The now abandoned Whittingham Hospital, whose grounds adjoin the village of Goosnargh, grew to be the largest mental hospital in the country, and pioneered the use of electroencephalograms (EEGs). During its time it had its own church, farms, railway, telephone exchange, post office, reservoirs, gas works, brewery, orchestra, brass band, ballroom and butchers.
In 1866, the three Lancashire lunatic asylums at Prestwich, Rainhill and Lancaster were deemed to be full. The building of Whittingham Asylum began in 1869, originally to accommodate 1000 patients. It was built from brick made from clay dug on site from a pit which later became a fish pond.
The hospital officially opened on 1 April 1873. The large site included an Anglican church, a Catholic chapel, a recreation hall (also used as a ballroom) and several farms.
The Whittingham Hospital Railway was a two-mile private branch to Grimsargh, built in 1887, to provide coal and other goods. It also provided free transport for staff and passengers. It eventually closed in on 30 June 1957.
In the early years there was a brewery on the site. At the end of the first World War, a part of the hospital (later known as “St Margaret’s Division”) was used as a military hospital. It was again used for this purpose during the second World War.
By 1923, the hospital was known as “Whittingham Mental Hospital”. By 1939, the number of patients was 3533, with a staff of 548, making it the largest mental hospital in the country.
By 1948, it had incorporated Ribchester Hospital, and became known as “Whittingham Hospital”.
The Mental Health Act of 1960 deemed large institutions like Whittingham to be out of favour. Allegations of cruelty to patients led to a public inquiry.
During the 1970s and 1980s, new drugs and therapies were introduced. Long-stay patients were returned to the community or dispersed to smaller units around Preston. The hospital eventually closed in 1995.
The site subsequently became known as “Guild Park”. In 1999, Guild Lodge was opened on the edge of Guild Park, supplying secure mental services, followed the next year by rehabilitation cottages close by.
This wasn’t a typical planned explore, already out on a random drive me and 3 friends took a detour to check out Whittingham. It was early afternoon, I prefer to do these things early morning or late evening, but we had no trouble getting in despite the fact that some of the site is still in use and was open and busy not far from the place where we made our way in.
We only managed to get access to a couple of buildings and followed this by a brief walk around the perimeter. I expect, with a bit of climbing we could have got into some of the main buildings but there were 2 short girls with us who weren’t really dressed for the occasions so we made do with what we could get into without too much trouble.
There was a fair bit to see in the blocks that we got access to beds, a wheel chair, snooker table among other things. I also got photos of a couple of type writers and keyboards as well as a few leaflets but they either came out blurry or I wasn’t happy enough with them to post them. I’d love to get back to this place sometime while there is something left to see…
Time for the photos…
Enjoyed this report? want to see more of this place? I’ve been back for a few more visits and taken hundreds more photos in these reports:
October 2014 Update: As mentioned in the revisit reports this place was subject to demolition, the majority of the buildings and interconnecting corridors have been flatted with only a few of the red brick ward wings remaining but full stripped out.
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