for us to imagine today what life was like for the people admitted to St Joseph’s – particularly in the 20’s and 30’s – like all ‘institutional type’ settings we recognise that St Joseph’s had its struggles as well as its achievements. St Joseph’s was always a welcoming environment and was a part of the local community.

St Joseph’s Services is very thankful that society has changed and the model of social care for people with a learning disability has evolved and improved so significantly – people with a learning disability should not live in a hospital environment. The people we support should be in their own home, in the community with the right package of care available to them. This was recognised as early as the 1960’s by St Joseph’s when our first community based houses were opened.

We have come far as a society and we have made significant steps to enshrine the human rights of people with a learning disability and offer everyone equal opportunities. However, although everyone should have equal rights, people with a learning disability can and do experience disadvantage and stigma. St Joseph’s Services will continue to do everything it can to ensure all adults with a learning disability live their best lives in a world that is inclusive and equal.

Get in touch

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0131 440 7200

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