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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.

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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Mid Wales Hospital, Talgarth

The forth trip of the year to Mid Wales despite previous statements of not visiting again. With still no sign of any purchaser of the buildings the site continues to deteriorate with vandalism & copper/lead theft. Even the previous secure and tidy chapel & administration block are now falling into …

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Lancaster Moor Asylum, Lancaster

The County Lunatic Asylum, on Lancaster Moor, opened in 1816, and since enlarged, is a stately quadrangular building of stone, with a handsome front, relieved by pillars of the Doric order, and could hold up to 2,400 patients. The annexe completed in 1882 at a cost of £125,000, occupies a …

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St Mary’s Hospital, Stannington

My 3rd and final visit to St Mary’s – with demolition already there wasn’t much thought. Sadly due to this not much of the main buildings were covered but I had previously documented these last june. St Mary’s opened in 1910 and closed in 1995, the site is in remarkably …

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Mid Wales Hospital, Talgarth

My final visit to Mid Wales and only one brought on by the opertunity to see the chapel which has recently become avaliable. The Mid Wales Hospital was a psychiatric hospital in Talgarth, Wales. It opened in 1906 and was formerly known as the Brecon and Radnor Joint Asylum or …

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St Edward’s Asylum, Cheddleton

St Edward’s Asylum was constructed between 1895 and 1899. It provided a welcome overflow to the nearby St Georges Asylum in Stafford and St. Matthew’s Asylum at Burntwood. It was later renamed to St Edwards Hospital. Set in an amazing woodland it has been carefully converted into residential use since …

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Tone Vale Hospital, Taunton

Founded in 1892 and built in 1897 Tone Vale was originally named Somerset and Bath Asylum, then Tone Vale Asylum and finally Tone Vale Hospital. It was built to the compact arrow design. Closed in 1995 and the vast majority of the site was redeveloped and only a few of …

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Mid Wales Hospital, Talgarth

Yet Another trip to Mid Wales Hospital. With 6 inches of snow at Talgarth it proved too much to resist popping up to capture the buildings covered in snow. For more history on the hospital at Talgarth, see my previous post this month.

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Cane Hill Hospital, Coulsdon

I have watched the gradual demise and demolition of Cane Hill over the past 18 months. Today I stopped in to check on progress. As it stands the demolition team are finishing up on site, leveling land and removing what rubble remains. All that remains of a once remarkable site …

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Mid Wales Hospital, Talgarth

A return to the first asylum I ever visited. I have been here many times before and wasn’t intending to visit again but the news that the business park had gone into administration gave me the urge to visit once more. Since all the buildings were stripped of their precious …

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Cane Hill Hospital, Coulsdon

Cane Hill was a psychiatric hospital in Coulsdon  in the London Borough of Croydon. Built to handle patients unable to attend the Springfield and Brookwood Asylums, both of which were filled to capacity, it opened in 1882 as the Third Surrey County Lunatic Asylum. Following a gradual winding down of …

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