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Whittingham Mental Asylum Abandoned and Possibly Headed for Full Demolition

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February 24, 2014

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Whittingham Asylum is set across several roads just off of 61 Cumeragh Lane in the city of Preston, the county of Lancashire, England.

Designed by architect Henry Littler, Whittingham Asylum was built in 1869, opening in 1873. The Whittingham Asylum was compromised of several buildings including St. Luke’s Division (1873), St. John’s Division (1878), a special building for infectious diseases or Fryar’s Villa (1884), Cameron House (1895) and St. Margaret’s Division (1912). The hospital even had a Catholic chapel, post office, Anglican church, a recreation hall and a massive farm estate. Upon opening the hospital had a capacity to house 1,000 patients. By 1894, hospital grounds were illuminated by electric lamps. The number of patients recorded in 1915 was 2,820 almost triple of the hospital’s original capacity.

In 1887, the Whittingham Hospital Railway was added as a private line to Grimsargh to transport goods to the hospital and free transport for the staff. This rail line was closed in 1957.

In 1918, St. Margaret’s building was requisitioned for use for treatment of war causalities from World War I. Those who died there during this time were buried in the hospital’s private cemetery.

The Whittingham Asylum underwent a name change in 1923 for the more favourable Whittingham Mental Hospital. By 1939, it became the largest mental hospital of Great Britian, with a staff of 548 and a patient count of 3,533.

St. Margaret’s building was again requisitioned in 1939 with the onset of World War II, and was renamed Whittingham Emergency Hospital. It was returned to its former use after the war in 1946. Becoming part of the National Health Service in 1948, the whole asylum was renamed Whittingham Hospital. During the 1950′s pioneering experiments in the fields of encephalography and mental illness studies occurred using patients at Whittingham.

Serious accounts and complaints of abuse, fraud, cruelty and mis-treatment arose in 1967. By 1968, the largest complaints were addressed to the Hospital Management Committee including accounts of patients being locked outside, in cupboards or washrooms, patients being left untreated, patients being dragged by their hair when not obeying, patients being hit, patients only receiving bread and jam or slop to eat, that some wards were infested with vermin and some wards were too hot, too cold or damp. Embezzlement and petty theft were also occurring in the hospital and it was noticed in 1968 that £91,000 were issued as spent for patients yet only £42,000 had been on record by the hospital. After this the Matron and Head Male Nurse retired early, two male nurses were convicted of theft and another nurse was imprisoned for assaulting an elderly patient who died after the attack.

With the rise of new ways to help those with mental illnesses during the 1970′s and 1980′s the hospital eventually began to decline. Finally, Whittingham Asylum closed its doors in 1995 and the site became known as Guild Park. The Guild Lodge opened on the outskirts of the site in 1999 and has re-purposed and demolished a few of the outlying buildings. The Guild Lodge provides mental healthcare services to a small portion of patients.

Currently, the Whittingham Mental Hospital is set to be demolished in the summer of this year (2014). The present state of the former Whittingham Asylum is deteriorating and it is full of asbestos. Some of the outlying buildings have been demolished but the vast extent of the property remains untouched. There was talk of demolition as early as 2007 but there was want to finish the nearby Broughton bypass and because the buildings are full of asbestos it is currently unknown how they will demolish them. It is planned after demolition of the asylum to build 650 new homes on the site and convert some of the former hospital buildings into apartments if possible.

Where is the abandoned Whittingham Asylum located? You can find it with these coordinates. 53.817566,-2.660762.

All images used under Creative Commons License Attribution Non Commercial No Derivs 2.0 Generic. All images by Nick Cummins / Flickr.

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