Twelfth Night at Hanwell Asylum

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The Twelfth Night entertainment at the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum. Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images from the Illustrated London News, 15 Jan 1848 reproduced under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Twelfth Night for many people is now just the date in the calendar when we take the Christmas decorations down. In our house this usually includes a certain amount of confusion as to whether twelfth night is on the 5th or the 6th of January. As I write this, it is January 5th 2023, the boxes are out ready for me to pack away the tree (a plastic one that we have re-used for at least the past 15 years) and the decorations.

Marking the end of the twelve days of Christmas and the coming of Epiphany, Twelfth Night was part of the festivities and often celebrated with a feast. The illustration above shows a dance and a feast that took place in celebration of Twelfth Night on January 6th 1848 at Hanwell Asylum (the county pauper lunatic asylum for Middlesex, at Hanwell, to the west of London). The entertainment was just for the male patients, the women had been given a similar festivity on New Year’s Eve.

OS 6-inch map, surveyed in 1864, showing the ‘County Lunatic Asylum’ for Middlesex, now largely converted to private housing. CC-BY (NLS)

The Twelfth Night party was held in the gallery of ward 9, and about 250 patients, staff and guests were assembled. The Gallery was decorated with evergreens, devices and mottoes, with coloured lamps hanging from the ceiling, while the gas-burners that usually lit the gallery were altered to ‘appear like ornamental fan-lights’. The entertainment began with coffee and cake at about 4.30pm, after which there was music making by some and games played by others – cards, draughts, dominoes and bagatelle. Supper was served at 8pm and comprised roast beef and vegetables, ‘with an allowance of beer and tobacco’. [1]

In the foreground of the illustration were the dancers, and the right hand figure was a portrait of William Rayner, a former actor best known for his role as Harlequin which he played at Covent Garden opposite his wife’s Columbine. After his wife died he ‘took to fretting’ and was committed to the asylum.  By 1848 he had been a patient at Hanwell for about seventeen years. He was always ready to cut a caper for the amusement of his fellow patients: a ‘fine old jovial-looking man, dressed in a mixed costume, crowned with a motley cap, bedizened with various coloured ribands’.  [2]

Photograph of part of the site in 2008 on Geograph taken by J. Taylor

The photograph above shows part of the site, now known as ‘Osterley Views’. I wonder how many of the folks who live there now are also taking down Christmas decorations just now, or might know about the celebrations that took place there 175 years ago.

William Rayner is easily confused with his better-known contemporary Lionel Benjamin Rayner, who played at Covent Garden at the same time.

[1] Illustrated London News, 15 Jan 1848, p.27
[2] London Evening Standard, 18 May 1843, p.2

Lunatic at Large: an escaped patient from Ayr District Asylum

The former Ayr District Asylum, now Ailsa Hospital photographed in 2008. The building to the left is one of the villas built in 1899 © Copyright Mary and Angus Hogg and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

‘Lunatic at Large’  was the sensational headline in the Glasgow Herald, at the end of November in 1871 of a sad story about a woman in her 30s who had escaped from the Ayrshire District Asylum at Glengall, just south of Ayr (now Ailsa Hospital). She was named as Christina Morton or Reid. Her story made the headlines because it was linked to the disappearance of two young children, a girl of about five or six years of age and a boy of just two and a half, who had been sent by their mother to fetch milk from the dairy, a few doors from their house in Mill Street, around seven o’clock in the evening. When after an hour they had failed to return the mother first searched for them at her neighbours’ houses and then raised the alarm. A diligent search was made, even of the river Ayr which ran past the foot of the gardens in Mill Street, but no trace of the children could be found. All the inhabitants of Mill Street ‘were running in search of them in all directions’. While the search was underway the police received a report that a female patient had escaped from the District Asylum that afternoon. And so the story unfolded:

Near midnight…

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It is a pitiful tale. Ayr District Asylum had only been opened for a couple of years in 1871. Evidently she was returned to the asylum, as she is listed as a patient there in the 1881 census.

Sources
Glasgow Herald, 30 Nov 1871 p.4
Scotland Census 1881

Ayr District Asylum, William Railton’s unbuilt design

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Detail of William Railton’s proposed elevation for the Ayr District Asylum

A competition was held for the design of Ayr District Asylum in 1864. The commission was awarded to Edwards & Robertson of Dundee early the following year, their plans having been judged ‘most preferable’ (see Ailsa Hospital, on the Ayrshire and Arran page). There were seven competitors, and the runners up were each awarded £25. These included Peddie and Kinnear, whose plans are in the National Monument Record of Scotland, Murdoch and McDermott of Ayr, and William Railton, of Kilmarnock. [1]

Railton’s plans are dated 31 December 1864. William Railton was an architect and engineer who also designed Kilmarnock Infirmary and the Cunninghame Combination Poorhouse (later Ravenspark Hospital), neither of which has survived. He was born in Glasgow but moved to Kilmarnock at a young age, and married Isabella Railton of Carlisle in 1859. He is not the William Railton who designed Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. [2] Although the plans for Ayr District Asylum were unexecuted they are interesting by way of comparison with Edwards and Robertson’s plans and as an example of the type of accommodation that was generally provided for ‘pauper lunatics’ in the mid-nineteenth century.

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Elevations

The two-storey range in the foreground with its slender tower rising above the main entrance, was to contain rooms for visitors and new inmates and the apartment of the medical superintendent (on the left with a separate front door). This range sits in front of the main asylum complex which is contained within a walled enclosure. The long three-storey block designed to house the patients is almost devoid of ornament.

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Ground-floor plan

The design provided accommodation for 204 patients in the first instance, with the potential to extend later as funds permitted. The patients were simply divided by gender, males on one side, females on the other, with equal numbers of each. On the female side was the wash-house and on the male side were workshops. A small dead house was located next to the workshops off the airing yard of the male infirmary wing.

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Detail of the central portion of the complex with the administration block at the front (bottom of the plan)

At the heart of the complex on the ground floor was the kitchen, although the dining hall was on the floor above. (On the winning design by Edwards and Robertson the dining hall and kitchen were both on the ground floor.) Here were also rooms for the officers of the asylum, a dispensary, rather a large waiting room, and assorted store rooms.

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Detail showing ground floor male side

The plan was a little old-fashioned for its date, the day rooms lack bay windows and the provisions of baths is distinctly miserly, which might explain why Railton failed to win the competition.

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First-floor plan

The first floor has a similar arrangement of single rooms off a broad corridor at the end of which is a rectangular day room, a further day room occupies the space over the wing for infirm cases. Staff accommodation occupies a central position and there are dormitories over the wash-house and workshops. Rather than for staff these are more likely to be for patients whose condition rendered them fit for work.

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Detail showing the Dining Hall at the heart of the asylum. To the front is the entrance or administrative block, with the medical superintendent’s house on the left. 

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Second-floor plan.

On the top floor were dormitories: four large rooms containing from twelve beds to fifteen beds. Just one bath again, and two water-closets.

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Block plan of the main building range

The block plan shows how the accommodation was arranged. The airing yards allowed the patients to be segregated while taking exercise out of doors, and had access to the gardens around three sides of the building, shown laid out with some formality. [3] The medical superintendent has his own private garden, and there appears to be a separate garden in the corresponding position on the other side of the administration block, perhaps also for staff. What is not shown from this detail, is that the admin block faces north-west, the patients’ wings being orientated on a roughly west-east axis, with the single rooms on the north side and the corridors facing southwards.

Notes

  1. Railton’s plans are currently in my possession: Plans by Edwards and Robertson are deposited in the Scottish National Archives, RHP34893: Peddie and Kinnear’s plans are at RCAHMS, National Monuments Record of Scotland, ref: DPM 1860/89/1: Glasgow Herald, 20 Feb 1865, p.5
  2. Nelson’s Column was designed by the London architect William Railton in 1839. The two Williams may have been related, perhaps by marriage, Isabella Railton who married the Kilmarnock William, could have been a cousin of either. Isaac Railton, father of the London architect, was from Throstle Hall, Caldbeck, Cumberland.
  3. Sarah Rutherford is the leading expert on the landscaping of asylums, see for example Landscapes for the Mind and Body

Craighouse, Edinburgh: former private asylum, future housing development

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These blue remembered hills… Craighouse in the middle distance, ‘Morningside and Craighouse’ by Pascal Blachier, taken in 2007, imaged licensed under CC BY 2.0

A year ago planning permission was granted for the redevelopment of Craighouse, Edinburgh, latterly the campus of Edinburgh Napier University. The impressive group of Victorian buildings erected in the grounds of Old Craig House were originally a private psychiatric hospital, created as an annex to the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, and possibly the most luxurious private mental hospital ever built in Britain.

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Craighouse, photographed in 2015  © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The hospital closed in the early 1990s and was subsequently bought by Napier University. With a hefty Historic Buildings Grant, the University refurbished the buildings on the site as a new campus. But in 2011 the University took the decision to close the campus. Plans were submitted to redevelop the site for housing. Despite vigorous opposition from heritage bodies and local community groups permission was granted in September 2014. Oberlanders Architects drew up plans for the development for The Craighouse Partnership, which comprise the conversion of New Craig House into 64 homes. New blocks on the site include Kings Craig, a four-storey terrace of town houses, directly to the south of New Craighouse; a similar block, West Craig, in front of Queen’s Craig villa; another on the east of the site, Burton Villa, and a lower block north of New Craighouse, name North Craig. The new buildings, in a style reminiscent to my eye of 1960s university campuses, mimic the colours of the nineteenth century buildings, in the way that always seems to pass muster these days where there is a desire to be sympathetic to the character of existing  buildings. Very often a pointless exercise, as it seldom seems successful.

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Craighouse, photographed in 2015 © Copyright Richard Webb and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

A year on, the campaign to modify the plans and lessen the impact of the housing scheme continues and work had not yet commenced. The Craighouse scheme makes an interesting comparison with Holloway Sanatorium, Egham – Craighouses’ nearest rival in terms of a private asylum that was highly decorative and lavishly appointed – which was converted into luxury homes in the 1990s.

When Craighouse was newly opened, the architectural photographer Bedford Lemere was commissioned to record the buildings. This photographic record – eerily devoid of people -preserved at the National Monuments Record of Scotland, provides a glimpse of the surroundings that were thought beneficial in curing those suffering from mental illness at the end of the nineteenth century. The photographs reproduced below are of the communal spaces within the hospital – the grandest of these being the Great Hall.

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Great Hall, Craig House photographed by RCAHMS

In 1894, the Journal of Decorative Art quoted: ‘It is one of Dr Clouston’s leading principles that in the treatment of the insane, their surroundings should be made as bright and as pleasant as possible’.

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Great Hall, Craig House, photographed in 1895 by Bedford Lemere, from RCAHMS
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High-level view of the Great Hall (from RCAHMS)
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Another view of the Great Hall (from RCAHMS)
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Detail of fireplace and doorway in the Great Hall, Craig House, photographed in 1895 by Bedford Lemere, from RCAHMS

The hall was designed as an ‘uplifting’ environment for patients. It was used for social functions including musical evenings, theatrical productions and orchestral recitals.

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General view of Craig House (from RCAHMS)
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North elevation of New Craig House, Sydney Mitchell & Wilson, 1889 – the Great Hall is just to the left of the tower – recognisable from the tall venetian window (from RCAHMS)

Other interiors photographed by Bedford Lemere included the dining-room and sitting-room in one of the detached villas beside New Craig House. South Craig Villa, one of three detached villas designed in 1889 by Sydney Mitchell, accommodated 15 female private paying patients, many of whom were accompanied by their personal staff of servants and attendants. The ladies were classified as first- or second-class patients, depending on how much they could afford to pay, and were allocated a dining room accordingly.

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Dining-Room in South Craig Villa, photographed in 1895 by Bedford Lemere from RCAHMS
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A sitting-room in South Craig Villa (from RCAHMS)
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This plan is labelled as South East Villa, New Craig House – but seems to equate to South Craig Villa (from RCAHMS)

There were less formal rooms within New Craig House, the billiard room photographed here could just as easily be from a country house, there is nothing institutional about the room.

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Billiard Room, Craig House, photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
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A sitting-room in Craig House, photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
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A sitting-room in Craig House, photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
The same room, looking the other way, or a similar one? This one also described as a sitting-room in Craig House (from RCAHMS).

The room pictured below may have been belonged to a patients. It is labelled as ‘McGregor’s room’ but I do not know whether McGregor was male or female, a patient or a member of staff.

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identified only as ‘McGregor’s room’, one of the set of photographs of Craig House Clinic taken by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS

Victorian asylums were notorious for their miles of long corridors, in the earlier nineteenth century these were often broad and doubled as day rooms for the patients. The subject of asylum corridors was often hotly debated amongst architects and physicians, perhaps this is why so many of the corridors at Craighouse seem to have been recorded.

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A corridor in Craig House,  photographed by Bedford Lemere in 1895, from RCAHMS
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Another, grander, corridor, described as parlour, East Wing corridor, Craig House (from RCAHMS)
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perhaps looking the other way? This is also described as a corridor in East Wing, Craig House (from RCAHMS)
and another corridor in Craig House (from RCAHMS)

Below is a short history of the site extracted from the Edinburgh page of this site.

ROYAL EDINBURGH HOSPITAL, THOMAS CLOUSTON CLINIC, CRAIGHOUSE, CRAIGHOUSE ROAD Old Craighouse dates from 1565, the date appearing over the original entrance doorway. Macgibbon and Ross noted that the house appeared to have been built by the Symsones. A new wing was added in 1746. In 1877 Craighouse estate was purchased by the Royal Edinburgh Asylum and adapted for the accommodation of higher class patients.

Extract from the 2nd edition OS Map revised 1905-6. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland.

From 1889 to 1894 work on the new buildings was carried out to designs by Sydney Mitchell, these comprised the New Craighouse, East and West Hospital blocks, Queen’s Craig, South Craig and Bevan House. Dr Thomas Clouston was the key figure in the development of Craighouse. He had been appointed as Physician Superintendent to the Royal Edinburgh Asylum in 1873 and in his first Annual Report commented on the state of the buildings:

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Aerial photograph taken by RCAHMS in 2015 of Old Craighouse (top right) and New Craighouse.

As regards our structural arrangements we are undoubtedly behindhand somewhat. We need more accommodation for those who wish the benefits of the institution and can pay high boards… we should be prepared to extend our benefits to the wealthiest …our poorhouses are palatial buildings and in the new asylums for paupers through the country no expense has been spared to make them cheerful and comfortable.

Once Clouston had established patients at Old Craighouse in 1878 he began planning the development of the site in a new and bold way:

Craighouse site affords ample room for many villas of various kinds, surrounding a central block for recent acute cases, kitchens, dining and public rooms. In the construction of these a principle might be adopted which has never yet been fully carried out in asylums, viz of adaptation of each house or part of house to the varied needs and mental conditions of its inhabitants … an asylum so constructed should contain all the medical appliances that would be likely to do good, it should have a billiard room, gymnasium, swimming‑bath and work rooms.

The scheme was long in the forming, in the Annual Report for 1885 Clouston comments that he has been devoting his attention to the principles of construction of hospitals for the better classes of the insane in the last years. He had visited asylums in America and other parts of Britain. In particular the Royal Asylums at Montrose, Dundee, Perth, Glasgow and Dumfries and in England the asylums at Northampton, Cheadle, Gloucester and St Ann’s Health Registered Hospital, the Bethlem Royal Hospital and two private asylums in London. By 1887 Sydney Mitchell had been appointed as architect. Work began in 1889 and the foundation stone of New Craighouse was laid on 16 July 1890 by the Earl of Stair.

There were five principal buildings. The main building or New Craighouse was situated to the west of Old Craighouse and further west again was the west hospital block, Queen’s Craig. To the south of these were the East Hospital, Bevan House and South Craig. New Craighouse was formally opened on 26 October 1894 by the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. South Craig Villa, Bevan House and the Ladies Hospital had already been occupied for some time. The achievement was phenomenal, and on such a vast scale that it remains unrivalled in hospital architecture in Scotland. Variety was the key to the design, variety of style, colour and texture achieved through the finishes, the materials, the varied roof line and every conceivable means. Inside it was sumptuously furnished and fitted up. After 1972 the buildings became the Thomas Clouston Clinic, named after the individual whose personal ideals were embodied in the site. [Sources: Lothian Health Board Archives, Annual Reports of Royal Edinburgh Hospital: RCAHMS, National Monuments Record of Scotland, drawings collection: The Builder, 7 Jan. 1888, p.16; 15 June 1889, p.442; 10 March, 1894, p.203.]

Bangour Village Hospital

Rummaging in the attic I unearthed some old slides of Bangour Hospital that I had taken in about 1990, though with all the appearance of having been taken a couple of decades earlier than that.

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View towards the church at Bangour Village Hospital, photographed around 1990 © Harriet Richardson

It wasn’t the finest day when I visited – dreich to say the least – but the buildings did not fail to impress. The church is the centrepiece of the large complex, though it was built later than the patients’ villas, admin and other ancillary buildings, and while the earlier buildings were designed by the wonderfully named Hippolyte J. Blanc, it was Harold Ogle Tarbolton that was the architect of the church.

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One of the patients’ villas, photographed around 1990 © Harriet Richardson

The patients’ villas are a mix of these cream-painted blocks with grey slate roofs and red sandstone dressings.

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A different finish to this patients’ villa, photographed about 1990 © Harriet Richardson

And these  roughly coursed yellowish sandstone blocks with red tile roofs. Both types have those distinctive round-arched dormer heads. The hospital closed in 2004, since when the buildings have slowly deteriorated – the haunt of Urbexers and film crews.

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This is a photograph of Villa 9, near the administration block, ‘Curved Ridge’ taken in August 2012, by SwaloPhoto and licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
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This aerial photograph taken by RCAHMS in March 2015 gives a sense of the vastness of the site.

The listed buildings on the site have been on the Heritage At Risk register since the 1990s. Early in 2015 NHS Lothian engaged GVA James Barr to draw up proposals for the conversion of the former hospital to form housing, to aid marketing of the site for sale, with a view to submitting Full Planning Permission later this year. There is a website marketing its development potential www.bangourvillage.co.uk.

The hospital was originally built as the Edinburgh District Asylum from 1898 to 1906, Bangour was planned on the continental colony system as exemplified by the asylum at Alt Scherbitz near Leipzig, which had been built in the 1870s.

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Extract from the OS map published in 1915 showing the heart of the site. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Edinburgh District Asylum at Bangour was begun slightly before that at Aberdeen (later Kingseat Hospital), which was also built on a colony plan, making Bangour the first new asylum for paupers to be built on this system. (The Aberdeen District Asylum at Kingseat, though begun after Bangour, was completed two years earlier). A move towards a colony system had been made at some existing asylums in Scotland, notably the Crichton Royal at Dumfries, from about 1895. The distinguishing feature of the colony plan asylum was the detached villas to accommodate the patients which aimed to create a more homelike environment.

The competition held in 1898 for the new Edinburgh Asylum specified the continental form of plan. Bangour was designed as a self-contained village with its own water supply and reservoir, drainage system and fire fighting equipment. It could be self-sufficient by the industry of able patients.

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Plan and elevation of the hospital block by Hippolyte J. Blanc,1906,  in the National Monuments Record for Scotland collection of the RCAHMS

The site was divided into two sections for the medical and non-medical patients, with power station, workshops, bakery, stores, kitchen and laundry in the middle. The patients’ villas housed from 25 to 40 patients each and varied from two to three storeys. On the ground floor were day-room, dining-rooms and a kitchen with separate dining-rooms for the nurses. The dormitories were located on the upper floors. Another important aspect of the colony system was the replacement of the large common dining halls with smaller dining-rooms within the villas. This was a feature of the Aberdeen Asylum at Kingseat as well as Bangour and the later Dykebar Asylum at Paisley.

The recreation hall, also designed by Blanc, contained a hall measuring 93 feet by 54 feet, with a stage at the north end. By incorporating a lattice steel girder support for the roof, there was no need to use pillars within the hall. There was even an orchestra pit in front of the footlights which was specially constructed to allow it to be covered at floor level when the hall was used for dances.

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The church at Bangour Village Hospital, photographed by RCAHMS in 1993

A church was added to the site in 1924-30 designed by H. O. Tarbolton. Set in a central position on the site and in a severe Romanesque style, it is one of the most impressive hospital churches in Scotland. The dark brown stone of the church contrasts strongly with the cream-painted villas near to it.

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The church, photographed when it was newly built, part of a set of old photographs of Bangour in the RCAHMS collection

In 1931 the nurses’ home, with its two ogee-roofed octagonal central turrets, was extended by E. J. MacRae with a large new wing, blending sympathetically with the original block. [Sources: H. J. Blanc, ‘Bangour Village Asylum’ in Journal of the R.I.B.A., Vol.XV, No.10, 21 March 1908, p.309-26: Lancet, 13 Oct. 1906, p.1031]

The Hospitals Investigator 6

October 1992 brought forth the sixth newsletter from the Cambridge team of the RCHME Hospitals Project. It included short pieces on mortuaries and asylum farms, and accounts of the Victoria Cottage Hospital, Wimborne, Dorset, with thoughts on holiday closures of hospitals. There is also a note on Sleaford’s isolation hospital, a portable hospital with what sounds like a camper van for the nurse. Extra curricular activities at hospitals were discovered too, with money making schemes in a Yorkshire madhouse and an unofficial B&B at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Victoria Cottage Hospital, Wimborne

This unremarkable little Dorset hospital has a history written in 1955 by someone hiding behind the initials G. H. W. From this booklet we can extract several amusing bits of hospital history.

First must come the sanitation. In 1887 when the hospital was built there was one earth closet for the patients. This came to light in 1907 when water was installed along with an extra closet. The operating theatre was another horror for it doubled as the bathroom from 1887 until 1904 when a new operating room was built. Even this new theatre did not have an electric light until 1934. Provision of a separate operating theatre did not end the dual use of the bathroom, however. Until 1927 it housed the telephone. In that year the telephone was moved to the matron’s office.

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Extract from the 1901 OS map. The cottage hospital is to the north-west of the town, almost on a level with the union workhouse, which is to the north-east. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Until 1924 the hospital closed completely for about a moth every year, for cleaning and repairs. During this time the staff took holidays, and the patients were dismissed. Some were sent to the small 18th-century workhouse in Wimborne, for in 1922 the Guardians sent the hospital a bill for care of patients. We have met this sort of annual closing and cleansing elsewhere, but it seems poorly documented. In 1946 the Passmore Edwards Hospital at Liskeard closed for a moth because that was the only way in which the staff could take a holiday; our source does not say whether this was a regular event. The Royal National Sanatorium at Bournemouth closed in winter, allegedly because the hospital was only intended to provide a summer break for consumptives (and thus for their carers as well). At Northampton the General Infirmary managed cleaning and repairs by simply closing one ward at a time, but as this was a large hospital part-closing was easier than in a small hospital like Wimborne.

Finally, on a frivolous note, when the townsmen were discussing whether to commemorate Victoria’s jubilee by building a hospital or by some other means, one suggestion was ‘erecting a statue of Queen Victoria with a clock on top’. Just how this was to be arranged is not explained.

Sleaford Hospital

The Sleaford Rural District Council bought an isolation hospital in 1901 for the sum of £127. It was ‘an ingenious contrivance’ of numbered wooden sections that could be put together in a few hours, measured 20 feet by 12 feet and could hold up to four patients. A van on wheels provided both accommodation for a nurse and the necessary cooking arrangements. There was also a portable steam disinfector that was reported to be too heavy to be portable. This magnificent hospital was stored at the Sleaford Workhouse, and was erected for the very first time for the benefit of an inquisitive Local Government Board inspector in 1905. It is not known whether it was ever used after that. [The inspector’s report is in Parliamentary Papers, 1907 XXVI, 200-201.]

The East Stow Rural District Council in Suffolk had a ‘small portable hospital’ for smallpox cases in 1913, and presumably this was also a sectional wooden building. [PP 1914 XXXVII, 746] In 1913 Bournemouth Corporation had lent the neighbouring Rural District Council a Doecker Hut for use as an extra hospital ward during an outbreak of enteric fever at Ringwood, another portable structure. [PP 1894 XL, 565 and see Doecker Portable Hospitals]

At least these buildings were of wood. Shortly before 1890 the Gainsborough Rural Council bought a hospital marquee for patients and a bell tent for the nurses. They were aired from time to time, but appear not to have been used. [PP 1894 XL, 565] Perhaps even these tents were better than the converted dog-kennels at Bishop Auckland in 1895. [PP 1896 XXXVII, 704]

Mortuaries

In the course of research for the project a file copy turned up of a Government questionnaire headed ‘Isolation Hospital Accommodation’, and filled in for the Southampton Smallpox Hospital. The printer’s rubric shows that it dates from 1926 and that some 10,000 copies were printed. The answers, together with a crude plan from another source, make a description of this vanished hospital possible, but there is little of interest until the question ‘is there a mortuary at the hospital?’ The answer is simply ‘Cubicles in Observation Hut used for this purpose’. The observation hut was a small building with two single-bed wards and a duty room If one cubicle was occupied by a patient, the psychological effect of comings and goings in the other cubicle can hardly have been good. Perhaps the real significance of this arrangement is that the observation wards of isolation hospitals were probably rarely used, and that there never was a living patient to be disturbed by the arrival and departure of a dead one. It also helps to suggest ways in which hospitals without mortuaries might have functioned.

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Extract from the 1934 OS map. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The smallpox hospital was at Millbrook Marsh, an inhospitable looking place even as late as the 1930s, surrounded by mud and marsh. It is interesting to see that development of the estuary was just beginning at this time, to the east is the King George V graving dock under construction. By the 1950s the hospital site had become a boat yard, re-using the existing buildings. A couple remained in the late 1960s, when the area to the north had become a sewage works, which eventually swallowed the remaining former hospital buildings.The huge Prince Charles Container Port was built over the mud flats and saltings.

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Extract from the 1897 OS map. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

Southampton, in common with other ports, provided a number of isolation hospitals. As well as the smallpox hospital there was another isolation hospital at West Quay.

It is in the usual location, close to the water so that anyone arriving by ship suspected of having contracted an infectious disease could be taken directly to the hospital by boat. The site was later an Out-bathing and Disinfection Station for Infectious Diseases and later still used for a clinic and a mortuary. That was in the post-war era, and by then land reclamation had seen the site removed from the water’s edge. As far as I can make out, the Grand Harbour Hotel seems to occupy the site now.

Asylum Farms

Slowly it is becoming clear that asylum farms were unlike those in the world outside, at least in the South of England. Large barns for storing crops are absent from those seen so far, but piggeries are ubiquitous and any fragments of yards and single storey buildings appear to have been for cattle. Sometimes there are stables and cart sheds, but it is not certain that these were specifically for farm use. Indeed the buildings suggest that attention was concentrated on stock, especially pigs and cattle, and perhaps market gardening, where there was greater scope for farming as occupational therapy. At Digbys, Exeter, there is a tall building which had large opposed loading doors, one opening on to the yard, the other on to a lane outside the hospital grounds. The building is not large enough to hold much, and certainly is not suitable for storing a grain crop. It seems to have been intended for receiving bought-in material, presumably feedstuff for the pigs and cattle.

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Digby Hospital, formerly the Exeter Lunatic Asylum. The small farm complex is on the east near to the London & South Western Railway line. The buildings have been converted to housing as part of the re-development of the hospital and its site for housing.
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Extract from the 1st Edition OS Map published in 1889. Reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The advantages of concentration on livestock is that it would provide the asylum with pork, bacon, milk and beef, while a market garden would provide soft fruit and vegetables. All of these are labour-intensive occupations, providing maximum work throughout the year for the relatively large number of patients.

Secondary Employment

John Beal was the proprietor of a private madhouse at Nunkeeling in the Yorkshire Wolds. The financial success of this venture seems out of proportion to the small number of patients and the remoteness of its position. The truth emerged in 1823 when the excise men found 24 casks of tobacco, 25 of tea, and 264 of assorted spirits, mainly gin, concealed about the premises. Perhaps we should pay greater attention to such institutions, in the hope that more than just buildings survive.

Income

Those hospital administrators busy trying to generate income have all failed to exploit one obvious opportunity that was seen as long ago as 1770 by the Matron of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. The town has long had a shortage of short-term accommodation. The matron saw this and let beds to overnight visitors, presumably giving them breakfast as well. On discovering this the Governors dismissed her, partly because she was pocketing the income.

Repton Park, formerly Claybury Hospital

Claybury Mental hospital, or London County Lunatic Asylum, Ilfor
Aerial view of Claybury, undated. (posted on flickr by Jeroen Komen and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Repton Park at Woodford Bridge in Essex is a large housing estate that has been created on the site of the former Claybury Hospital, using many of the former hospital buildings and keeping the new buildings to a minimum, so as to retain the open southern aspect and the original south elevation of the main hospital complex. (The aerial photograph above shows the western half as it appears in 2015 on Bing.com) The hospital closed in 1997 and it was originally intended to build much denser housing on the site.

Claybury Hospital was recorded as part of the RCHME’s Hospitals project and was visited in August 1991 by three of the project team (myself included) together with our photographer, Derek Kendall, and a student who worked with us over the summer.

Claybury was built as the fourth County Pauper Lunatic Asylum for Middlesex. It was designed on an échelon plan by G. T. Hine in 1888 and built in 1889-93. The site included the modest country house, Claybury Hall, of c.1790, which was retained and extended for private patients. It was an extensive complex of largely two- and three-storey asylum buildings linked by single-storey enclosed corridors, constructed of red brick with terracotta ornament, dominated by the central water tower.

This view of Claybury Hall was photographed by Lil Shepherd in September 2010 and is licensed under  CC BY 2.0 There is a painting of the house in the Government Art Collection  painted c.1800 by Abraham Pether

A competition was held for the design in 1887 and Hine was selected from among seven specially invited architects. A notable and prolific designer of asylums, he had been responsible for planning the borough asylum for his native Nottingham (1877). It was following his success in the Claybury competition that Hine moved to London and subsequently was appointed consulting architect to the Commissioners in Lunacy for England. [The Builder, 5 May 1916, 331]

L0023315 Claybury Asylum, ground floor plan
Claybury Asylum, ground floor plan from H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and asylums of the world, 1891 image ref: L0023315

In 1888 the plans for the Asylum were approved by the Lunacy Commissioners and in June 1890 the memorial stone was laid over the principal entrance of the administration block by Lord Rosebery, the first Chairman of the London County Council (LCC). The asylum was formally opened on 17 June 1893.

L0023316 Claybury Asylum, first floor plan.
Claybury Asylum, first-floor plan from H. C. Burdett, Hospitals and asylums of the world, 1891 image ref: L0023316 

Whilst Claybury had been begun as the fourth County Pauper Lunatic Asylum for Middlesex, it was opened as the 5th LCC Pauper Lunatic Asylum, following the Local Government Act of 1888 and the inauguration of the LCC. The LCC took over Hanwell, Colney Hatch and Banstead Asylums from Middlesex, and Cane Hill from Surrey. In June 1889 the Asylums committee was authorised to provide a fifth asylum for London by completing Claybury and a new building contract was drawn up in the following October. The building contractor under the LCC was E. Gabbutt of Liverpool. George Wise, who had been appointed Clerk of Works by the Middlesex Justices, was retained, as was Hine. A tramway was constructed to link up with the Great Eastern Railway for transporting building materials. In 1891 Hine was obliged to modify his plans following a decision to install electric lighting. This involved providing three additional boilers.

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OS Map 1914 revision reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The site had been selected by the Middlesex Justices in 1886. It comprised the house and estate of Claybury Hall. The mansion of c.1790 was probably designed by Jesse Gibson (c.1748-1828), the District Surveyor of the eastern division of the City of London. [Essex Review, xxxvii, pp.99-108, cited in H. Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1978] The house was a relatively modest two-storey building. The principal façade, facing south, was symmetrical with a central bow flanked by two outer bays, slightly advanced and contained beneath a shallow pediment. The bow at ground floor level was further defined by a semi-circular portico with coupled columns. The grounds extended to 269 acres and were landscaped by Repton. Burdett gave a description of the site, although at the time of writing the asylum buildings had not yet been completed.

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Claybury Hall in 1991 (photograph (c) Colin Thom)

‘Part of the land is charmingly wooded, affording shaded walks for the patients. No better site could be found for such a building, and although only 1½ miles from Woodford Station, and 6½ miles from Tower Hamlets, from which district it is expected most of the patients will be sent, the asylum will be perfectly secluded, and comprise in its own grounds all the beauties of an English rural district’. [H. C. Burdett Hospitals and Asylums of the World, 1893, vol.iv, p.345).

The asylum was placed on the summit of the hill rising to the north of the mansion house. The hill was levelled to provide a plateau of 12 acres giving a largely uniform ground-floor level from which some of the outer main corridors sloped to the outside blocks. Hine emphasized the importance of a flat site arguing that the additional cost was justified compared with ‘the perpetual inconvenience and extra cost of working a building filled with feeble, irresponsible patients, which has numerous steps on the ground-floor, up and down which food trolleys as well as patients have constantly to be conveyed’. [G.T. Hine ‘Asylums and Asylum Planning’ in Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 23 Feb. 1901, p.16]

Claybury was designed on an échelon plan. This was a development from the pavilion-plan asylum which comprised a sequence of pavilions or blocks, each designated for a different class of patient. Each pavilion contained a combination of wards, single rooms and day rooms, together with provision for staff and sanitary arrangements. The pavilions were generally linked by single storey corridors, either enclosed or as covered ways. The échelon plan differed from the pavilion plan only in its general layout, which, as the term suggests, consisted of pavilions arranged in an arrow head or échelon formation. This allowed Hine to provide all the patient blocks with day-rooms that had a southern aspect and uninterrupted views.

At the heart of the asylum was the recreation hall. It was particularly finely ornamented, was 120 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 40 feet high, and was capable of seating 1,200 people. At one end there was a gallery supported on iron columns and at the other the stage, with an elaborate proscenium arch in Jacobethan style, topped by a bust of Shakespeare. The high quality of decoration in the hall was integral to the philosophy of asylum planning and design at this date, as The Builder noted:

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‘The modern treatment of lunacy demands also more provision for the embellishment of the asylum than is to be found in the barrack like interiors of our older institutions. Hence the interior of Claybury Asylum is almost palatial in its finishings, its pitch-pine joinery, marble and tile chimney pieces, and glazed brick dados, so much so that some of the visitors rather flippantly expressed a desire to become inmates. The recreation hall, for example, is lavishly decorated with an elliptical ceiling, richly ornamented with Jackson’s fibrous plaster work, while the walls are panelled in polished oak, and the floors are to be finished in a similar manner.’ [The Builder, 30 July 1892, p.88]

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The interior of the recreation hall in 1991 (photographs (c) Colin Thom)

It is notable, however, that the majority of the fine interior work was reserved for the more public areas, such as the recreation hall, the chapel and the administration block.

L0027370 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a dormitory. Photograph by
This photograph of one of the dormitories was taken around 1893 and shows a spartan interior, with the beds closely spaced. Note the fireproof construction of the ceiling. Photograph by the London &County Photographic Co. (c)Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027370 

Above is one of a series of photographs from the Wellcome Library which look to have been taken when the asylum was newly completed. It shows a large dormitory of the type provided for chronic cases. Acute cases were housed in small wards with a large allowance of single rooms.

L0027373 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a dining room (?). Photogr
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027373

This view of a dining hall, presumably for patients rather than staff, although it is not so easy to tell as some of the decorative elements, such as wallpaper, curtains, potted plants, pictures on the walls, a hearth rug and the bird cage might seem a little luxurious for a pauper institution. However, homeliness and comfortable surroundings were recognised as important factors in treating mental illness. There is an almost identical photograph in Historic England Archives collection taken in 1895 by Bedford Lemere.

L0027374 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a social room (?). Photogr
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c)Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027374

The photograph above is labelled as showing a ‘social room’. Wallpaper, pictures, rugs, and potted plants are all in evidence again along with the piano, and the shawls draped over the backs of the chairs might suggest that the patients have just stood up and moved out of view. The ceiling has the same fireproof vaulting  seen in the previous photograph. It creates a slightly less institutional feel to the room than the exposed iron beams in the dining hall.

L0027372 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a nurses' day-room (?). Ph
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027372

The caption for these two photographs (above and below) suggest they might have been a day rooms for the nurses. The one below looks more like a staff room perhaps, particularly with the stained glass in the end window.

L0027371 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a nurses' day-room (?). Ph
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027371

The snap above was taken in 1991, and shows similar stained glass, with the coats or arms of the local borough councils. It was in the administration block, in the main stair window. This block also contained the board and committee rooms and offices for staff as well as sitting and bedrooms for three assistant medical officers. The corridors were floored with mosaic tiling, and a faience panel marked the entrance to the board room, which had oak-panelled walls and an enriched plaster ceiling. Amongst the collection of photographs at the Wellcome Library are views of the service areas, the laundry and kitchens etc. These blocks, to the north of the water tower, have all been demolished, along with the blocks for the attendants and nurses which originally flanked the recreation hall.

L0027368 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a linen room. Photograph b
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027368

This shows the linen room, and below is the ironing room. The work was strictly segregated for men and women. At this date patients would have assisted with many of the duties involved in the daily running of the asylum.

Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027377
L0027369 Claybury Asylum, Woodford, Essex: a kitchen. Photograph by t
Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027369

While the women washed and ironed, the men worked in the kitchens. I think this might be my favourite of the photographs of the working side of the hospital. Except perhaps this last one. These must be some of the senior staff, I think, though they are not identified and look very young.

Photograph by the London & County Photographic Co. (c) Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images ref: L0027376

More information and modern photographs of the site can be found here http://thetimechamber.co.uk/beta/sites/asylums/london-county-asylum-claybury

The Hospitals Investigator 4

Issue 4 of Robert Taylor’s Hospitals Investigator was circulated in July 1992 and in his editorial he wrote that the theme for this issue would be lunacy, in particular, baths and fire precautions. It concluded with a report on the Cambridge team’s trip to Cornwall and what they found there.

Baths

‘One of the many criminal economies practised in public institutions in the 19th century was the sparing use of bath water. At the Suffolk Asylum at Melton the male attendants used a single filling of the bath for five men, but on the opposite side of the same institution  the female attendants managed to make a single filling serve ten women. This amazing achievement gives a new and unexpected meaning to sexual discrimination. At some asylums things were managed differently, and they put two lunatics at a time into the same tub, thereby ensuring that all and an equal chanced to enjoy hot water. Oxford, however, held the record and regularly managed to bath three at a time, thereby beating Cambridge by a factor of three. We have yet to see the size of the Oxford baths.

Considering that the water was frequently delivered at such a high temperature that patients were in real danger of scalding themselves and the taps could only be controlled by the attendant, one wonders at the temperature of the bath water at Melton when the first woman got in, and when the tenth got out.’

While looking for an illustration of bathrooms in asylums, I searched through the Wellcome Images collection which has this photograph taken around 1930 of Long Grove Asylum, Epsom in Surrey. Shared bath water was no longer acceptable, and a modicum of privacy was afforded by the  fixed screens.

L0015468 Male patients being washe by hospital orderlies. Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org Male patients being washed by hospital orderlies, Long Grove Asylum, Epsom. In the Royal College of Psychiatrists. circa 1930? Published: - Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
L0015468 Male patients being washed by hospital orderlies. Wellcome Library, London.

Fire Precautions in Asylums

‘Methods of preventing the start and avoiding the spread of fire in hospitals have developed in stages, usually one set of ideas at a time.’

‘The first fire precautions in the 18th and 19th centuries were purely structural, along the same lines as the various contemporary local regulations and the London Building Acts. The aim was to make buildings unlikely to catch fire or to burn, in other words, fireproof construction. Most of these techniques had become standard best building practice by the beginning of the 18th century, and included such things as not having timbers let into chimneys. This particular concern can be seen in an obvious form at the workhouse at Tattingstone in Suffolk, where ceiling beams are skewed in order to miss the fireplaces. The use of masonry for walls, and slates or tiles for roof covering were standard from the beginning; timber frame and thatch are not used for purpose-built hospitals.’

Tattingstone Hospital in 1990 © Copyright Clint Mann and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons LicenceOriginally built as a House of Industry in 1766, and later extended as Samford Workhouse, it became St Mary’s Hospital in 1930, finally closing in 1991 and was converted into housing around 2001. see also  http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Samford/

‘At a later date non-burning floor structures were used, called ‘fireproof’ and depending at first on the use of iron beams and shallow brick vaults. This system had the disadvantage that it relied on exposed iron girders, which were liable to buckle in a fire. Later in the 19th century, devices such as hollow bricks forming flat arches, sometimes strengthened by steel rods cased in concrete, were used to avoid this problem and produce a lighter structure. Perhaps the most common fireproofing device is the use of stone for staircase treads, almost invariably combined with iron balusters.’

‘Despite all of these precautions, fires broke out and even spread. Limiting the damage done by a fire was an important consideration, and it is interesting to learn that in asylum building in the middle of the century it was considered desirable to restrict patients to two storeys, for greater ease of escape or rescue in case of fire, as well as to reduce the amount of building that might be damaged. [The Builder, 27 Nov 1852 p.754] This is a contrast with the earlier practice at workhouses, where three-storey main ranges to accommodate the inmates were common. The Commissioners in Lunacy seem to have been particularly concerned by the fire at the Cambridgeshire Asylum  in 1872. No lives were lost, and damage was limited, but the general opinion was that the fire very nearly destroyed the whole asylum.’

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Central block of Fulbourn Hospital, originally Cambridgeshire County Asylum, and now reconstructed NHS offices. (Photograph by Tom Ellis taken in 2009 and licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

‘The boilers and pumps were in the basement of the central block, and as the call for steam and hot water had increased, the size of the boilers had been increased, well beyond the capacity of both the basement and the flues. It seems that this situation was very common, and it was this that led to a new wave of precautions in asylums during the 1870s, particularly after 1875. In that year the reports of the Commissioners on their annual visits to asylums pay great attention to fire prevention, and include descriptions of a number of devices.’

‘The major new concern of this decade was with the provision of a sufficient quantity of water at high enough pressure to extinguish any fire that should break out. Water mains with hydrants were installed both inside and outside the buildings and examined during visitations, when the Commissioners hoped to see an efficient fire drill and a jet of water that toped the highest roofs of the asylum. The pressure was usually produced by a steam engine. A sufficient quantity of water to extinguish a fire was essential and the problem was underlined when the Commissioners visited Ipswich Asylum on the day when each week the water company did not supply water. Under such circumstances a large reserve supply was essential. Tanks at a high level, thereby providing a head of water without recourse to a steam engine that would take time to get going, were favoured. There was a water tower on each side of the establishment at Herrison, Dorset, in 1863.’

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Old postcard with aerial photograph of Herrison Hospital, posted on flickr by Alwyn Ladell and licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Originally the Dorset County Asylum, near Charminster, it has now been converted into housing, with much additional new building on the site, and re-named Charlton Down.

‘A new concern with the structural side of fire prevention is shown in 1874 by the visit to the Leicester and Rutland Asylum of Captain Shaw of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. He suggested a system of intersecting walls with iron doors to prevent the spread of fire. From the way in which the Commissioners in Lunacy reported this visit, one senses that they wished that more asylums would follow the same course and obtain professional advice. The extent to which this was done is not clear.’

There is a fascinating set of photographs of the asylum from the University of Leicester Archives and  the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland which can been seen on the website expresseumpoetics.org.uk 

‘In the 1880s the major concern of the Commissioners in Lunacy was with the escape of patients from an asylum should it catch fire. Every ward had to have a second means of getting out, an alternative exit. As many rooms seem to have had only one entrance, this sometimes tested the ingenuity of those responsible. By 1885 the provision of external fire escape staircases was in full swing. The stairs had to be suitable for both infirm and deranged patients to use, and it is interesting to see how many still meet these requirements. It was necessary to have sufficient space a the top of the stair for patients to be prepared for the descent, and the stairs themselves had to be wide and easy. The time scale of this development is shown by the second Birmingham asylum at Rubery, opened in 1882 without fire escape staircases, which were provided in 1886.’

‘References to fire escapes should, however, be interpreted carefully, for not all were fixed to the building. In 1888 Cornwall Asylum bought a fire escape and built a house to put it in; the two similar contraptions at the Norfolk asylum in 1896 were of wood. At Norfolk the Commissioners were more concerned with their inadequate number than with their material. The introduction of fire escapes at asylums continued into the present century. It seems that in workhouse infirmaries the similar provision of fire escapes was about a decade later than in asylums, only getting under way in the 1890s’.

L0012311 Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum, Colney Hatch, Southgate, Mi
Perspective view and ground-floor plan of Middlesex County Asylum, Colney Hatch, later Friern Hospital. Now converted into housing. From the Wellcome Library, London

‘The fire at Colney Hatch on 27 January 1903, when 51 patients lost their lives in a fire in temporary buildings of 1895, brought a new realisation of the problems associated with fire. Rescue had been hampered by smoke, and a new urgency was now given to the containment of smoke in large asylums, particularly on staircases. In that same year, smoke doors were called for at the heads of certain staircases at Knowle in Hampshire, and at the Buckinghamshire asylum the doors with bars that opened onto the staircase had to be made solid. Smoke doors had already appeared in some institutions, as at Northampton in 1901, but are rarely mentioned.’

‘Immediately after the Colney Hatch fire, the Commissioners in Lunacy enquired after other temporary buildings, and tried hard to have them removed. They continued to accept timber framed buildings clad in corrugated iron, particularly it seems when the interiors were plastered rather than clad in boarding.’

A Letter from Cornwall

‘Five days of fieldwork were allotted by the Cambridge Office to investigate … the hospitals of Cornwall… The first that we visited, Truro workhouse, introduced us to the intractable nature of granite and the most informed attempt at Grecian style so far. The granite was so hard and difficult to work that the mason could do no more than produce a blocky outline of what was wanted but the result was still striking.’

‘Much of the county is swept by high, wet, winds, so that most of the early settlements hide in hollows or the lee of hills for shelter. The windward side of a building is often slate-hung to give extra protection. Although rendering houses is not as common as in some other exposed communities, the fashion for rendered walls in the 1920s was welcomed here. The textures are not always interesting, and when the paint is not renewed the effect is usually sombre.’

‘Despite the winds, workhouse were built on hills just as everywhere else in England, although the thick jungle around some of them shows that they are on the sheltered side. Palm trees were an unexpected impediment to photography at Truro and elsewhere. The usual Cornish workhouse consists of three parallel ranges. First comes an entrance range, often single storey; then comes the House, sometimes with short cross-wings but always a linear building with a single-storey kitchen behind. Finally comes either a row of workshops with the infirmary in the middle, or just the infirmary in large workhouses. There is almost no variation on this pattern. Bodmin had a rectangular infirmary, but several including Truro and Redruth had a small U-shaped block usually with a lean-to on the workhouse side There were always two doorways, but the internal arrangements could not be discovered.’

For images of Liskeard Union Workhouse, built 1937-9 to designs by Scott & Moffatt, including a postcard from around 1915 see workhouses.org.uk 

‘Many workhouses also had a small isolation hospital placed close to the main building. Few are dated, including Falmouth of 1871, and that at Bodmin could be 1842. They have a standard arrangement of two wards flanking a central duty room or set of central rooms, and all are uniformly plain. Some may by chance respect the 40-foot cordon sanitaire that was required by at least 1892, but they probably all date from before about 1880. It is interesting to compare them with Suffolk, where the only isolation hospitals associated with workhouses respected the quarter-mile cordon required for smallpox hospitals, and none was recognised closer to the workhouse except at Semer.’

‘Apart from these workhouse examples, surviving isolation hospitals were prominently absent from the cornish landscape, and one of the two that we did manage to find was occupied by such a desperate character that we did not approach too closely. …’

‘The Cornish cottage hospitals were frankly disappointing, for they had been savagely treated by enlargements. A curiously high proportion had a main range and cross-wings type of plan, or appearance, for the plans did not always accord with the outside. Our greatest joy was to discover that the Falmouth hospital, built in 1894 and replaced by a new building on a new site in 1930, survived intact and unaltered…’

Images of Falmouth Hospital, designed by H. C. Rogers and built with funds from J. Passmore Edwards can be seen on the web site passmoreedwards.org.uk  

‘Two hospitals, at Redruth and St Austell, and been established with the needs of accident-prone miners in mind, but the buildings told us nothing about these needs.’

‘Cornwall has a large number of ports, and had a corresponding number of Port Sanitary Authorities in the late 19th century. In general they provided makeshift hospitals of no size, and only a fragment of the Falmouth hospital, which also served the local urban population, was discovered. Fowey, constituted in 1886, had a corrugated iron building with a duty room and four beds by 1899; it got its water from a nearby spring, and although last used about 1920 it was still being maintained in 1943.  The Truro hospital was near the centre of the town and has not survived. Perhaps because the provision in the county was so small the Truro workhouse was converted into a 110-bed isolation hospital in 1940, mainly for the benefit of evacuees. We did not notice any evidence of pest-houses to either explain or supplement this poor provision of isolation hospitals.’

See also: old photograph of Truro workhouse on Truro Uncovered website 

Moorhaven Village, Devon, (formerly Plymouth Borough Asylum)

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Moorhaven Hospital by Nick photographed in July 2012, detail of the water tower. Image is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Via twitter, an article caught my eye that appeared in The Telegraph on the former Plymouth Borough Asylum, latterly Moorhaven Hospital and now a housing estate called Moorhaven Village.

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Ugborough, Moorhaven Village, photographed in 2010 © Copyright Martin Bodman and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The hospital closed in 1992, ninety-nine years after it had first opened to receive patients. It was sold in 1994 and some four years 120 homes had been created from the old buildings. The project was praised by SAVE Britain’s Heritage as a model of property enterprise and preservation. Jonathan Mathys and Andrea Peacock carried out the development, having already converted a convent and an abbey. They were guided by different principles from most commercial building developers, aiming to save and restore the historic fabric and create desirable homes. The central range of the hospital was turned into terraced housing, and the water tower has become a detached house, with one room per floor, the bedrooms occupying the lower floors and the reception rooms the upper floors, making the most of the views.

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The former hospital, Moorhaven, Bittaford, photographed in 2010 © Copyright Ruth Sharville and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The conversion stands out amongst many former asylum site redevelopments where the original buildings have been less respectfully dealt with, if not entirely demolished. Somerset County Asylum, later Tone Vale Hospital, in Taunton, for example, was largely demolished to make way for the housing development there in 1995, while St Lawrence’s in Bodmin was pulled down in 2014.

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Moorhaven Village, photographed in 2009 © Copyright Guy Wareham and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

A competition was held for the design in 1886, and it was the local firm of J. Hine and Odgers, placed third in the competition, that was given the commission (their design was the least costly). James Hine was the cousin of George Hine, one of the most prolific asylum designers in England.

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Above is the plan of the asylum published in 1890

Plymouth Borough Asylum was built in 1888-91, initially for 200 patients, later expanded to twice that number. It is a good example of a small echelon-plan asylum, where the patients’ accommodation was arranged in an arrow or echelon formation, here in a flattened form. The random rubble walls make it rather more attractive than some of the plain brick versions built around this time.

 In 1901 Hine and Odgers were recalled to design extensions including a new wing on the male side, commenced in 1903, a second storey on each side, an isolation hospital and an extension to the administrative section. The British Architect reported in June 1906 that recent additions and improvements had quite altered the appearance of the institution. This may have been because the additions were of brick rather than stone – constructed with hollow walls, Pinhoe bricks were used for the facings. Two wards were added to either side of the main block providing additional accommodation for 110 females and 90 males. Each ward contained associated dormitories, day rooms, single rooms, attendants rooms, store rooms ward scullery and larder with bathrooms, lavatory and sanitary arrangements separated from the main buildings by cross-ventilated lobbies.

Later alterations on the site included, in 1912, additions to the farm buildings, TB shelters in the early 1920s, a nurses home, designed by J. Wibberley in 1929, and an admission hospital c.1932, also by Wibberley. In 1936 two detached villas for convalescent patients were built and a house for the medical superintendent.

Sources and further reading: Historic England Archives, file NBR No. 100330: Bridget Franklyn ‘Monument to madness the rehabilitation of the Victorian Lunatic Asylum’ in the Journal of architectural Conservation Nov 2002, pp.24-39: http://www.moorhaven.org.uk/History/history.htm

Stratheden Hospital

Stratheden Hospital from the south, photographed in October 2014 by MacKlly (image reproduced under CC0 1.0 Universal)

Stratheden Hospital is administered by NHS Fife as a community hospital caring for patients with mental health issues. Most of the patients’ accommodation lies within the grounds of the Victorian hospital complex (pictured above), which was originally built as the Fife and Kinross District Asylum for Pauper Lunatics. The old buildings, deemed no longer fit for purpose, have been lying empty for the last three years or more, and are not designated as listed buildings.

Photograph taken in May 2001 © RCAHMS Aerial Photography

The aerial photograph from 2001 shows the site as it was then, with the historic core on the top right. New buildings added to the site in recent years have been built in the open space to the east – just below the original buildings on the photograph. The newest addition to the site is an 8-bed Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit (IPCU). On 6 July 2015 work was officially commenced on its construction, with Nicola Sturgeon joining the NHS Fife chief executive Paul Hawkins in a sod-cutting ceremony.

25-inch OS map of 1893, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland

The oldest buildings on the site were designed in 1860 by Peddie and Kinnear, as the district pauper asylum for Fife and Kinross. The site had been acquired from a Mr R. Wilson of Cupar, comprising a large estate around a house named Retreat – rather apt. But the house seems to have been demolished to make way for the farm steading. The architects were awarded the commission following a limited competition in which Brown and Wardrop were the only other architects invited to submit plans. Peddie and Kinnear had themselves unsuccessfully competed for the design of the Inverness District Asylum the year before, and in 1860 produced plans for Haddington District Asylum. Earlier they had designed a number of poorhouses, and so were well versed in the complex requirements of such large institutions.

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 elevations and sections

Building work suffered various delays and only began in 1863, with the foundation stone being laid in August 1864. The delays were largely due to Lord Kinnoul whose amendment to the Lunacy (Scotland) Act allowed pauper lunatics to be accommodated in poorhouses. He was energetic in lobbying the Lunacy Board in an attempt to dissuade them from proceeding with the Fife asylum until the Bill was passed in 1863. However, the accommodation for lunatics generally provided in poorhouses was unsuitable and insufficient. As soon as Stratheden was completed the Commissioners in Lunacy withdrew the licence to keep lunatics in Dunfermline Poorhouse.

Extract from the 6-inch OS map, revised in 1938, reproduced by permission of the National Library of Scotland. The map shows the original block on the north side of the complex which by this date had been considerably extended.

The asylum was described in the Commissioners’ annual reports as being of ‘plain and economical construction’ with a separate house for the Medical Superintendent and a porter’s lodge. In 1865 it was noted that: ‘the whole of the main building is roofed in excepting the centre block, containing the dining‑hall, amusement room, etc, the roof of which has been delayed in consequence of the iron beams required for its support having been lost at sea.’

Stratheden Hospital was opened without ceremony on 4 July 1866 for 200 hundred pauper lunatics; the Fife Herald noted that the first patient to be admitted was a woman ‘who stared considerably at the sight of the palatial display and who had ultimately to be forcibly introduced to a home in everything but name’. Just before the asylum opened it was inspected by two of the Commissioners in Lunacy, an event that was reported in the Fife Herald with considerable local pride. The warm sunshine and strong breeze of wind on that late June day meant that the means of ventilation were well exercised, ‘imparting to the asylum a fresh and delightful odour, such as is only to be found in green fields and rural scenes’. [Fife Herald, 21 June 1866]

Upper-floor plan by Peddie & Kinnear, one of a set of plans by the architects in the NMRS collection

Fife and Kinross asylum was up-to-date in its provision of a mix of single rooms and larger dormitories and day rooms for the patients. It boasted no architectural display, efficiency with economy being the requirements of the Lunacy Board. With a frontage of 410 feet, the main building was symmetrical, males occupying the east, the females the west side. The end wings were for infirmary and refractory patients on the ground floor with quiet and convalescent patients above. At the centre was the dining-hall and a recreation hall that was also to serve as a chapel, the usual arrangement at this date. On the north side, the two-storey range at the centre contained the main entrance, reception rooms, a laboratory and staff offices.

Amongst later additions, a hospital block was added by Kinnear and Peddie in 1891 and a large new nurses’ home, designed by Andrew Haxton was built in 1929. [Sources: Commissioners in Lunacy, Annual Report, 1865: RCAHMS drawings collection]