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Gloucestershire Asylums

First County Lunatic Asylum

Originally founded as Gloucester Lunatic Asylum in 1793.
The Old County and City Lunatic Asylum, opened July 21st 1823, at Horton Road,  Wotton, on rising ground, about half a mile from the City of Gloucester, in its own grounds of 45 acres, and affords extensive views of the surrounding country. The centre of the building is in form of a semi circle, which with the wings originally extended 250 feet, but additional buildings, including a chapel (erected 1873), have since been erected. There is accommodation for 640 patients

The  Chapel on site which was built on the site of a previous chapel in 1873, remained in use until 1980's when it was turned into Offices. The Asylum later became known as Horton Road Hospital.

Second County Lunatic Asylum

The new County Asylum at Barnwood, opened in 1883, occupies a charming situation at the foot of some outlying spurs of the cotswolds, and is built on the block system. It is intended to hold from 1,000 to 1,200 patients, but the blocks at present erected will hold only about 400.

The site had its own Farm and Water Mill. Later became known as Coney Hill Hospital, and has now closed.

Gloucestershire Mental Hospitals

In 1793 the governors of the Gloucester Infirmary opened a subscription for building an independent lunatic asylum at Gloucester. In 1794 the subscribers bought an inn and two houses south of the infirmary as a site for it and adopted a scheme of Sir George Paul modelled principally on the York asylum. 9 The asylum was to be supported by patients payments, the patients divided into three classes, the wealthy, the poor on parochial relief, and the poor not on relief, and the classes and sexes segregated; payments from the poor not on relief were to be reduced in proportion to the growth of a special fund derived from surplus payments by wealthy patients, benefactions, and legacies. 10 In 1811 the subscribers bought 8.5 a. at Wotton for the building 11 and in 1813 sold the old site to the infirmary. 12

In 1812 the subscribers, who lacked sufficient funds, invited the county and city magistrates to join in the project under an Act of 1808 to provide accommodation for paupers on parochial relief. Paul. Who had played an important part in securing the Act, opposed county involvement on the ground that it would delay the building of the Shire Hall, but the three parties agreed to a union in 1813. The county was to pay eleven parts of the building and maintenance costs, the city one, and the subscribers eight. The county and city also made a separate agreement between themselves. 13 Building was to a plan by William Stark of Edinburgh (d. 1813), modified by John Wheeler, began in 1814. Completion was delayed mainly by the financial problems of the subscribers, 14 and the asylum was opened in 1823. 15 It was built of brick and stucco and the central feature was a crescent of three storeys with a principal east elevation. North, south, and west wings of two storeys were connected to the crescent by single-storeyed day rooms. 16 The crescent contained accommodation for 24 wealthy patients and their servants and the wings for 60 paupers and 26 charity patients. 17 There were detached wards for noisy and violent patients. 18

The asylum was governed by a committee of county and city magistrates and subscribers. It retained the main features of the subscribers' scheme, including the charity to reduce payments from poor patients not on parochial relief. 19 It was beset with problems, particularly the need of the county and city to house an increasing number of poor and the subscribers' lack of funds. Surplus payments from patients were small and were paid into the general account of the asylum until 1829 when they were divided between the three parties. Few charity patients were admitted and the county and city filled the charity wards with paupers. 20 In 1832 a fire damaged the building. 21 Samuel Hitch, resident medical superintendent 1828-45, was the principal founder of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association in 1841. He severed his connexion with the asylum in 1847 to open a private institution in Dowdeswell near Cheltenham.22

From 1838, when the Wotton asylum had 20 wealthy, 3 charity, and 167 pauper patients, the number of charity patients increased considerably. In 1843 the figures were, 18, 47, and 191 respectively. The subscribers had all surplus payments from patients in 1842, and from 1843 each party maintained those parts of the asylum in its sole use and shared the costs of those in common use under a new agreement. The number of charity patients declined after 1846 and by 1855 the number of pauper patients had risen to 310. To meet the altered circumstances the parties divided the property in 1847 and agreed to a new union and division of costs. 23

Because of overcrowding admissions were halted several times in the early 1850's and patients sent to other asylums. Large new wings for paupers were opened in 1852 and 1855. In 1856 the union between county, city and subscribers was dissolved and the county and city, which bought the subscribers' part of the asylum, converted the building for the exclusive use of paupers. The conversion, which included adding a third storey to the original wings, was interrupted by a serious fire in 1858. 24 From 1856 the county paid most of the costs and the asylum became known as the county asylum. 25

In 1849 a chapel designed by the firm of Fulljames and Waller was built in front of the asylum. 26 It was replaced by a larger chapel, opened in 1873, on the site of the asylum's burial ground to the south. The new chapel, built of brick and designed by James Medland, was a single-cell building with south apse and east and west porches.27

Despite additions in the late 1860's and early 1870's there was a shortage of room at the asylum, 28 and in 1878 the county bought an estate in Barnwood, east of Coney Hill, for the site of a new asylum. The new institution, designed on a block system by the firm of John Giles and Gough, 29 was built between 1880 and 1884. It was governed by the county magistrates visiting the first asylum and was under the same medical superintendent. Surplus accommodation at the second asylum was used for paupers from other counties and until 1890 for private patients. In 1900 the asylums housed 1,059 patients. In the early 20th century there was further building at both, including a block opened at the second asylum in 1909. 30

At the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 the two county asylums became known as Horton Road Hospital and Coney Hill Hospital respectively. 31 During the 1950's more buildings were provided for both hospitals, including a house in Denmark Road opened as a day hospital in 1958, 32 and in the 1970's a unit for mentally handicapped patients was built at Coney Hill. 33 In 1981 the two hospitals had over 900 beds. 34

When the union was dissolved in 1856 the subscribers to the Gloucester asylum were paid £13,000 and they removed the wealthy and charity patients. They supported nine of the latter in a private asylum in Fairford. In 1858 the subscribers, among them W.H. Hyett was prominent, bought Barnwood House in Barnwood village for an asylum. 35 The house, a small early 19th century villa of stuccoed brick with a symmetrical garden front with segmental bays rising the full three storeys and later east and west wings, was converted to a plan by the firm of Fulljames and Waller. Service buildings to the west were pulled down, the wings, from which the stucco was removed, were raised by the addition of a third storey and extended symmetrically by ranges which ended in towers, and a glass corridor was erected along the north side of the ground floor, The asylum, which opened in 1860 and was known later as Barnwood House Hospital, 36 was supported by voluntary contributions and patients' payments. The patients were from the upper and middle classes, and the less wealthy paid according to their means, some receiving free treatment. 37 A bequest of £10,000 stock to the Gloucester asylum by Martha Davies (d. 1871) was awarded by Chancery in 1872 to Barnwood House and was used to buy land in Barnwood. 38

By 1864 the hospital, with 60 patients was full. To increase accommodation many alterations were made and new buildings added in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. The central block, the original house which was used for offices and the medical superintendent's residence was rebuilt in brick in 1896 and 1897. In 1869 a chapel designed by F.S. Waller was built in the grounds south of the Wotton brook; after a rebuilding in 1887, when a south aisle and vestry were added, the body had an apsidal and gabled east end, an east flèche and a north porch. From 1884 a few patients were houses in a villa on the other side of the main road, and the hospital ran a sanatorium near Mitchedean until 1919. Other houses in Barnwood were used for patients in the early 20th century and in 1938 a branch house opened in Badgeworth. 39

After the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948, the hospital, which was left under the control of the governors, had financial problems, and from the mid 1950's the number of patients fell. In 1968 the hospital was closed and its work continued on a much smaller scale at the manor House to the east, which became a nursing home for geriatric and psychiatric cases and in  1977 a day home for the elderly disabled, for whom 18 bungalows were built its grounds in 1981. In 1969 the hospital was sold and demolished, save for the central block which was converted for domestic use, and the grounds south of the brook were given to the corporation as a public park. 40           

Notes :-

9            G.O.Paul Mins. Of proc. Relative to establishment of a general lunatic asylum near Glouc. (1796); Glos. R.O., D 3725 Barnwood Ho. Trust, subscribers' min. bk. 1794-1813; ibid. HO 19/11/5.

10         Scheme for a general lunatic asylum in or near Glouc; Glos. Colln. 13165 (5).

11         Glos. R.O., D 3725, Barnwood Ho. Trust, subscribers' min. bk. 1794-1813.

12         Ibid. HO 19/11/5, deed 23 Dec. 1831.

13         Ibid. D 3725, Barnwood Ho. Trust, subscribers' min. bk. 1794-1813; Trans. B.G.A.S. li. 158-9; xc. 181-3.  

14         Glos. R.O., HO 22/1/1; cf. Colvin Biog. Dict. Brit. Architects (1978) 776-7, 881.

15         Glos. R.O., HO 22/8/1.

16         Ibid. A 154/80; Glouc. Jnl. 28 Apr. 1832.

17         Glos. R.O., HO 22/1/1.

18            Counsel. Glouc. 177.

19         Glos. Colln. (H) C 10.1.

20         Glos. R.O., HO 22/8/1; HO 22/26/8-9.

21         Glouc. Jnl. 28 Apr. 1832.

22         Jnl. Mental. Science, cvii. 607-29.

23         Glos. R.O., HO 22/8/1- 2; deed in 1981 in possession of Glos. area health authority.

24         Glos. R.O., HO 22/8/2: HO 22/16/2-3; deeds in possession of Glos. area health authority; Glouc. Jnl. 3 July 1858.

25         Glos. R.O., HO 22/8/2, 4.

26         Ibid. 1/1, pp. 646-8; 8/2; plan in possession of Glos. area  health authority.

27         Glos. R.O., HO 22/1/1.p. 399; Glouc. Jnl. 9 Aug. 1873; Causton, Map of Glouc. (1843), shows a bldg. In the burial ground.

28         Glos. R.O., HO 22/8/4.

29         Ibid. HO 23/1/1,pp. 2-20.

30         Ibid. HO 22/8/6-11.

31         Ibid. HO 22/26/14.

32         Ibid. HO 22/8/19.

33         Citizen, 22 Apr. 1972.

34         medical Dir. (1981), ii. 136.

35         Glos. R.O., D 3725, Barnwood Ho. Trust, min. bk. 1856-62; cf. Ibid. min. 30 Jan. 1860.

36         Ibid. plan of ho. 1810; photogs. Of S. front before 1896, specification of works 1858; min. bk. 1856-62.

37         Ibid. gen. Regulations 1860; Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1870) 470.

38         Glos. R.O., D 3725, Barnewood Ho. Trust, min. bk. 1862-77; for the Barnwood  Ho. Estate, below, Barnwood man.

39         Glos. R.O., D 3725 Barnwood Ho. Trust, min. bk. 1856-77: Rep. 1878-1948; D 2953, public. Barnwood Ho. Hosp.   

40         Ibid. PA 35/3,pp. 25,38; information from sec. Barnwood Ho.Trust. (1982).

Source: Quoted from the Victoria County History, Gloucestershire, volume 11, page 273, by permission of the General Editor. Submitted by Alan Longbottom


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