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Asylums

Without doubt the most covered type of site on the website, the Victorian Asylum’s are something we’ll never see the like of again.

 

The County Asylums Act (1808) was introduced in the UK Parliament to establish places to care for people with mental health problems. It was stipulated that each county must build at least one asylum to care for persons suffering from mental health issues. Due to loopholes in the original act many counties refused to carry out the act until it was replaced with the Asylum Act (1845) and worked with the Lunacy Act (1845).

 

Typically most asylums were built out of town in vast areas of countryside. The term ‘out of sight out of mind’ isn’t to far fetched. The building’s were of typical grand Victorian architecture and were designed to be self sufficient – many included adjacent farms where produce was used to feed all. Some even had there own water supplies

 

The asylums built became overcrowded during the peak intake of the 1930’s – many horror stories of people wrongly admitted with nothing short of post natal depression or epilepsy are apparent. It wasn’t till the 1950’s when a breakthrough in understanding mental health and better treatment resulted in many patients being able to leave and live a normal life. At this time most of the asylums were re-branded as hospitals.

 

Unfortunately for many a patient they had became institutionalised and many lived out their final years without release.

 

In 1961 the then health secretary, Enoch Powell, made the now famous ‘The Water Tower Speech’ – At the party conference in March 1961, Powell slammed the institutions. He spoke of the transition to community based care, the horrors of the asylums, the implications of the changes due, the services he envisaged and the finances needed to facilitate this. The speech set the wheels turning for community care.

 

The death knell for the asylums had been rung and over the next 20-30 years they were slowly run down and patient levels dropped down to just a few 100 in most cases. At the peak of asylum intake in the 1930’s some asylums had as many as 3’500 patients. Asylum closures began soon after the mental health act (1982) and continued into the new millennium. Only a few operational ‘hospitals’ remain – some of them deal with the criminal insane (such as Broadmoor and Ashworth)

 

The legacy of the asylums is a dark and sometimes distressing story and as a result when these buildings ceased to serve any reasonable purpose the majority were simply left abandoned. In some cases like Cane Hill for over 17 years. While some were converted into housing the reality of their previous use made them difficult to market for future uses.

 

Browsing through the photos on here you will see some of the wonderful architecture, some of the possessions left behind and many a haunting image. It’s not my desire to sensationalise or glamorise these buildings but to document and remember the part they played in our history.

West Park Hospital, Epsom

West Park was the last mental hospital to be developed on the Horton Estate, having been planned since 1906, prior to the opening of neighbouring Long Grove asylum. Initial development to have been completed for opening in 1916. From 1917 the main hospital was largely complete and utilised by Canadian …

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North Wales Hospital, Denbigh – 35mm

This is some of the shots taken on my Canon 300 film SLR during my 2nd visit to Denbigh The North Wales Lunatic Asylum was the first psychiatric institution built in Wales; construction began in 1844 and completed in 1848 in the town of Denbigh. It was original called ‘The …

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North Wales Hospital, Denbigh

My second visit to Denbigh after a previous visit some 9 months ago. Not much more to report other than a continual decline of the buildings. If something isn’t done soon then the bulidings really will start to fall in on themselves.  It needs saving, and fast. The North Wales …

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Graylingwell Hospital, Chichester

After 4 months of illness, it was about time to get back out with the camera. An Asylum is always a good place to start off a new year. The county of West Sussex provided its own asylum accommodation following the withdrawal from the union with East Sussex at the …

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West Park Hospital, Epsom

7th Visit to West Park, an old favourite that you can never tire of I guess. One ward that I’ve always wanted to do was the ward that was converted into a child crèche for the nurses who worked at the hospital. Some people have refereed to it as the …

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Mid Wales Hospital, Talgarth

No words can really describe the decline this year of this site. Better security at the beginning of the year may have prevented mass theft of doors, fixings, tiles, lead, fireplaces, copper and sadly the clock mechanism & faces. The Mid Wales Hospital was a psychiatric hospital in Talgarth, Wales. …

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West Park Hospital, Epsom (35mm)

Taken during the previous visit but this time on my new film SLR. Bought on eBay for an extremely expensive £10 and used with my 50mm f1.8 prime lens. Film used: Kodak B&W 400CN West Park was the last mental hospital to be developed on the Horton Estate, having been …

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West Park Hospital, Epsom

A quick return to a site I visited less than a month ago. The site is rapidly deteriorating and even more so than my previous visit. West Park was the last mental hospital to be developed on the Horton Estate, having been planned since 1906, prior to the opening of …

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Runwell Hospital, Essex

My second visit to this recently closed mental hospital. This time not many shots and generally externals. Following the ending of contracts accommodating patients at the Essex county’s Brentwood mental hospital, joint facilities were developed between East Ham and Southend-on-sea boroughs. A site was chosen at Runwell Hall farm, to …

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West Park Hospital, Epsom

My 5th visit to West Park and my first for nearly a year. This time last year West Park became somewhat a tourist attraction due to seemingly non existent security. As a result of this things have deteriorated badly and it’s a distant memory of how it was some two …

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Runwell Hospital, Essex

Following the ending of contracts accommodating patients at the Essex county’s Brentwood mental hospital, joint facilities were developed between East Ham and Southend-on-sea boroughs. A site was chosen at Runwell Hall farm, to the east of the town of Wickford and the firm of Elcock and Sutcliffe were chosen as …

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North Wales Hospital, Denbigh

The North Wales Lunatic Asylum was the first psychiatric institution built in Wales; construction began in 1844 and completed in 1848 in the town of Denbigh. It was original called ‘The North Wales Counties of Caernarvonshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Merionethshire and Anglesey Asylum ‘ The U-shaped Tudorbethain style hospital was built …

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