First post and first attempt at Urban Ex so please be gentle with me
After following a number of posts on this forum decided to give Whittingham a go before its gone forever
Extremely lucky with the outing over the Easter bank holiday - no security no workman
Whittingham asylum was opened in 1866 and by 1939 grew to being England’s largest populated asylum (the second largest in Europe) housing, at full capacity over 3500 patients and 600 members of staff. During Whittingham’s 129 year history the asylum doctors pioneered the use of electroencephalograms (EEGs)
Whittingham was built in 4 phases, St Luke’s, St John’s, Cameron House and lastly St Margaret’s. The red bricked buildings were made from bricks made of clay dug from the site and took the form of multiple detached courtyard blocks with connecting corridors. The asylum like many others of the Victorian era was built to be as self-sufficient as possible. Whittingham had its own railway station, water tower, post office, Anglican church and catholic chapel, gas works and ballroom to name but a few.
During both world wars parts of Whittingham were commandeered for the treatment of war casualties; patients who died at this time were buried in the institutions private cemetery at the edge of the site. At the end of the war the hospital was returned to civilian use.
Between the wars public perception began to change; Whittingham Asylum changed its name to Whittingham Mental Hospital and the term ‘Lunatic’ was replaced with the phrase ‘Person of unsound mind’. Parliament passed the First Mental Health Act resulting in the first voluntary patients being admitted to Whittingham.
The 1960s was a turbulent time for Whittingham there were serious complaints of cruelty, abuse and fraud in the hospital and this signalled the beginning of the end of Whittingham Mental Hospital.
In the 1970s and 1980s new drugs and therapies were introduced to people suffering from mental illnesses and attitudes once again began to radically change towards mental health care. Large and outmoded Victorian institutions such as Whittingham were deemed not to be the way forward in the treatment of Mental Illness and small ‘specialised’ units were being created adjacent to large busy general hospitals.
Despite the grim start of asylums and the dark days of cruelty and abuse; in the later years Whittingham was a true community, a haven for many people with nowhere else be.
By the late 1980s into the early 1990s long stay psychiatric patients who in the past would have been institutionalised for life began to being successfully returned into the community. The history of many mentally ill patients tell us that all too often a patient would enter the hospital for a few days treatment and still be there many years later, in some instances many never left at all.
Whittingham Mental Hospital closed its doors for the last time in 1995 and has stood abandoned, plagued by decay, vandals and thieves until 2014 when the bulldozers started to move in. The only friendly visitors to Whittingham during this 20 year stretch have been urban explorers taking only photos and leaving only footprints whilst they document the decline of the buildings of the once great Whittingham Asylum.
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