St John's Asylum, Breacebridge Heath, Lincs, August 2020

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HughieD

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1. The History
Located to the south of Lincoln, at Bracebridge heath, St. Johns lunatic asylum was built to serve the county of Lincolnshire in response to the 1845 act of parliament that made it mandatory for each county to provide accommodation for its lunatics. Although a predominantly rural county, Previously, patients were accommodated at the Lincoln Asylum, close to the castle, which opened in 1820.

The asylum was designed by John R Hamilton and James Medland of Gloucester. However, Hamilton left the project in 1850 due to frequent disputes with the newly appointed County Surveyor Thomas Parry. The disputes appear to have arisen over modifications to the design. Built using local stone the asylum had separate male and female wings either side of a central services block which included the Superintendent’s residence while a small gatehouse guarded the entrance to the north of the site.

Over the years, numerous additions were made to the asylum to cope with the ever-increasing demand of it. A cemetery and mortuary chapel were consecrated in 1855, additional wards were provided with an upper floor to the refractory block, and in 1882 further wings extended either side of the main frontage. A detached chapel was also later added in 1869. Despite administrative changes within Lincolnshire reducing the demands on the asylum, any slack capacity was very quickly used up and around 1900 pressure for further expansion came to bear. Albert Edward Gough was charged with the new design work which included a detached superintendents residence, new ward blocks to the north and the demolition and reconstruction of the majority of the central services area, which included a three-storey admin block with stewards stores, kitchens, servery area and a recreation hall (with stage). In 1914 World War I halted further additions to the southern-most blocks and while developments on the female side were completed by 1915, the equivalent site on the male side was not. Capacity remained low due to military use by the Northants County Asylum at Duston from 1916 onwards.

Between the wars, there was an attempt to address the stigma associated with asylums and resulted in the site being renamed Bracebridge Mental Hospital. In the mid-1920’s a concrete water tower was built by Charles Horobin and in 1928 detached male and female villas for working chronic patients, designed by Harold S Hall, were added. During the 1930’s A Richmond and Sons oversaw the construction of an admissions hospital and staff housing to the west with the intention of creating a separate facility from the main asylum.

During World War II patents were received from nearby Rauceby mental hospital when it was taken over by the RAF. The creation of the NHS after the war saw another name change as it became Bracebridge Heath hospital. New treatments and implemented at Bracebridge Heath included occupational and industrial therapies and in the 1960’s was renamed itself St. John’s hospital.

By the early 1980’s a number of the outlying wards had been closed as a number of the long stay patients had been discharge in favour of care in the community. With of the development of mental health units within district general hospitals designed to take acute admissions St. John’s closed its doors in 1989. The site was purchased for residential development which saw the demolition of many of the outlying buildings and later extensions. The lodge and adjoining residences were sold and returned to housing use and the nurse’s home was turned into private apartments. And while the Superintendent’s house was converted into a pub/restaurant, the Grade II listed main buildings are yet to be converted and continue to deteriorate over 30 years after closure. The majority of the hospital’s former grounds have had housing estates built on them which necessitated the demolition of the working chronic villas and the isolation and admission hospitals. The laundry complex was also demolished along with the iconic concrete water tower which succumbed in 2012.

2. The Explore
I have to say, I’m pretty poor in terms of my home county’s big explores. I’ve wanted to get round to St. John’s for ages. One Sunday morning the opportunity allayed itself and armed with the necessary intel, off I set. I got on grid and even got into part of the still-extensive ex-asylum. However, the entry point into the main section was freshly boarded. And despite reccying other entry points, got nowhere and had to accept defeat. At the time I classed it as a fail and didn’t do a report. However, now, looking back on it now, I did get enough pictures for a report and although I missed out on the key sights, I managed to cover a corner of the asylum that hasn’t had much exposure.

3. The Pictures

Let’s start with a full-frontal of the bit I didn’t get in:

50213454287_6bf2113439_b.jpg St Johns 11 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50213161266_cabd3fe70f_b.jpg img8059 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50213454697_7b8a861aa5_b.jpg St Johns 08 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50212632253_0b44c24cea_b.jpg img8060 by HughieDW, on Flickr

In we go:

50213420902_ca54573ee5_b.jpg img8047 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Think they need a new alarm system here:

50213185531_daf9f18dc9_b.jpg St Johns 02 by HughieDW, on Flickr

At least this bit has got some of those ceilings:

50213455267_c2f4f75e4d_b.jpg St Johns 04 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50213149716_12a929ee91_b.jpg img8048 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Upstairs to the second floor:

50212655943_326a5b8765_b.jpg St Johns 06 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50212623563_2f772772f4_b.jpg img8044 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Cleared ready for renovation:

50213454872_114b753781_b.jpg St Johns 07 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50212624693_d47a349bce_b.jpg img8039 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50213149226_04e2793a90_b.jpg img8049 by HughieDW, on Flickr

More starkness and peeling paint:

50213184591_b90f40ce1f_b.jpg St Johns 09 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And a bit of decay:

50213418752_a9f4189068_b.jpg img8051 by HughieDW, on Flickr

Loving the roof detail in this part:

50212622908_b2ac8f4832_b.jpg img8045 by HughieDW, on Flickr

A few of the views out over the rest of the asylum:

50213420992_5f90ef4a58_b.jpg img8046 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50213417717_59c005c853_b.jpg img8053 by HughieDW, on Flickr

50212620798_a11133b333_b.jpg img8050 by HughieDW, on Flickr

And finally, that freshly boarded entrance that buggered it all up:

50213184451_de83e69505_b.jpg St Johns 10 by HughieDW, on Flickr
 
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