Lancaster Moor Hospital
(Lancaster County Asylum)
This huge sprawling complex of buildings was opened in 1816 - and designed by the architect Thomas Standen - as The County Lunatic Asylum. Further additional buildings were biult and by 1891 it has enough capacity to house over 3000 patients. From 1929 - 1948 it was named The Lancaster County Mental Hospital albeit still performing the same function as under its previous name. The building, known as "The Annexe" was opened in 1883, designed by Arnold W. Kershaw in gothic style and is grade II listed as are its walls, railings, and gateways. The hospital's chapel was built in 1866 by E. G. Paley and is grade II listed.
Pre 1948, the hospital primarily dealt with mental ilness and was known as a pioneering hospital for the humane treatmenbt of mental ilness. After 1948 under a new name of Lancaster Moor Hospiyal, it dealt with general surgery and long stay patients of non mental illness.
Unlike the publicly condemned Whittingham Asylum, instances of maltreatment which plagued psychiatry are unknown in this hospital, Little has been documented about it surfice to say that writing in his memoirs, the writer Alan Bennet gave a glimpse into what conditions were like inside this mental asylum:
..... 'He flung open the door on Bedlam, a scene of unimagined wretchedness. What hit you first was the noise. The hospitals I had been in previously were calm and unhurried; voices were hushed; sickness, during visiting hours at least, went hand in hand with decorum. Not here. Crammed with wild and distracted women, lying or lurching about in all the wanton disarray of a Hogarth print, it was a place of terrible tumult.
Some of the grey-gowned wild-eyed creatures were weeping, others shouting, while one demented wretch shrieked at short and regular intervals like some tropical bird. Almost worse was a big dull-eyed woman who sat bolt upright on her bed, oblivious to the surrounding tumult, as silent and unmoving as a stone deity' .
The hospital finally closed in 2000. The annexe and chapel have been converted into apartments, whilst the rest of the hospital is being renovated in line with the local building requirements to preserve the aesthetics of the exterior.
For my visit, this time alone, it was an early start on a warm June day in 2013. Arriving at the grounds at 6am I was mindful of the arrival of workmen who were renovating the exterior so getting inside was imperative before they arrived. I'd deal with the exit later!
Once inside what hit me first was the strange blue colouring to the vast corridors, as the light hit the blue sheeting on the outside of the building and at the windows. Many hours were spent inside walking between wards, up stairs, down stairs and findinf my way around the main complex. Sadly I didnt get inside the children's ward but no matter as I had enough material for a report on this great site. Renovation is visible in many areas where the sandstone walls have been shaved back and sheeting put over to protect iot. As for decay, it was suprisingly limited, being mainly in the upper wards and bathrooms.
By 7am, the workmen duly arrived, several vans and lorries pulling up outside. Being inside, and seeing workmen climbing up the exterior on ropes and doing their renovation work was slightly unnerving and made for careful footspteps around the window areas so as not to be seen, However, I thought my time was up when footsteps could be heard coming up the main staircase and two young lads appeared at the top of the stairs as I was standing there taking a photo. Fast thinking was in order. When one politely asked in a thick Geordie accent if I knew the wehereabout s of the new roof slates I ponted out I was merely a Surveyor taking photographs so couldnt asist them, they seemed reasonably happy with my reply and wandered off to find the slates. Expecting their foreman to appear soon after, i hurried up, yet it was a peaceful last couple of hours inside. Sometimes one really does just have to think very fast and hope for the best!! Luckily that time I got away with it.