Dangers Facing Disused Asylums

August 16th, 2012 by Admin 1 comment »

Part 2: Development

Historic asylum buildings have been developed extensively over the last few decades as they pass into obsolescence as medical facilities. Most are adapted for residential use. However, this can often be very dangerous for the historical integrity of a building. For example, Cane Hill and West Park Asylum, London, both suffered serious structural damage and vandalism whilst in the hands of developers, awaiting planning permission or building work.

However, it is possible for historic asylums to be well-adapted for new purposes. A famous example would be the Imperial War Museum, which is housed in the former buildings of the Bethlem Royal Museum and Archives. Although the history of Bedlam is largely absent (although represented off-site at the Bethlem Royal Museum and Archives – www.bethlemheritage.org.uk), the building has been preserved well, and much of the fine architectural detail of the hospital is still present.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3f/The_Imperial_war_museum.jpg

It is far more common, however, for asylums to be converted for residential purposes. Some developers are keen to hide all traces of their development’s institutional history, such as this development by Comer Homes.

Princess park Manor website – no asylum mention

 

Its new residents may well have no clue that their home was once Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum, as Comer Homes were meticulous in not even hinting at the building’s origins. The building is now known as Princess Park Manor, and as you can see from their website at http://www.princessparkmanor.net/, even the history section is at great pains to avoid the topic of the hospital’s former use. In addition, much demolition and structural alteration has meant that internally, the building has been significantly altered.

This kind of development could be considered unethical. Both the history and the internal structure of hospitals is lost to the marketing and market forces. However, the shell of the hospital, which is magnificent, is preserved, so some would argue that this is an acceptable sacrifice to preserve a hospital in part, and there is no viable alternative in most cases. In rare cases, however, development has been sympathetic, and I will look at the most ethically and financially viable example of preserving a hospital as a residential development in my next post, when I want to look at some possibilities for the future of Whitchurch Hospital if it should close.

Thank you to Laura for this post.

Eve and Jean’s visit to Whitchurch

May 25th, 2012 by Admin 2 comments »

Eve Evans first made contact with me through this website in November of last year, she was a student nurse at Whitchurch from 1948-1951 when she left Cardiff. Until today Eve had not been back to Whitchurch. Jean Williams was also a student nurse at Whitchurch from 1949-1952, she went on to work as a qualified nurse and retired in 1975.

Jean and Eve

I had been to visit Eve at her home in Llandeilo earlier this year and we had said then we would try and arrange a visit to Whitchurch when her daughter, Jane, could bring her.

We started the visit by walking down from the front of the hospital to the canteen to share some memories of old times, then moving up to W1A (F1A) to have a look at the displays and some of the old record books from when Eve and Jean were students.

We then made out way to the boardroom for lunch with some members

Eve, Jean Mike and Lynne

of the historical society. Tim, Mike and Lynne were able to join us and we had a lovely time discussing Eve and Jean’s time at Whitchurch.

After lunch we went to visit the ECT department where Kara and Karen explained how the treatment is given today. Eve and Jean shared with us how ECT used to be given and the procedure has changed significantly.

The weather today could not of been better and we walked around the outside of W5 (F5) as Eve wanted to find the window she mentions in her Whitchurch memories:

“At one stage I was allocated a room on the gallery of F5. This ward was
alongside the main drive on to which the windows, including that of my room,
opened. But someone had slipped up and omitted to notice that the window to my
room fully opened up. Throughout the hospital as far as we knew, the sash windows
of all wards and corridors accessed by the patients were blocked so that they would
open not more than a couple of inches. This was obviously to prevent any patients
absconding by that means. My window was therefore not subject to the ‘curfew’, and
once the word got around there was traffic through that window throughout the night.
I would hear a whispered “Eve!” and rouse myself sufficiently to open the window,
which was about five feet from the outside ground, and help the latecomer in. My job
would then be to ostensibly go to the lavatory outside the ward, but in fact, to see if
the coast was clear for my visitor to return to her own bedroom. Sometimes they
would have to wait for what seemed like ages before they could leave me to return to
my sleep, and some nights were spent with two or three of us in my bed.”

Eve and Jean outside F5 (West 5)

Eve and Jean outside F5 (West 5)

 

To finish off the visit we went up to the Divisional offices as this is where Eve and Jean used to have their lecturers as student nurses, a wonderful venue with a lovely view over the bowling green.

 

Thank you to all we helped with this visit and made it a lovely day.

The Royal Hamadryad Hospital – Cardiff nurse seeks help with literary voyage

May 7th, 2012 by Admin No comments »

H.M.S. Hamadryad

http://www.newswales.co.uk/?section=Health&F=1&id=24359

A Cardiff health worker is setting sail on a journey to uncover the history of one of the city’s famous ships and is asking for help.

Steve Maddern, a Community Mental Health Nurse with Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s Community Mental Health Team, is based in the Hamadryad Centre in Butetown. The building is named after a 19th Century hospital ship, H.M.S. Hamadryad, which was berthed close to where it stands today.

The ship treated the many sailors who came through the city’s port during the industrial revolution. When it was decommissioned a hospital was built which today serves as the Hamadryad Centre.

Steve, from Maesteg, is researching a book he intends to write on HMS Hamadryad and the Royal Hamadryad Hospital.

He said: “Cardiff in the middle 1800’s was a very interesting place. It was the centre of the coal industry that fired the Industrial Revolution, and its port served ships that traversed the whole world.

“With this came the problems of poverty, crime, and of course, disease. With hospital care being a valuable resource, there was concern expressed about the welfare of the sailors that came in and out of the port of Cardiff.”

Steve said that the HMS Hamadryad was drafted in to provide care before being abandoned and a hospital built nearby.

He said: “The hospital eventually became used for the general population, and only closed in the middle of the first decade of the 21st Century. Stories abound of the hospital, and staff who have worked there all recount the stories of the ‘ghosts’ that inhabited one of the wards.

“The building continues to serve the people of Cardiff, and now houses the Mental Health services serving the southern parts of Cardiff.

“I am currently researching for a book that I am writing and I would love to speak to any former members of staff at the hospital, or anyone with any memories or information about the hospital.”

Contact Steve on 07970 973929 or at steve.maddern@wales.nhs.uk.

Thank you to Dr Ian Beech for this post.

7936416 Corporal Richard Ernest Morris

April 28th, 2012 by Admin No comments »

Thank you to Martin Morris, son of Corporal Richard Ernrest Morris for these photos and for the acompanying information. If anyone has further details of the Emergency Medical services at Whitchurch during the Second World War please get in touch.

W8/72 Emergency Medical Services - My father is seated first left, front row.

My late father was 7936416 Corporal Richard Ernest Morris (known as Dick). He worked in the steelworks at Ebbw Vale before the war and returned there after being demobbed. He became a well-known trade union official in the industry in South Wales and was awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year’s honours list in 1974.

He served in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment , 7th Armoured Division, the famous Desert Rats during WW2. He was wounded both in North Africa and Normandy. After D Day he was medically downgraded and was placed on admin duties. Wanting to be near his wife and family in Ebbw Vale he applied for a post at Whitchurch Hospital and became admissions and discharge clerk, NCO (Non Commissioned Officer which covers ranks below Commissioned Officers such as Sergeant Etc., Corporal in my father’s case). He was in charge of NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air force Institute an organisation formed by the government in 1921 to run recreational establishments such as canteens needed by the armed forces) and was also responsible for organising entertainment for the wounded soldiers. The only entertainer of note to visit while he was there was Will Fyffe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Fyffe ) who he had to collect from the station. Often with some of the acts he had some difficulty getting a reasonable sized audience!!  He had an enjoyable time there playing tennis and squash with the doctors and other medics. He served there with W8/72 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) from December 1944 to June 1946 when he was demobbed. . The EMS was attached to a number of hospitals around the country to deal with casualty’s arriving from the various theatres of war.

W8/72 Emergency Medical Services - My father is 5th from the left middle row.

Broadmoor: ‘Fantastic’ views but would people pay to visit?

April 9th, 2012 by Admin No comments »

Broadmoor Hospital

In Oxford you can spend the night in a hotel that was a former prison, featuring high barred windows, converted cell rooms and prison walkways.

In Karosta Prison Hotel in Latvia, the former KGB jail advertises itself as “unfriendly, unheated, uncomfortable and open all year round”.

Now, West London Mental Health NHS Trust hopes to interest a developer in taking on its old Victorian buildings at Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital, to create a hotel and housing.

The buildings at Crowthorne in Berkshire were declared “unfit for purpose” by the Commission For Healthcare Improvement in 2003.

The trust hopes the development of the buildings will fund a £250m redevelopment of the remaining facilities at the hospital.

The homes and hotel rooms would be just a few hundred metres away from the new psychiatric unit, but will be screened by trees and outside the high security perimeter.

Fresh air

The trust said it was “confident” a buyer could be found.

The Victorian Society, which originally had qualms about the plans, now supports the trust’s decision after visiting the site in January.

Ian Dungavell, director of the society, said he was keen to protect the hospital’s Grade II Victorian buildings, designed by prison architect Joshua Jebb.

“Over the years, the government has sold off a lot of old army bases and hospitals which just fell to pieces,” he said.

“We don’t want that to happen to Broadmoor. It has a lot of potential to be used for a hotel and housing”.

One reason Broadmoor Hospital may be more suited to be converted to a hotel lies in the attitudes to mental illness when it was built.

When it opened in 1863 there were none of the drug treatments we are familiar with today.

Victorian patients enjoyed a regime of rest and occupational therapy, and were expected to benefit from fresh air, sunshine and spending time outdoors.

In the early years of Broadmoor, inmates formed a self-sufficient community with a farm, kitchen garden and sports fields.

“The views from Broadmoor are fantastic, across very nice landscape,” said Dr Dungavell.

Broadmoor was built in landscaped grounds in Crowthorne

‘Good location’

“The windows in the former Oxford prison are quite small, but those at Broadmoor seem to be bigger.

“It could be converted relatively easily.

“It’s a good solid building, which has been well-maintained and is well-lit and well-ventilated.”

Dr Dungavell said large buildings such as prisons and hospitals naturally lent themselves to use as hotels with some modifications.

Each hotel room in the A-wing of the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford has been converted from three adjoining prison cells, and features original iron cell doors and barred windows.

“Broadmoor has got a good location, not far from Heathrow, near to a golf course,” added Dr Dungavell.

“Looking around I thought Broadmoor was much less noisy than your standard prison, so even though the hotel would be near the hospital, people wouldn’t be affected by noise.”

However, some may associate the name Broadmoor with some of the hospital’s more infamous patients, including the “Yorkshire Ripper” Peter Sutcliffe.

Dr Dungavell admitted this aspect might make some hotel guests nervous.

“It has more potential for a hotel than we thought, but if you were strolling in the grounds on a light summer evening and you heard some sort of noise in the grounds, you might be scared,” he said.

Post from the BBC news website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-17610985

Victorian Broadmoor revealed in free online book, well worth a read – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-15878353

http://www.victoriansociety.org.uk/

Another Student visit

March 29th, 2012 by Admin 20 comments »

Yesterday morning we had another group visit by Dr Tracey Loughran, lecturer in History at Cardiff University, this time with some second year History students.

We made a start with Tim’s talk on the history of Whitchurch with Dr Ian Beech also sharing his knowlege with the group.

Tim's presentation

Ian telling us about the Dr Goodall years

I then gave a presentation on the history of drug treatments in psychiatry.

The group

 

Ian in full flow

We then moved from the old West ward to the main hall where we heard about the concerts that used to take place and saw the future plans for accommodation.

The weather was fantastic so we finished off the morning with a tour around the outside of the hospital

Thank you to all who came along and those who helped make it another great visit.

 

 

 

Dangers facing Disused Asylums

March 22nd, 2012 by Admin No comments »

Part 1: Trespass and Neglect

One of the things that spurred on my research into Whitchurch ahead of its closure is the fate of the many listed asylums in the UK that have been horribly neglected. It’s a real shame to see these buildings come to harm, but no group of listed buildings has been so poorly treated as historic mental hospitals.

Cane Hill

Arson can be a huge problem, as it has been here at Cane Hill, Croydon, as is vandalism. Large sites spread over many acres are easy targets for thieves and vandals. The spike in prices of scrap metal have seen all kinds of buildings and structures pillaged for lead roofing, pipework and even memorial plaques. Large sites are often left with only one security guard to protect them, which simply isn’t enough to guarantee the safety of the building and its contents.  In addition to these issues, the simple fact of leaving a Victorian or Edwardian building empty without regular maintenance can be the death knell for these structures; it is much easier to argue the case for demolition if a building is deemed unsafe, even though that may be through owner neglect.
Trespassing, however, cannot be condemned entirely. There is very little opportunity for the public to engage with the history of residential mental healthcare, and very often, people are drawn to abandoned asylums for this reason. These people are called ‘urban explorers’, and I spoke to them through internet forums for my research. They had very interesting perspectives on the history of these buildings, and how access to them is very important. Some argued that a museum in an asylum would discourage them from visiting, but most agreed that the reason that abandoned hospitals feature so prominently in urban exploration communities (every website I looked at had a whole section devoted to asylums) is that there is simply no other way to engage with them.

One of the most impressive by-products of urban exploration is the photography of explorers. They take some fantastic photographs of these buildings, and in many cases have provided the best record of demolished, vandalised, and fire-damaged asylums you can find.

West Park

West Park

To see some more great examples of this work, visit:

http://www.28dayslater.co.uk
http://urbanexplorers.net/
http://www.urbexforums.co.uk/

Hopefully, Whitchurch will never have to worry about the issues of neglect or trespass, as the examples above have done. What it may need to be very concerned about, however, is the threat of unsympathetic development, which I will explain in Dangers facing Disused Asylums, Part 2.

 

Thank you to Laura for this post

Interesting Radio programme

February 11th, 2012 by Admin No comments »

Available on the iplayer

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01bwmvt/The_Life_Scientific_Robin_Murray/ – Psychiatrist Robin Murray tells Jim why he has changed his mind about the cause of schizophrenia.

A very interesting programme especially for those interested in schizophrenia and psychosis, certainly makes you think.

Thanks to Anton Faulconbridge for this post

University of Glamorgan History Students visit Whitchurch

February 4th, 2012 by Admin 2 comments »

Yesterday morning (3rd of February) we had a group visit from Dr Fiona Reid, Deputy Head of Humanities at Glamorgan University and 3rd year BA History students organised by Dr Ian Beech, Tim Goosey and Gwawr Faulconbridge.
The weather was fantastic so Ian shared much of the information in the fresh open air. We had a look at one of the rooms that used to be used for visitors and sat in the Boardroom and heard about the meetings the visiting committee held there.

We then saw a very interesting old contraption, thanks to Bob Bosley,  please see photo and leave a comment if you know what it was used for.
We then visited the main hall where many shows used to be  organised for staff and patients. Tim explained the room mock ups in the hall  and reflected on how things have changed over the years.

Students listen to Ian

Outside the main entrance of Whitchurch

What is this?

 

Signing our Visitors Book

We then went up to W1A to finish off the morning with a presentation from  Tim looking at an overview of the last 100 years and the history of drug treatments from Gwawr. Memories of Whitchurch were shared by Greg and Lynne from the  Historical Society.
It was a great morning and such a pleasure to welcome the group to Whitchurch Hospital Thanks to all who came along and to everyone that helped

Highs and lows at Ely Hospital

February 4th, 2012 by Admin No comments »

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/cardiffonline/cardiff-news/2012/01/28/highs-and-lows-at-ely-hospital-91466-30214515/

 

Cian O'Donoghue, training coordinator for Cardiff People First

In the final installment of our Ely Hospital series, CLARE HUTCHINSON looks at the remarkable story of how former patients came together to share their experiences of the institution with the outside world.

WHEN Ely Hospital finally closed its doors in 1997, it heralded a new era for people with learning disabilities in Cardiff.

Instead of living in a hospital, 30 to a ward, the institution’s former patients were out in the community, living in their own supported accommodation – some in small groups, others on their own.

“Many of the people who lived at Ely Hospital never had the chance to do many things on their own and that’s what made resettlement so difficult,” said Karen Jeffreys, who helped facilitate the Ely Hospital project.

“Even now, many people who were at the hospital find it difficult to make choices and still have a healthy respect for support workers.”

The group Karen works for, Cardiff People First, started as an advocacy group set up by residents living in Ely Hospital. Many of those former residents still work with the group and it was their idea to come forward and tell the wider public about their time at the institution.

“The idea came out of a meeting with members of Cardiff People First and our young people’s group, Cardiff Young People First,” said Karen.

“The older people brought along a video called Ely Voices, which they had done when the hospital was being closed, and it quickly became clear that the young people had no idea what Ely Hospital was.

“They were asking ‘why were you living in a hospital?’ and ‘were you allowed out?’

“You could see that they really didn’t know about what used to happen to some people with a learning difficulty.”

After pitching their idea to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the group was given £25,000 from the organisation to make it a reality.

“After setting up a steering group made up of members from Cardiff and Newport People First, we sent out a letter via the social work team, who talked to former residents about telling their story,” said Karen.

“Lots of people contacted us wanting to get involved – staff as well as former patients.

“Meanwhile, members of Young People First received training in camera and interviewing skills so they could interview former workers and the women’s group went out to Glamorgan Archives to research the hospital’s history.”

The exhibition itself includes a replica of the dayroom at Ely Hospital – complete with board games and Christmas decorations – as well as a bed like those on the wards, a shadow puppet theatre created by the young people’s group and a snakes and ladders game which shows the highs and lows of life at Ely Hospital.

As well as the exhibits, the exhibition includes video interviews with former patients and staff and written stories about life at the hospital.

Karen added: “People do have good memories – because you can’t live your life somewhere without having good memories – but there were also many sad and, at times, shocking stories that came out.

“The members of Cardiff People First who lived in Ely Hospital have always talked about what it was like, but this is the first time they have been heard.

“Since the exhibition opened last week, scores of people have come in or been in touch to tell us about their own experiences.

“Getting people to share their own stories was one of our main aims. No matter whether the story is good or bad – we want everybody with a memory of Ely Hospital to come forward.”