A good little explore, place was pretty much stripped bare and in the process of being demolished (too many of these old asylums have bitten the dust over the last 5 years). Best find was the morgue, although only small with room for 6 bodies it was still my first and I’m glad to have popped my morgue cherry now if I could just make it to the padded cell at West Park before that’s gone…
Kingsway Hospital Rowditch, Derby, Derbyshire
Derby Borough Asylum
Date founded: 1884 Date opened: 1888
Postcode: DE22 3LZ
DERBY Borough came late to mental health provision, although a private asylum for paying patients was up-and-running in Green Lane, on the site of the Hippodrome, by 1820.
The county authorities managed to provide a splendid new lunatic asylum (as they were then known) for the rest of Derbyshire, on the western edge of Mickleover, to a design by Derby-born architect Henry Duesbury, in 1849.
What’s left of it is now a housing complex called Duesbury Court.
But the poor unfortunates from the borough, if diagnosed as insane, were sent to existing hospitals at Leicester or Nottingham.
In 1863, the authorities recommended that the borough build an asylum for 200 inmates but it was only in 1871, when Leicester, Mickleover and Burntwood Asylums refused to accept new Derby patients, that something had to be done.
The site all agreed on was at Rowditch – part of that still occupied by the current hospital – but the 24 acres there were considered to be insufficient.
Unfortunately, Miss Trowell, who owned and lived at Thornhill, the elegant Regency villa adjoining the site to the north, understandably refused to sell any of her 26 acres. The project stalled for another decade.
By this time, Miss Trowell had died and the Thornhill estate had passed to her cousin, Lord Belper.
He had no use for either the house (which he let) or the parkland, so he sold the grounds to Derby Borough Corporation in 1883 and, the following year, a competition was launched to design the new facility, now required to house 300 patients.
The competition attracted 150 entries and was adjudicated by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
The winner was Hull-based Benjamin S. Jacobs, an asylum specialist. The contractors were William Walkerdine and Co who quoted £31,100 for the job.
It was finished in two years, opening for 27 patients, transferred from Leicester, in November 1888.
The building, in red brick, was in a neo-Jacobean style – then still much favoured for public institutions – and was a colossal structure, grouped, approximately symmetrically, around four internal courtyards.
It boasted three monumental water towers, with steep pyramidal roofs like church spires, a central capped tower and a tall chimney.
The main elements were an administration block to the north
The much more elaborate central block was finished in darker brickwork and contained an assembly hall, with a chapel above it, which boasted a fine, openwork, trussed roof.
These were connected by a central north-south block inside the complex containing the services, like the kitchens.
This was extended by the same architect in 1891, glassed roofed verandahs were added in 1901 and further additions were made in 1902 to cope with the increase in the borough’s population resulting from boundary extensions the previous year.
From 1899 to 1902, a separate building was erected – later Albany House – for 30 female private patients, the result being a plain pile, the proportions of which were spoilt by the last-minute raising of attics to create an extra storey at the rear of the crosswings.
Architect Jacobs’s finest contribution was the Isolation Block, 1895-1897.
It was later ruined by the borough who removed the chimneys, built an awkward two-bay extension on the south-east side and added a vast porch on the south-west side, the whole being painted a most unsympathetic battleship grey by the NHS who neglected it consistently from the end of the 1970s.
After the war, in 1948, the entire complex passed to the NHS, which made additions, generally in an unsympathetic style, and demolished half the farm buildings, leaving the rest for storage.
The Isolation Block and Thornhill were bulldozed.
For more historical information on Kingsway Hospital visit bygonederbyshire.co.uk
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