Archive for the ‘Photos’ category

City of Cardiff. The Mental Hospital. Third Annual Report for the Year 1910

June 3rd, 2014
Third Annual Report 1910

Third Annual Report

Third Annual Report

Third Annual Report



EDWIN GOODALL, M.D.Lond., B.S., F.R.C.P., M.R.C.S.




ROBERT VINER STANFORD, Ph.D.Kiel., M.Sc.Birm., B.Sc.Lond.






J.L. WHEATLEY (Town Clerk).


JOHN ALLCOCK, F.S.A.A., (City Treasurer and Controller).



Committee of Visitors

For the Year ending 31st December, 1910;

Settled at a Meeting of the Committee held at the Mental

Hospital on the 25th day of May, 1911, in pursuance

of section 190 of the Lunacy Act, 1890.

State and Condition of the Institution.

The maintenance of the Institution continues to be entirely satisfactory. The equipment and fabric have both been kept in thorough order and repair.

The laying out of the ornamental grounds, including the approach-drive has been completed. The exercising gardens of the patients and the other ornamental grounds are well provided with trees and shrubs, so that it will in future only be necessary to maintain them at their existing standard.

The kitchen-garden is able to maintain a satisfactory supply of vegetables to the patients and staff: the articles supplied, as also the produce from the farm, are detailed in the report of the Medical Superintendent. The farm and garden account shows a credit balance.

Amongst the more important work carried out by the staff of the Institution are the making of a road for heavy traffic from the entrance to the Steward’s Yard, whereby the Avenue of the Entrance is spared; the equipment of the Chemical Research Laboratory, with the necessary fixtures, benches, tables, cupboards, fume-and-combustion chambers, steam, water and gas services, extraction fan and motors; installation of telephone services from the main building to the farm; erection of a potato house; fixing baths for warm bath treatment in the general spray-bath rooms; installation of high-frequency electric plant for treatment; repairs to Velindre Lodge,  which is now habitable and rented to one of the Attendants; installation of brush-making plant in one of the shops; fixing additional hydro extractor in the laundry; erection of a second weaving loom in the upholsterer’s shop to enable cloth-making to be carried out on a larger scale.

The various workshops are found capable of dealing efficiently with the work of the Institution.

The main farm road from the entrance lodge remains to be completed, and a road to the farm from the main building has still to be made.

The underground cables for telephonic communication and for fire-alarm purposes to the houses of the resident officials have been found to work unsatisfactorily, and have been partially replaced by overhead wires, a work which is in process of completion.

Accommodation Provided and Available.

Third Annual Report

Third Annual Report

On April 1st, 1911, 39 female patients were received from the Salop and Montgomery Asylum on contract with the Montgomery County Council at charge of 13/5 per head per week.

The average number daily resident during the year was 682 as against 673 in 1909, or an increase of only 9 (3 males and 6 females), which is satisfactory.

The keeping down of the numbers is mainly due to the high recovery rate (46.7% – 40% for males, 56% for females), associated with the fact that the period of detention has been short in a large proportion of cases, as shown in the report of the Medical Superintendent. Less than 8% returned and remained of discharges in 1908-1910 inclusive. The period is in the nature of things, still a short one. As many patients as possible have also been sent out relieved to the care of their friends. There can be no doubt that this, the chief aim and object of the Mental Hospital, is promoted by the provision of a liberal scientific equipment and facilities in laboratories and clinical apparatus, and encouragement of workers competent to use such. Bu such means high medical, and, reflexly, nursing ideals are fostered and stimulated, and it is upon the maintenance of these that the promotion of recovery is mainly based.

The above is an extract from the annual report written by Morgan Thomas, Chairman of the Visiting Committee

Inside ‘The Asylum’: Eerie images of abandoned Victorian hospital

May 6th, 2014
  • St John’s Asylum in Lincolnshire – which has been derelict since 1990 – was known for its electric shock treatment
  • Photographs captured by student Jonathon Tattersall after he visited now-derelict hospital which was built in 1852
  • Administration of hospital passed to the NHS in 1948 and by 1960s it was known by final name of St John’s Hospital

With paint peeling from the walls and doors left to rot, these eerie photographs provide a fascinating insight inside an abandoned mental hospital.

St John’s Asylum in Lincolnshire was known for its electric shock treatment – and rife with stories about inmates committing suicide in their padded cells.

These pictures were captured by student Jonathon Tattersall, 22, after he visited the now-derelict hospital to get a closer look of what remained inside.

Eerie: St John's Asylum in Lincolnshire was known for its electric shock treatment - and was rife with stories about inmates committing suicide in their padded cells

Thank you to Martin Ford and Tim Goosey for this post

Sympathetic Development of Disused Asylums

January 16th, 2014

This is not Laura’s last post but should be read before Mental Health and Museums which is the final post, sorry for the incorrect order.

As in my previous post, the unsympathetic development of asylum architecture can very often relegate the history of an institution to a few folders in a county archive, with complete denial of the building’s former use a common marketing trope, as at Princess Park Manor. As an aside, I am currently living in London, and regularly see properties at the Manor – Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, as was – advertised in the Evening Standard. I have never once seen any mention of the building’s original use. However, in the face of the alternative – demolition or collapse – perhaps development is the only possible route to survival for many of our listed hospitals.


One development in the south of England has proved to be much more sympathetic. Moorhaven Village, formerly Plymouth County Asylum, was developed as a set of homes within the footprint of the hospital, as far as possible (there were a few minor alterations to facilitate access). Moorhaven’s developers were able to use the hospital’s architectural features, for example, its south-facing design (a requirement of all asylums, as mandated by the County Asylum Act 1845) and it’s arrowhead formation, to split the site into individual family homes, without altering the footprint of the building. The developers established protective covenants ensuring the uniformity of the building’s exterior in the future, and have created a management company, funded by the sale of the properties and a small service charge, which protects the building as a whole.


Moorhaven is situated in a National Park. This is significant; it provided additional protection to the hospital that others have not had. Location is a key factor in preserving these sites – Princess Park Manor is unlikely to have survived even in its current form, were it not within greater London, where sympathetic conversion (often more expensive than demolition and rebuilding) will return a greater yield.


One example of a hospital that has had no such protection, Talgarth Asylum, has been extensively damaged by vandalism and neglect. The developers of Moorhaven had been asked to look at developing the site along the same lines, but the found it to be damaged beyond repair. In an interview for my dissertation, one developer stated “In its current state, I would value it at zero”.


In this regard, I think Whitchurch Hospital does have a certain measure of protection. It is not nearly so isolated as Talgarth, and sits within a relatively affluent borough of Cardiff. It’s also bounded by the Melingriffith and Church Road conservation areas, and is of course, a listed building (although many of the Asylums left to dereliction have also been listed). Hopefully, this means that in the event of the hospital’s closure, over-development or negligent dereliction can be avoided.

October 2013

October 2013


In my next and final post on the topic, I will talk a bit more about preserving the history of the hospital as well as the building. Whitchurch has not only played a significant role in the development of mental health care in Wales, but it has also been important to the whole of Britain, hosting many international research conferences and pioneering new techniques in the early-twentieth century. It has also, perhaps most importantly, played a significant role in the lives of its staff, its patients, and the local community for over 100 years.

To find out more about Moorhaven Village, visit

Thanks again to Laura for her guest posts

Whitchurch Hospital League of Friends

October 14th, 2013

Fundraising Events 2013, at St Mary’s Church Hall, Church Road, Whitchurch village


Friday and Saturday 1st and 2nd of November, 10am – 4pm

Christmas Fayre

Saturday 30th of November 1:30pm

Fundraising events 2013

Fundraising events 2013

Photo in the sunshine today

October 10th, 2013
Whitchurch Hospital in the autumn sun

Whitchurch Hospital in the autumn sun

Mental Health and Museums

August 6th, 2013

This is the last post from Laura, apologies for posting in the incorrect order

One of the problems arising from the destruction/ development of former asylum sites is that none of these buildings have survived in a manner that preserves their heritage on-site. As much as Moorhaven Village (see previous post) is a well-preserved historic building that has been up-front and honest about its past use, it doesn’t have any historical interpretation on-site. However, in demonstrating that an asylum building is actually very well-suited to division into family homes, whilst preserving the integrity of the building, it has opened up the possibility of “Enabling Development”.

English Heritage published a document on enabling development in 2008, advocating the sympathetic and appropriate development of historic buildings to ensure their survival, and if possible, to finance a heritage aspect. The ideal resolution for Whitchurch, perhaps, might be to take Moorhaven’s management company one step further and include an on-site museum, cared for under the umbrella of that company, whilst developing the bulk of the building into residential units. This would preserve the building and create a small, sustainable focal point for the history of the site, and a resource for the local community.

Below, I have provided some summaries of existing museums of mental healthcare, with a view to illustrating what Whitchurch might consider in the future.

Glenside Hospital Museum

Photo below, copyright Laura Humphreys

Glenside, in Bristol, is housed in the former-chapel of the Glenside Asylum, and contains a vast number of historic objects that were used in the asylum. The museum is open once or twice a week, and is run exclusively by volunteers, the majority of which are former staff of the hospital. The asylum building itself remains empty (awaiting a developer), and unfortunately, the Glenside Volunteers have only a few years left on their lease of the chapel building from UWE. Their future is uncertain.

Stephen Beaumont Museum of Mental Health

Based in Wakefield on the site of the former West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, built 1818. It was removed from its original site (latterly known as Stanley Royd Hospital) when it closed in 1995, and is no located at another local hospital. It holds a collection of objects and archives similar to Glenside’s, and includes an original and complete padded cell. Like Glenside, it is open once a week, and operated entirely by volunteers.

Bethlem Royal Hospital Museum and Archives

Bethlem is perhaps more commonly known by its nickname, Bedlam. Situated in South London, the hospital remains an active mental healthcare facility, but operates a small museum and archive service as well. It holds historic objects and archives, as well as a large collection of artwork by former patients, such as Richard Dadd and Louis Wain. Bethlem is currently in the midst of raising funding to relocate from its small office and portacabin to a larger disused administration building on the same site.


There are also a number of medical museums which address the history of mental health, but are not dedicated to it. The Science Museum ( holds a large collection of items relating to the history of mental health and illness, including asylums, psychometric testing, and anthropomety, and is organising an exhibition around the theme of electricity in medicine in the near future. At present, the Wellcome Collection is currently hosting an exhibition of Outsider Art from Japan, entitled Souzou ( Slowly but surely, museums are starting to address this formerly-overlooked facet of the history of medicine.

However, museums of mental health and illness do not have a track record of success. They are controversial sites in many ways, and many people would rather they were not preserved at all. In 2011, I undertook a survey asking people how they would feel about a museum of mental health, and specifically, one at Whitchurch, and the results were far from uniform. Several people felt that all asylums were places that should be destroyed and forgotten, while others had concerns for their own mental health:

“As I have suffered with severe depression in the past, I try to avoid anything that reminds me of the illness and therefore I would not visit any site with this subject matter. I realise that more people should be made aware of it and it will help to reduce prejudice, but unfortunately that is how I deal with my own circumstances.”

However, many respondents were upset that the history of mental health is not one that is covered in museums. Several respondents cited the “authenticity” of a museum in a former asylum being important, One respondent to the survey had this to say on the possibility of a museum of mental health and illness:

“…with the dissolution of the former asylums and mental hospitals, ironically some being converted into luxury accommodation following their closure, it is important that their past should be recorded and remembered.”

Whether or not a museum at Whitchurch would be a way to proceed with this aim remains to be seen, but it is a good point, well made. The history of mental health has been marginalised for a long time, something which is often echoed in contemporary attitudes to mental health and illness. It’s possible that in tacking “difficult” histories and facilitating discussion around them, a museum of mental health and illness might be able to make a positive contribution to contemporary issues of mental health and illness, as well as to its history.

I would like to close this series of posts with a comment on Whitchurch Hospital’s present, rather than its past. One respondent to my dissertation survey left a very simple comment, but perhaps the most evocative one of all:

“I hope Whitchurch does not close.”

Photo below, copyright Laura Humphreys


Sometimes, projects concerned with the conservation of historic buildings can come across as having a callous disregard for the present in favour of preserving the past, but I sincerely hope this is not the case here. As stated at the beginning of my dissertation, the preservation of Whitchurch and its history in the event of its closure is a legitimate concern, but in a wider context, it is a secondary concern. The most important issue regarding Whitchurch’s future is that patients and service users are provided for in the best and most effective way possible. I sincerely hope that the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust will be able to address the future of mental healthcare in Cardiff as soon as possible, and that Whitchurch’s future, in whatever form, will be safeguarded.

Laura Humphreys is currently studying for a PhD in Historical Geography at Queen Mary, University of London, in collaboration with the Geffrye Museum of the Home. She previously worked at the Science Museum, where she helped to re-organise the Psychology and Psychiatry Collection, and co-ordinated a photography project and temporary reconstruction of an early-twentieth century Padded Cell. She currently lives in a former “Private Madhouse” in West London, and is researching its history. She can be contacted at:

Another huge thank you to Laura for providing me with this post.

A Student visit

June 7th, 2013

On the 21st of May we had another group of students visit Whitchurch Hospital for some historical talks and a tour around some of the grounds and hospital.

The visit was part of a history of psychiatry week for the Cardiff University year 3 special study module on the History of Medicine organised by Dr Simon Braybrook

The course is an eight week module devoting a week each to the method of general historical enquiry, the history of sexual and reproductive health, the history of psychiatry, the history of epidemiology, the history of medical education and the history of surgery. The format will be a mix of lectures, field visits and personal reading and study.

Outside the front entrance

Outside the front entrance


Dr George Kirov started the day with a very interesting presentation on the history and development of ECT and psycho-surgery. Tim Goosey did a presentation with Dr Ian Beech on the history of Whitchurch.  Lynne from the historical society attended and contributed interesting and helpful accounts to the morning. The visit was finished with a trip to the hall and a walk round the outside pointing out the ha ha fence and the water tower in relation to Enoch Powell’s water tower speech, featured here and mentioned by Dr Braybook as a turning point in mental health history.

This is from Cane Hill’s website which is very impressive. – website now added to our Links page

In the afternoon Dr Brayboook showed the students The Madness of King George, in part to illustrate that mental illness does not take account of class.

Thank you to all who contributed to the visit

Sorry to take so long to write this post.

The secret asylum knitting club

May 11th, 2013

I found this post on the BBC news website

The Knitting Circle is a new play written by Julie McNamara which paints a picture of the lives of women who lived in the old asylums of Britain’s mental health system.

Set at a fictional institution in the 1980s called Harper Park, the patients face the prospect of being reintegrated into the community.

The idea came when McNamara unearthed a recording she had made 30 years ago, when she was a nursing assistant in a long-stay hospital in the home counties.

Long forgotten, the cassette contained voices of female patients she had worked with, all telling their personal stories.

“There were thousands of women in this country put away into institutions for the most spurious reasons,” says McNamara. “They were written off as morally deficient, feeble-minded or imbecile.”

She was there at a time when the government was closing long-stay facilities like hers, which looked after 2,000 people. The patients were institutionalised and she wanted to encourage relationships between them to help prepare for a new less-sheltered life outside.

A scene from The Knitting Circle

It bothered her that the women didn’t talk to each other. She says: “The only way to maintain any level of privacy when living on a 32-bed ward, was not to speak to the woman in the bed on your left or your right.”

The voices on the tape were members of a group McNamara had set up to encourage patients to remember and share details of their lives before their hospital days – often a very long time ago.

A ward sister warned that a project of this nature would be considered too political and so McNamara secretly established her group in the guise of a knitting circle, but the conversations that took place within it went way beyond “knit one, purl one”.

As is the way in a therapeutic environment, they had to demonstrate a positive purpose for the group. So it was decided that the results of their work would be sold by the hospital shop.

“We had to look like we were knitting for England,” McNamara remembers. “There was just one problem though – I couldn’t knit.

“We made nothing fit to wear, but there were some marvellous toilet roll covers, tea cosies and random contributions to the shop.”

The irony was that the only people who shopped there were the patients themselves. In order to keep the circle going, they had to also prove people wanted to buy their knitted goods and so had to make it disappear off the shelves. “Those with a few pence to spare were constantly buying back their own stuff,” says McNamara.

She learned a lot about the members of the circle during its eight-month lifespan, including why they had been admitted in the first place.

One woman had arrived as a baby; an unwanted child of a wealthy family who, it was thought, were trying to hide the fruits of sexual impropriety. Another knitter was admitted aged 18, having had a child outside wedlock.

“I heard stories from these women of sexual abuse and of being sent away because they were unmarried mothers,” she says, “and I knew the women had things in common which, if shared, could help them make informed choices about which friends they wanted to live with when they were moved to smaller group homes.”

She felt the women were anything but “feeble-minded” and were trying to live the best life they could in the circumstances.

A scene from The Knitting Circle

She recalls that the women did find ways of having fun while there. One former patient, Mary, told her she stole cigarette butts from the ashtrays, rolled them up and sold them back to the staff.

Another, Ann, only recently revealed how she would get one over on the nurses each December.

She said: “I hate brazil nuts. But every Christmas, one of the nurses used to give me chocolate brazils… so I used to suck the chocolate off and give the nuts back to the other nurses. It took them four years to realize.”

As the patients told McNamara: “It was the mischief that kept us going.”

The Knitting Circle has a cast of eight which includes two British Sign Language speakers. They perform a script based on the recollections of 40 surviving female long-stay patients in the mental health system at the time.

McNamara wanted to build on what she had rediscovered from the tapes and, with the help of Mind mental health charity and the National Survivor User Network, gathered more stories while writing the play in 2011.

A favourite story McNamara collected came from a former patient called Hillary, who had lived in an institution in the Berkshire area. Hilary said: “I used to love it when the Broadmoor boys came by. They weren’t bad boys.

“I had a boyfriend, Lenny, he was a lovely man. He used to be a road digger. And they found some bones near his patch. They were human remains … but they weren’t his.”

Many of the women during McNamara’s period at the hospital muddled through when discharged. For those who’d been there a long time, however, it was very difficult.

“I lived and worked alongside one woman who was put away aged nine for stealing a bicycle,” says McNamara. “Forty-eight years later, they wanted to release her into the community. She was so institutionalised that it was not possible.”

In preparation for The Knitting Circle, cast and crew were teamed up with surviving patients and staff. Five patients from McNamara’s old hospital sat in the front row on opening night, “laughing like drains” at seeing their mischief portrayed on stage. Two staff members from the time were also there but McNamara says they remained at the back, sobbing.

McNamara believes this to be a Magdalene Laundry for the UK that isn’t even in the public consciousness. The playwright, who herself has been a patient in the mental health system, hopes that her work can honour the women featured.

The Knitting Circle is currently touring English theatres, closing in Bristol’s Tobacco Factory on 20 May.

More information on

BBC programmes – Peace of Mind

March 1st, 2013

Back in December there was a series of three excellent programs on the BBC focusing on Whitchurch Hospital and the good work that goes on.Unfortunately the full programs are  unavailable on BBC iPlayer now but there are seven clips, see links below:

There are also some photos available on the BBC website:

Does anyone know where the photo of the pathology lab came from?




Abandoned Suitcases Reveal Private Lives of Insane Asylum Patients

February 26th, 2013

Here is a very interesting article that’s worth a read:

If you were committed to a psychiatric institution, unsure if you’d ever return to the life you knew before, what would you take with you? That sobering question hovers like an apparition over each of the Willard Asylum suitcases. From the 1910s through the 1960s, many patients at the Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane left suitcases behind when they passed away, with nobody to claim them. Upon the center’s closure in 1995, employees found hundreds of these time capsules stored in a locked attic. Working with the New York State Museum, former Willard staffers were able to preserve the hidden cache of luggage as part of the museum’s permanent collection.

See link for rest of the article:{%2210151325653664179%22%3A403222993082052}&action_ref_map=[]&action_type_map={%2210151325653664179%22%3A%22og.likes%252

Thanks to Anton for the post