Located in Goosnargh, Lancashire England
Photo © 2006 Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
Whittingham Hospital History
The Fourth County Lunatic Asylum at Whittingham was built in 1869 and opened on April 1st, 1893 in response to needs of an additional psychiatric hospital in Lancashire. The facility was able to house just over 2,000 patients, but grew with three major additions to the original hospital complex (known as the St Luke's Division); St John's (the Annex - 1880), Cameron House, and St Margaret's (the New or West Annex - 1912). Also included on campus was an infectious diseases sanatorium (Fryar's Villa), train station, theater with hospital brass band and orchestra, church, and post office.
In the early 1920s, the facility was renamed "Whittingham Mental Hospital," and after the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the military used the St Margaret's Division as an emergency hospital to treat both military and civilian casualties until 1946. Shortly thereafter, the staff at Whittingham produced the first EEG machine from war surplus material. The patient population rose to over 3,500, making Whittingham Mental Hospital the largest in the country. To get a better look at the size and layout, here's an aerial photo of the hospital:
In 1965, the hospital's magazine Contact published two articles touching upon shortcomings in student training on the wards, which were followed by letters from student nurses complaining about conditions for patients that were ignored by the Hospital Management Committee. In 1967, a book called "Sans Everything" was published, describing conditions within England's long term care facilities, which stirred the student nurses once again. A meeting was held and the students voiced opinions of mistreatment and fraud. The Head Male Nurse quickly doused the fire by threatening the students with actions for libel and slander against their complaints, and no issues were pursued until March of 1968, when a new psychologist had toured the wards. He did not like what he saw at all, and published his opinions in several articles. The student nurses now felt like they had a voice on the outside to help, but another meeting was called and they were told to "put up or shut up" by the Head Male Nurse. The Hospital Management Committee discovered heard about this meeting and the previous squelching in 1967, and reprimands were issued to the Head Male Nurse and Matron, both of whom decided to retire thereafter.
An investigation was conducted, and complaints of mistreatment were reported in two male and two female wards in the St Luke's division, with the worst being in Ward 16 for women. Complaints were reported such as patients being locked in small rooms under staircases, in washrooms, and outside in the airing courts regardless of weather. Others include patients being dragged by their hair, a "wet towel treatment" where a damp towel would be wrapped around the patient's neck to induce unconsciousness, nurses setting fire to a patients clothing while worn, beatings and vermin infestations. During the 1968-69 fiscal year, as much as £49,000 had been unaccounted for as well. The allegations were denied, but staff members were discharged and peace was restored.
New movements in psychiatric treatment led to the popularity of deinstitutionalization; small wings devoted to psychiatric rehabilitation were added to general hospitals rather than keeping patients in large outdated asylums. Once the new treatment center opened in Preston, the Whittingham Hospital was shut down in 1995. English Partnerships planned to demolish the buildings for housing and offices in 2008; by 2015, most of the structures have been razed.
Most of the historic photographs below were generously donated by whittinghamhospital.co.uk.