Denbigh County Asylum, Wales
With the sun beating down on a hot July morning, this was my first visit to Wales for a shoot. It was also the first time I had company during a location visit. Having parked up in the narrow country lanes a quick stroll into the grounds and before me was this huge former mental hospital standing tall yet showing signs of decay after its abandonment and neglect. I decided to wander around the entire complex first to take in its layout and find some parts to photograph.
Most was sealed off to the outside world due to the dangerous condition inside. Floors had collapsed down 2 or 3 stories, staircases were missing and doors opened in to mid air to a missing floor, just a drop in store if anyone ventured any further forward. The usual peeling doors and ivy covered windows along with crumbling limestone walls, similar to Whittingham, yet this asylum didn't have the same magical feeling of that one. Finding things to photograph proved difficult, or maybe I just wasn't inspired that day? Some parts had obviously been demolished which made me wonder why they had started and then seemed to just stop. An ancient ruin in a state of lassitude, unsure of its purpose, unsure of its reason for remaining.
A couple of hours inside surficed and then it was time to leave. Just the big external shots to get and lots of water to drink as the heat intensified. Next to the asylum sits the old nurses quarters which did have some remnnts of a former use. As part of a 2 day trip my thoughts were already on to the next days visit to The Father Hudson Society complex of buildings in Birmingham.
Historically, Denbigh County Asylum was designed by the architect Thomas James and opened its doors in 1848. It’s primary function was to house Welsh speaking patients who previously had been mistreated in non-Welsh asylums. Its design incorporated separate units to keep apart the more wealthy patients from the pauper patients as well as separating epilepsy and violent patients. It was initially designed to hold up to 200 patients.
Denbigh Asylum is significant for its innovative approaches to psychiatric illness’s, for instance the introduction of Turkish baths in 1871 to treat melancholia. ECT treatment was introduced in 1941 as well as Pre-frontal leucotomy operations in 1942 to treat madness. By the late 1950’s many additional units had been added and the capacity reached up to 1500 patients at any one time. In 1987 with patient numbers dwindling and units closing down to cut costs a 10 tear strategy to close the hospital was devised and finally in 1995 Denbigh County Asylum closed its doors for the last time. In 2008 arson was responsible for a large fire which destroyed the old ballroom adding to the already parlous state of this magnificent building. Promised repairs by the owners have never been carried out and so this crumbling old limestone asylum lays rotting in the beautiful Welsh countryside still awaiting its fate.