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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

It’s been a while since I’ve been out an about, no better way than to get back to one of the best asylum sites in the UK. It’s well over a year since my last visit and a bit longer again since I spent a whole day at West Park. …

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Glenside Hospital, Bristol

After Mid Wales the plan had to been to return home but another detour on route took us to Bristol’s own ‘City Asylum’ – Glenside was originally known as ‘Bristol City Asylum’ and opened in 1861 to a corridor plan design. It closed in 1994 and was taken over by …

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Mid Wales Hospital, Talgarth

After Pen-Y-Fal another trip to Mid Wales was in order. Even in the space of a month from my last visit things have gone down hill further. The lack of a roof means most of the wards are now starting to suffer from serious water ingress. The Mortuary has now …

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Pen-y-Fal Hospital, Abergavenny

Stopped for a quick look at the converted The Monmouthshire County Asylum, formerly known as the Joint Counties Asylum for Monmouthshire, Herefordshire, Radnorshire and Breconshire. Founded in 1846 it finally closed in 1996 before it was converted. Only the main building remains but it is wonderfully converted. The chapel sits …

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St Mary’s Asylum, Stannington

It’s about 11 months since I last visited St Mary’s. On that day I didn’t have much luck but this wasn’t the case today. It seems the re-development has stopped and the buildings sit in silence slowly decaying away. Built in 1910 and closed in 1995 its someone remarkable that …

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Mid Wales Hosptial, Talgarth

Previously known as Mid Wales Asylum or Mid Wales Counties of Breconshire and Radnorshire Asylum to be fully precise. I visited this site just over a year previously. It’s still a bit of a mystery to who actually owns the site and what really the future holds for the site. …

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Severalls Hospital, Colchester

I visited Severalls just under a year ago and it was thought at that time that demolition/conversion was likely to happen any given day. But then this is Severalls, it’s been due to be knocked down for about the last 5 years. Today it still stands as it did a …

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Cane Hill Hospital, Coulsdon

A quick return to the iconic Cane Hill Hospital to see the progress of demolition. Given I was working around the corner today it would have been rude not to pay a visit. Not really an explore, but after a month of hectic house moving it was nice to get …

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St Lawrence’s Hospital, Bodmin

This was my second visit to the original ‘Cornwall County Asylum’ – not much has changed since my first visit. The water ingress in the main hall was clearly becoming more of an issue. The future of the buildings still remain unknown but local residents continue to campaign to get …

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Hellingly Hospital, Sussex

A quick trip to what was originally East Sussex Country Asylum. This time I focused on visiting Park House which is a separate annex located further away from the main buildings and was used primarly for treating acute patients. It still has the frame remains of a padded cell.

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Stanley Royd Museum & Chapel, Wakefield

Stanley Royd was one of the earliest aslyums built with construction starting in 1816. Work completed in November 1818. It closed in 1996 and has since been converted for residential use. The Stephen Beaumont museum is open from 10am to 4pm on Wednesday’s and provides a unique insight to Aslyum …

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Fairmile Hospital, Berkshire

Fairmile hospital opened in 1870 and had a 132 year long career in caring for people with mental health problems. The site was purchased in in 1866 for the sum of £8,317 4s 9p. The architect Charles Henry Howells of Lancaster Place, London designed the asylum which was built at …

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