The now abandoned Whittingham Insane Asylum and 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.
It is planned to build 650 new homes on the site and to preserve some of the hospital buildings as apartments.
After an abandoned visit somewhere else which for the moment will remain nameless as I am determined to revisit, we proceeded to head up to the old ‘Wonky Asylum’ Whittingham Hospital. I’d been here previously in 2010 (See this blog post) and I managed to get a few shots in some of the outer buildings a boiler house and a couple of cool rooms which still had beds and wheel chairs but we didn’t proceed much further that day and it was to be 2 years before I got the chance to revisit this monster of a site. Joined by Ryan and Craig we were startled on approach by a couple of fellow explorers initially mistaking them for security but then realising they weren’t we said hello and headed in as they moved on (nice seeing you guys if you are reading this). Its was a decent explore we spent a good 6 hours or so and I’d say we covered around 70% of the site. There’s no denying this place is really suffering from the elements, and whilst is doesn’t have some of grand external features of some of the other asylums like Denbigh and St John, its a huge site and there’s still a fair bit to see. Some of the highlights for me would have to be the projection / cutting room tucked away behind the great hall which is in probably the best condition of all the buildings and is one of the largest that I’ve had the pleasure of exploring. I got plenty of shots of them both which will be in Part 2 of this report. Yes that’s right I’ve had to split this one in 2 due to the sheer amount of photos owing to the lengthy visit. The chapel and Mortuary rooms were also interesting to see and the bay window garden on one of the third floors captured below! that was a sight. Time for the first lot of photos. Leave me a comment if you enjoyed the post! They make me happy 🙂
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:
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