Posts Tagged ‘Photos’

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 www.moorhaven.org.uk

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

Booksale

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

https://y73qcq.bay.livefilestore.com/y2mPR4aoTEM5RLXnQ9M4w7GFeqffSC3xCDVtT-Pkig1EgdKm4G2UVh50ofVZaPGxvOS63whAlPHcXIdD0AlS9-5GHOf_JJ4tGEymFuB6Bx8iRvDoTw3c5RMr_fzmY71YgSX/Glenside%20museum%20-%20copyright%20Laura%20Humphreys.JPG?psid=1

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.

http://www.glensidemuseum.org.uk/

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.

http://www.wakefieldasylum.co.uk/a-resource/stephen-g-beaumont-museum-of-mental-health/

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.

http://www.bethlemheritage.org.uk/

 

There are also a number of medical museums which address the history of mental health, but are not dedicated to it. The Science Museum (http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/) 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 (http://www.wellcomecollection.org/). 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

https://y73qcq.bay.livefilestore.com/y2m1wOVBxqgMbpf1k_W8-Oxfi_3eJ86ALajyd9ST1q8Xw0lzTHvsM4TCdMU5QVYSOPELMIdwQZ83bMoSbY9hZ20quC3rU9NB6YvJFty2zliHl8rEQvkHaSdHIN_5aWiPghi/Laura%203.JPG?psid=1

 

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: l.k.humphreys@qmul.ac.uk.

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. http://www.canehill.org/history/enoch-powells-1961-speech – 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.

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:

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/abandoned-suitcases-reveal-private-lives-of-insane-asylum-patients/?action_object_map={%2210151325653664179%22%3A403222993082052}&action_ref_map=[]&action_type_map={%2210151325653664179%22%3A%22og.likes%252

Thanks to Anton for the post

Wales on line – look back at Whitchurch photos

January 16th, 2013

Came across these photos this week of Whitchurch and there are a couple of the hospital:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/multimedia/news/2013/01/15/look-back-at-whitchurch-91466-32604374/#2

 

 

 

Dangers Facing Disused Asylums

August 16th, 2012

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

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.

7936416 Corporal Richard Ernest Morris

April 28th, 2012

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.