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Old 12th Dec 11, 15:27
TeeJF's Avatar
TeeJF - DP Supporter 2014
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Join Date: February 2011
Location: Lancashire - not far from Preston.
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Thumbs up Whittingham Asylum at last! VERY IMAGE INTENSIVE.

Those of you who have read our postings will probably be aware that we have had several failed attempts at getting into the (in)famous Whittingham Mental Hospital. I think it's 4 to date including one that saw us floundering around in a muddy farmer's field at something past midnight, all to no avail!

And yet it need not have been this way. We first wandered the perimeter of the asylum two years ago and all that seperated us from getting in then was a low fence which was as holey as Pope Nazi the first (apologies to any of our Catholic bretheren who may be reading this but he was a member of the Hitler Youth as a child! )...

But we were scared of our own shadows then and we thought that every abandoned building penetration attempt would result in attention similar to that Skeleton Key got recently. How green we were!

Whitty was first brought to our attention by a friend who is, shall we say, rather fond of his exotic pharmaceuticals. He had wandered all over the hospital with his dog many, many times and yet at the time he told us about it we didn't even know Whitty existed. We drove over and found it rather more secure than it had been when he last visited but compared to how it is now it was still to all intents and purposes wide open. Then at some point between our initial wander around the perimeter and our first proper attempt to get in the owners went mad and put perforated steel sheet over just about every possible entrance. And then to add insult to injury they also erected at some point this year a paling fence which is probably ten feet high and rather sharp! Having said all that the on site security are lax in the extreme. On one occasion we wandered up to the interior perimeter via the main access road and were taking photos of peotential entry routes for the best part of half an hour before they appeared. they were very polite as it happens and we had a lovely chat - quite a change from the Denbigh bloke and his rabid "wolf"!

So... a few weeks ago we finally managed to get into Whitty, but only with the help and guidance of two extremely experienced explorers. Our thanks then and considerable respect to AltDayOut and Sshhh... for getting us in and acting as our guides for the five hours we wandered around!

Anyways I guess a lot of you will know about Whitty's past but for those who don't we will do the formal history lesson first before the pix... if it's not your scene then just hop over the bold italic stuff and the pix are below...



The HISTORY of WHITTINGHAM ASYLUM...


By 1866, the three Lancashire lunatic asylums at Prestwich, Rainhill and Lancaster were deemed to be full and so it was decided that an additional asylum should be built in order to alleviate the very real potential for overcrowding. The first choice of site for the new asylum was in Preston itself, just behind the Fulwood Army Barracks at the top of Deepdale Road, only a little further on than where Preston North End FC is today, but this was eventually changed to another site some seven miles or so away to the east at Got Field Farm, which would be re-named Whittingham. The site was chosen primarily because there was a good supply of fresh water readily available, and also because it was within such easy reach of Preston. Work began on Whittingham Asylum in 1869. The buildings were constructed with high quality bricks made on the site. The clay mud for the bricks was dug out from what became known as the "duck pond" - but which is referred to on maps as the "fish pond". The kiln for the manufacture of the bricks was situated in Super's Hill Woods, a short distance away from what would become the east side of the hospital, on the road to Grimsargh.

The hospital was built in four "phases", the first phase being named St Luke's Division (also known as the "Main"). This was followed by St John's Division (the "Annex"), then Cameron House, and lastly St Margaret's Division (the "New" or "West Annex"). The Hospital formally opened in 1873, with beds for 1000 patients. In addition to the four divisions there was also a sanatorium constructed a little later with a capacity of just 14 beds, for infectious disease cases, known as Fryars' Villa. Later in the life of the asylum this villa became part of the accommodation for resident staff.



In 1923 the asylum was renamed “Whittingham Mental Hospital” and by 1939, the number of patients reached a high of 3533, with a staff of 548, making it the largest mental hospital in the country and the second largest in Europe. During it's heyday in the early years the hospital was run very much along military lines and it is said that the Medical Superintendent, who lived in what amounted to a mansion at the southern tip of the asylum complex proper, would parade and inspect his staff every morning!
Whittingham was to all intents and purposes practically self sufficient and had much more in common with a small town than a conventional hospital. It had it's own brewery, post office, a ballroom which doubled as a theatre or cinema, a Roman Catholic chapel in house and an Anglican church in it's own grounds with an associated graveyard, several farms, a reservoir, a gas works, a telephone exchange, a sports club and cricket pitch with associated pavilion, a military style brass band and an orchestra!!! It even had a dedicated railway station at the end of a two-mile branch line which came off the main Preston - Skipton line not very far past the famous Miley Tunnel. Built in 1887 to shift coal and other goods to the asylum, the line also provided free transport for staff and passengers. It eventually closed on the 30th. June, 1957. One of the engines which worked the Whittingham branch line can be seen below.



During the First World War, a part of the hospital (“St Margaret’s Division”) was used as a military hospital. It was again used for this purpose during the Second World War and there are several C.W.G.C. headstones for the soldiers buried in the hospital's cemetery. Most date to the Great War and to the years immediately afterwards.


Whittingham is also famous for pioneering the use of electroencephalograms (EEGs). EEGs measure the electrical activity within the brain through the scalp and are very useful diagnostic tools for use on patients suffering from epilepsy.

In 1948 Ribchester Hospital was incorporated into Whittingham.

In the 1960s, conditions at the hospital reached an all time low when it came to light that members of staff had been committing acts of systematic abuse and cruelty, and perpetrating fraud scams against many of the patients. The police investigated the allegations and eventually a male nurse was brought to trial and convicted of the manslaughter of one of the patients. An inquiry followed and as a result the NHS reviewed its healthcare policy with respect to psychiatric patients. But the damage was done and despite all the good that had been achieved there for over a hundred and twenty years, Whittingham will forever be remembered with notoriety due to the evil actions of a few, rogue members of staff.

During the 1970s new drugs and therapies were progressively introduced and attitudes to mental health care began to change radically. Then in the early 1980s Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) treatment, which had been used extensively for the treatment of depression and anxiety, was exposed for what it really was and rapidly fell out of favour. This barbaric treatment involves heavily sedating the patient and then applying a high voltage shock across his or her brain, causing massive convulsions - the sedation had no clinical purpose other than that of preventing the patient tearing muscles and breaking bones during the powerful physical convulsions. It was observed that the treatment brought a prolonged period of release from the symptoms the patient had been suffering before application of the shock however I suspect personally that this had much more to do with the length of time the average brain needed to recover after being subjected to a huge whack with high voltage right across the frontal lobes.

Many other therapies and treatments were tried at Whittingham including hydrotherapy, insulin comas, invasive surgery such as the infamous lobotomy (also known as a leucotomy ), and even the administration of LSD - as one patient said whilst reminiscing about the strange coloured beetles the size of elephants she had seen during her trip, "I wasn't a hippy until after they gave me LSD"!!!

Hydrotherapy was a popular method of treatment for mental illness at the beginning of the twentieth century, and was used at many institutions. Water was thought to be an effective treatment because it could be heated or cooled to different temperatures, which, when applied to the skin, could produce various reactions throughout the rest of the body. One of the main benefits of hydrotherapy treatment was its ability to take effect quickly. Hydrotherapy could be accomplished with baths, packs, or sprays. Warm continuous baths were used to treat patients suffering from insomnia and those considered to be suicidal and prone to assault others, the main effect being that it calmed excited and agitated behaviour. A patient could expect a continuous bath treatment to last from several hours to several days, or sometimes over night. Continuous baths were the most effective when held in a quiet room with little light and the application of audio stimulation, thus allowing the patient to relax and possibly even fall asleep. Bath temperatures typically ranged from 92F to 97F, so as not to cause injury to the patients. Sheets dipped in varying temperatures of water were wrapped around the patient for several hours depending on the case. Sprayers functioned like showers, with either warm or cold water. Cold water was used to treat patients diagnosed with manic-depressive psychoses, and those showing signs of abnormal excitement and increased motor activity. Application of cold water slowed down the blood flow to the brain, decreasing mental and physical activity. The temperature for a cold pack ranged between 48F and 70F. Nowadays we might regard such a treatment as bordering on torture!


In the late 80s and early 90s long-stay psychiatric patients who had in the past become deeply institutionalised, began to be returned successfully to the community, and the worst cases were dispersed to smaller units in and around Preston. In the past a patient entering a mental hospital for a few days treatment would all too often still be there many years later - indeed many never left at all, and were eventually buried in the cemetery - we found grave stones in the Whittingham cemetery of patients who had been octogenarian and nonagenarians at the time of their deaths.


With the success of the progressive "Care In The Community" policy the number of patients at the hospital progressively declined until by 1995 the hospital was able to close it's doors. The site was renamed “Guild Park” and in 1999 a secure psychiatric unit called Guild Lodge was opened on the edge of Guild Park, followed the next year by the building of a group of rehabilitation cottages close by.

The developers who bought Whittingham hope to build 650 new homes on the land they clear, and a number of luxury apartments in the listed hospital buildings.




The pix...





External shots first...



A ward block towards the rear of the asylum...





Another ward block towards the rear of the asylum...





A dawn assault mid summer - God but that was early! This sector of the asylum has been opened to the skys and is in a really bad state with trees growing inside the buildings...





The cemetary is freely accesible (as it should be) and contains several interesting head stones though we thought that many of the burials have probably been disinterred for re-burial elsewhere after the closure of the asylum and the notice of redevelopment. This cross is on the grave of one of the asylum's Anglican pastors...






Now the interior shots...


And we're finally inside the asylum at long last!!!





It looks like we are not the only ones who have found a route past the metal shuttering! I hope the reason these tools are here is because the theiving bar-stewards got caught at it!





Most of the asylums built in the Victorian period have a network of corridors linking all the main buildings. Whittingham was no exception...





This chair appears in everybody's Whiity pix so it's on ours too!





Looking out across the central enclosed area towards another ward block. The external lift shaft is clearly visible...





Another feature of County Asylums was the water tower...





A bed side cabinet abandoned in an upper floor ward...





Thankfully this upper floor corridor is concrete because all the wooden floors at Whittingham are completely rotten!





Is this the same corridor which can be seen in this Whttingham documentry on You Tube? (Click the icon to watch Part 1...)






There is still a remarkable amount of furniture dotted around on the wards!






The Ballroom/Theatre...


The social hub of the asylum was the ballroom which was also used as a theatre for amateur dramatics and as a cinema. This area also features in the You Tube clip linked above...





An interactive panorama of the ballroom.

Click the photo to open it in a seperate window where you can pan around to your heart's content!






Christmas decorations still hang in the ballroom...





On older photos there were even streamers and bunting left festooning the hall. Now there are just a couple of stars and a couple of these decorated panels left...





The architecture is typically Victorian and beautifully ornate...





The stage footlights...





Portrait of a happy snapper!





Most of the back stage area is still capable of being used as intended...





The original PA, perfect for doing The Hokey Cokey!






The Projection Room...


The ballroom has a full cinema projection suite behind it's back wall. Here we are on the way up to explore it...






The projectors are gone now but they stood up to these slots in the ballroom back wall and projected towards the stage...





The projectionist's film handling table. The jam jar still has film cement in it, but it's set rock hard!





The projectionist's view of the ballroom through one of the projector ports...





The Kitchens...


This asylum was huge and the kitchens had to be just as big...





After the relative integrity of the ballroom the kitchen is depressingly derelict...





A rusty electric hob...





We're not sure what this was but we think it was a large hot plate for frying...





Meals would be plated up for delivery to wards and refectories on these trolleys...





The label pretty much says it all!







The Roman Catholic chapel within the main asylum building...


NHS signage hasn't changed overly much over the years...





More depressing dereliction...





The remains of the organ courtesy of the damp and the attention of chavs and pykeys...





An awful sight for keyboard players like Tonto and I...





Made in Britain, and proud of it!





The stained glass chapel windows look out across the enclosed area of the asylum...






And finally, more ward-wasteland and corridor-chaos!



Staircases are thankfully quite sound and they make for some great shots...





Especially portraits of lurkers





The carpet in this ward exudes a foul smell of marsh gas with every foot step upon it!
And no, it wasn't an excuse for something I'd done Sssh...!!!






Messing with light and the colours of dereliction...





To infinity and beyond!





I do wish people would clear up after themselves





With the roofs in this kind of state it's no wonder everywhere is so wet inside the buildings...





We didn't see another corridor the likes of this one anywhere else on our explore...





A lifting machine for disabled and geriatric patients...





Inside the metal shuttering...





Time to leave after more than five hours "inside"!!!







It's been a long, long time coming so I hope you enjoyed the pictures!

A big thank you again to AltDayOut and Sshhh...

-----
Veni, Vidi suum custos canis admorsus meus culus...
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