Archive for the ‘News’ category

Whitchurch Hospital Historical Society is on Twitter

June 19th, 2015

As of earlier this week we now have a Twitter account:


Please follow and tweet

Thank you



Events to Mark the Closure of Whitchurch Hospital

June 11th, 2015

Apologies for the lack of posts on the website for the last number of months.


As some of you may be aware, Whitchurch Hospital is due to close at the end of April 2016

There are a number of events planned to mark the closure of the Hospital:

 7th – 11th of March 2016 planned as a week of events similar to the week we had to mark the Centenary of the Hospital in 2008

As part of this week we would hope to have an exhibition in the main hall and a party for staff members both past and present.

On Friday the 11th of March a staff ticketed event is being planned, more information to follow.

Please keep an eye out for further details which will be posted as they are made available

If you have any ideas, suggestions or artifacts/photos for the exhibition please get in touch through this website

Thank you

Book Launch

November 1st, 2014

Behind Many Doors cover 300Behind Many Doors: Writing from Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital
A vivid and revealing portrait of an Edwardian psychiatric hospital, created by those who know it most intimately
Tuesday 4 November, 7.00 pm on the Glanfa Stage, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay
Join Literature Wales on Tuesday 4 November for the launch of Behind Many Doors, an anthology of writing produced as part of The Whitchurch Project – a creative writing project marking the forthcoming closure of Whitchurch Psychiatric Hospital in north Cardiff. Sometimes shocking, often moving, always illuminating, this collection of writing will compel all those who turn its pages to think anew about the mental healthcare of the past and the future and to look again at a building that has impacted upon the lives of so many.
The Whitchurch Project was administered by Literature Wales, and led by writer and historian, Phil Carradice and writer and workshop facilitator, Briony Goffin. With Whitchurch Hospital’s closure on the horizon, the project was designed to give all those who have had a relationship with the hospital the opportunity to explore and express their experiences through creative writing.
Behind Many Doors is just a selection of the work that grew out of workshops, one-to-one writing sessions, interviews, as well as individual submissions. It is a vivid and revealing portrait of an Edwardian psychiatric hospital in Cardiff, created by those who know it most intimately. This unique anthology seeks to capture, preserve and shine a light on what Whitchurch Hospital has meant and still means to service users, staff members, visitors, carers and members of the local community across its long and complex history.
In her foreword to the anthology Briony Goffin said: “Sometimes psychiatric hospitals feel like secret worlds, enshrouded in mystery and rumour, regarded with trepidation; particularly those old redbrick institutions – the iconic gothic structure, beheld from afar, set alone amidst sweeping grounds and broad mature trees. The Whitchurch Creative Writing Project sought to shine light on that world… Together, these writers have produced a meaningful and moving legacy that not only offers intimate, historical insight into a particular world but could even assist in the way we think about the nature of hospitals, psychiatry, and the provision of holistic mental healthcare in the future.”

The anthology will be launched at a special event on Tuesday 4 November at 7.00 pm on the Glanfa Stage, Wales Millennium Centre, in the company of Phil Carradice and Briony Goffin and with readings from some of the contributors.
For further information, contact Literature Wales on: 029 2047 2266 /

Free event, all welcome.

Copies of Behind Many Doors will be available to buy at the launch event and afterwards from Literature Wales. All proceeds raised from the book with go back into literary projects in the fields of metal health and writing for wellbeing.

Thanks to Hollie from Llenyddiaeth Cymru/Literature Wales for this post

Whitchurch Hospital League of Friends

October 14th, 2014
Upcoming Fundraising Events

Upcoming Sales













Please see poster above for Whitchurch Hospital League of Friends Booksale and Christmas Fayre

Fundraising Events 2014, at St Mary’s Church Hall, Church Road, Whitchurch village


Friday and Saturday 31st of October and 1st of November, 10am – 4pm

Christmas Fayre

Saturday 29th of November 1:30pm


Secrets from The Asylum

August 28th, 2014

This is a series of two episodes on ITV looking at some celebrities going on a personal journey to find out how 19th century lunatic asylums shaped the lives of their families.

Here is some further information:

If you want to watch the programmes, here is a link to the itv player:

Road to Ruin

The two programmes are definitely worth watching, let us know what you think.

Thanks to Tim Goosey for this post

Hidden Now Heard / Clywed y Cyn-Cuddiedig Community

July 14th, 2014
I heard about this project through twitter and thought it would be good to write a post about it.
Hidden Now Heard is a Heritage Lottery Funded project run by Mencap Cymru. Collecting oral histories from long-stay hospitals.
Over the next three years the project will collect the oral histories of people who lived in six long stay hospital sites across Wales. We will also interview former staff and family members of those who lived there.

Do you know anyone who used to work in:

Ely Hospital in Cardiff
Llanfrechfa Grange
St David’s in Carmarthen
Denbigh Hospital

A new project aimed at collecting the stories of 80 individuals who lived in these long stay hospitals will begin shortly. The majority of these stories will be from people with a learning disability but we also want to interview former staff and family members of patients.

These stories will be archived in St Fagan’s Museum and six regional exhibitions will be held based on interpretations of the stories over the next two and bit years.

Also if anyone wants to volunteer for us as a researcher, photographer, exhibition assistant or anything else please contact us.

These histories will be interpreted into six, temporary regional exhibitions held at Cardiff Story Museum, Swansea Museum, Carmarthen Museum, Newport Museum, Gwynedd Museum and Wrexham Museum.

Please get in touch directly with Hidden Now Heard.

At the end of the project all the stories will be deposited in the archive at St Fagan’s, the Museum of Welsh Life.


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

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

Interesting TV programme coming up on Channel 5

September 24th, 2013

On Monday the 30th of September there is the first of two programmes titled Inside Broadmoor due to be shown on Channel 5:

Inside Broadmoor


“This remarkable two-part documentary special marks the 150th anniversary of Broadmoor, home to Britain’s most notorious killers. With exclusive and unprecedented access to Broadmoor’s archives, this film unfolds the extraordinary history of the world’s most famous and feared hospital. Why was it originally created, and what has it become?”


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