Whittingham Mental Asylum

Whittingham, County Asylum.

Whittingham mental hospital was completed in June 1875 as the fourth Lancashire County Asylum. Designed by county architect Henry Littler, the asylum was located 7 miles from the nearby town of Preston.

At full capacity the asylum was home to nearing 3,533 patients (and 600 staff) making it the largest populated in Great Britain and second largest in Europe.

The design of the red brick buildings takes form of multiple detached quadrangle blocks with inter-connecting corridors that radiate out from a central axis.

The entire site like so many others from the Victorian era thrived off of its own self-sufficiency. The asylum owned its own railway station, 500 acres of farmland, a water tower, cinema/theatre brewery and butchers and in the early years even the bricks were made from red clay that was excavated from the site. The exception to self containment from the outside world was that coal supplies used to be brought up to the hospital by horse and cart prior to the extension that was made to the railway line, this line however was shut down in 1957.

The hospital also sported its own bandstand, a patient's military band, and various extensions that were made over the years to the original buildings such as a separate unit constructed for the treatment of infectious diseases.

During the summer of 1967, the entire asylum witnessed one of its darkest moments in history which prompted a public commission of enquiry that lead to an investigation in 1971. These allegations were made by two senior members of staff, and the stories of unspeakable cruelty inflicted onto patients and money laundering began to leak like disease.

Forms of 'torture' were being carried out on patients in such a way that would not reveal any obvious signs of assault such as pressing cold soaking towels around their necks until they reached a level of unconsciousness. Eventually two male nurses were convicted of theft however subsequently a male nurse assaulted two elderly patients, one of whom died as a result of the attack and the nurse was convicted of manslaughter and sent to prison.

Interestingly part of the secure hospital at Whittingham that is still live was recently at the centre of a sex scandal in which a psychologist named Stephanie Reeves engaged in sexual intercourse with a patient in one of the bathrooms of the asylum whilst escorting him to the gym.

The patient aged 20 who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia has since been detained under the mental health act for battery, affray and 'unlawful wounding'! In a full confession the psychologist declared that she was pregnant with the patient's child and she was spared by the judge a 12 month prison sentence prior to giving birth due to the exceptional circumstances.

The hospital closed in 1995 and has since been left abandoned, plagued by decay and perpetual dilapidation as well as by vandals, thieves and the curious. An uneasy feeling of impending danger engulfs the beautiful grounds of Whittingham thanks to metal thieves and scavengers on the prowl and in the year 2000 a 50 year old man was viciously stabbed whilst walking through the overgrown gardens.
A link can be followed here to a brilliant documentary Whittingham filmed in the 1980's by Nick Broomfield and Ray Gosling which delves into the daily life as experienced by patients in the asylum.

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