A Journey Into The Haunted Past Of England's Largest Mental Asylum - Sabotage Times

P 10 January 2014 U William Routledge

I see a clinic full of cynics… Who want to twist the peoples wrists… They’re watching every move we make… We’re all included on the list… – Golding/Hall/Staples

Just the mention of a psychiatric hospital, to some, evokes deep harboured thoughts about such institutes and an array of names too such as funny farms, loony bins, madhouses, nut-homes and may more off the cuff nametags. These thought provoking names can also centre on who were housed behind high walled secure asylums where the patients have been sectioned because they’re crazy, mad, nutcases, batty, crackpots, unhinged, barking, loppy, round the twist, lost their marbles, have a screw lose, wacko, off their rocker, cuckoo… the list goes on and on. Many never stop to think that it could be a safe sanctuary for individuals who may have some form of a mental illness. An illness that can’t be seen by the naked eye like a broken limb, a bleeding cut, or a rash.

Those needing specialized medical care may be suffering from a neurological disorder such as epilepsy, seizures, blackouts, ADHD, schizophrenia or depression of some form. Also, the may have side effects from drink and drugs, a hereditarily passed down illnesses or, modern day pressures that may have taken their toll with behavioural actions and thoughts being affected. Even a sexual disease, syphilis, can travel through the body and cause an infection of the brain. Eventually, any of these can lead to someone not being able to function normally though no fault of their own. A mental illness isn’t a rare affliction, though: one in four UK residents will be struck with a brain disorder at sometime in their life – fact!

There has also been numerous documentaries, TV series and films made that were set, or contained scenes from, or events that took place in, asylums: flicks like, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Monkeys, Gothika, Awakenings, Butterfly Effect, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, and hundreds more have been based on secure units and happenings inside multi-secured, closed doors. The aforementioned 1975 film, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, is one of only three to win ‘the big 5’ (picture, actor, actress, director, screenplay) awards at the Oscars. Rated has one of, if not, the best films ever, the lead role of McMurphy, played superbly by Jack Nicholson, was originally offered to Kirk Douglas. He agreed to play the ‘madman’, but then declined due to family pressure because of close to home issues concerning the subject of the film. The other two to win ‘the big 5’ are, It Happened One Night in 1934, and, The Silence of the Lambs in 1991!

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It seems to be/me, we have a somewhat nervy fascination with Asylums, their patients, and therapies administrated too – whether this be in fictional form or in real life. Therapies ranging from drug induced deep sleeps, insulin and cardiazol therapy, mind bending LSD, electroconvulsive shocks through holes drilled into the skull, and the most barbaric, transorbital lobotomies. This an operation preformed by using a ice-pick like device!

So, with all the above in mind, I set off from where I live over the fields to Whittingham and the site of the now shutdown and boarded-up Whittingham Psychiatric Hospital, full of trepidation I must add. Apart from a brief drop by one day in autumn for a photo of the son and Henri the Staff – our then dog – to use the grounds as a backdrop a few years ago, it must be over 30 years since I paid the place a visit. This being as a snotty nosed kid ‘egging’. Times when I hadn’t a care in the world and didn’t have a clue who resided in the Victorian buildings or, what the gaff actually was or about.

I inhaled country air deeply through my nostrils as I made tracks over the meadows and… coaxed? The farmer had been up early muck spreading!

On arrival at destination known, and the gatehouse, I found a new secure unit has been constructed adjoining Whitties old grounds named the Guild Park. It has never been openly admitted, but I bet the name change is probably to lose any stigma associated with the original hospital. This might be a wild guess though, but I doubt it. The Guild Park is home to individuals who have been housed on a voluntary basics or, have been involuntary committed for their own safety. Because, there will always be people in need of care.

But even during daylight the deserted institution is eerie and rather spooky to say the least, as rooks squawk in the surrounding woodlands as they fly from towering ancient tree-to-tree.

Parallel to Guild Park is the cricket pitch in the sprawling grounds which is still used to this day by the local Whittingham village cricket team. Back in the day, patients would sit round the perimeter on warm, mid-summers days with an ice cream or bag of sweets.

Unluckily, or luckily, whichever way you look at it, the abandoned hospital buildings were fenced off to Joe Public and me so I could only circle the fringes of the site. But even during daylight the deserted institution is eerie and rather spooky to say the least, as rooks squawk in the surrounding woodlands as they fly from towering ancient tree-to-tree.

I enter at my peril: Whittingham Psychiatric Hospital was built in 1873 and were the largest in the UK, and the second largest in Europe, when conducting therapy. And at its peak, it housed over 3,500 patients and employed over 500 staff too. Also, if buildings could tell tales of their history and what had taken place behind thick, brick and stone walls, I personally wouldn’t want to hear any to in-depth ones – no thanks indeed. There are also boarded-up churches and concert halls amongst the multitude of various sized, decaying wards. Even if I’d have brought any leftover bread for the ducks and geese I couldn’t get anywhere near the duck pond, because they too were fenced off.

As I walked round the lush, wooded grounds taking photos, squirrels dart around majestic oak trees, robins belt out tuneful warbles in hedgerows and rabbits scurry by on their daily business. (I didn’t clock any ‘mad’ March hares though!) The occasional dog bounds by with acknowledging  dog walker and, the odd lone stranger. And I mean odd! Sightings of ghosts, ghouls and blood curdling cries have allegedly been seen and heard over the years with tales still rife since the last key was turned locking the solid oak doors shut for good. Such myths (?) do the rounds whenever the hospital is dropped into a conversation in our neck of the woods, regularly.

There has now been plans submitted for new family homes to be built on the grounds when the site is cleared in the not too distant future. Hopefully one day soon the haunted past of Whittingham Hospital may be exorcised once and for all, and the souls of the inflicted will be finally at peace. Even though it is stated that Whittingham Hospital can hold its head high for providing welfare and comfort to individuals who would have spent their days in misery.

Boy did I need a drink to settle the nerves after that experience; I then set off down a long and winding road. Rambling along a quite country lane my mind drifted back to my youth, to when I visited the nearby most haunted house in Britain, Chingle Hall, one Halloween. Weird or what, this too is in Whittingham. I then stepped up a gear. I pass fishermen sat round a manmade lake, rod in hand – can’t get that, me-self? – and pass a quaint cottage serving ‘high teas’ – what the hell are ‘high teas’ by the way? – plus a dead rabbit on the roadside verge – hopefully killed the night pervious by a fox?

Phew. I made it! I enter the Ye Horns Inn that is steeped in history and is an oasis to me coz, I’ve got quite a thirst on. The Ye Horns Inn is one only three left in the UK that still has a ‘parlour’ room behind the bar which you can sit in.

Following three quickly consumed pints of Bowland Blonde, the son picks us up for a lift home. I felt totally shattered and mentally drained too. What a day.


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Wow!These photos have “shityerpants”written all over them….

 
 

Nice shots Ben, love the piano! You can’t have an urbex report without getting inside the place.

 

I remember feeling a similar way about visiting Ham Green Hospital near Bristol. I was a 13 year old kid when my mum first went there. I remember distinctly the day I last visited her. She had only just been released from the “secure” room and was odder than normal.

This was probably due to the “therapy” she recieved there. I don’t say this with malice, but the type of therapy inflicted on her there changed her forever. She was never the same. She had had problems for quite some time before she was taken there. Unfortunately we as a family couldn’t hide it any more.

A few years later I revisited it again, as a man, it was a troubling experience. By this time it was derelict and in the process of falling apart, but sections of the hospital grounds were recognisable. I was able to enter the ward where my mum lived, the secure rooms and what I believed to be a treatment room.

It’s a strange feeling visiting somewhere where you were honestly terrified. It’s difficult to put into words how a building can make you feel. My brain instantly re linked the smells, the buildings and I felt like a terrified kid again. I instantly felt uneasy, like I was being watched. I felt sick with nerves a dull ache low in the stomach. Irrational when you think about it away from the place. It honestly took all my will power not to walk very quickly away.

There are places where people need to go when they are in crisis. It’s the treatment of these people that have changed. For the good, my mum never got better (does anyone?) and she spent the next few decades in and out of treatment. She was in the process so long that you could actually see the treatments change over time. I think now its the best it has ever been, it’s widely accepted that all of us at some point in our lives will experience a mental crisis. I think we are fortunate to be in an age where the treatment isn’t as barbaric as it was previously.

Thanks for an interesting post.

 

I just published an ebook titled, LETTERS FROM THE LOONEY BIN, about an old asylum that correlates to this article. It’s on Amazon Kindle. I use to work at a Mental Hospital as well (almost 7 years) talk about needing a drink after work! Love this article and thanks for bringing forth an important topic :)

 

Has it been demolished yet?

 

it has not been demolished yet. the buildings are full of asbestos but to dangerous to go in to remove it. catch 22 … cant demolish because of asbestos and cant go in to remove it. 3 new building going up now to house the bats that have moved into the derelict building. again cant demolish while bats in them.

 

hey I’m just wondering where is this place and can anyone get in ?

 

its at whittingham near preston. its surrounded by security fencing now and 24hr patrol

 

loved this story! thanks for sharing. they say they have 24hr security but they are before the new building. me and the girls decided to have a drive up there so we did. and noooo word of a lie it was the easiest place to get in. my heart was thumping that loud i could hear it in my brain. bare in mind we went when it was very dark and very late!! anywaaaay, we pulled up to the massive building got out the car and stood at the gates, which are as you could tell when youre up close, easy to get through we didnt though! the gates where enough for us, but as i was saying us 4 girls were mesmorised by the huge building, gripping the fence out of pure fear my friend who was on the other end of us flew atleast 3 feet back wards and landed on the floor. banging her head, we all rushed to see if she was okay, seen as she was the driver!! as she sat up a screaching bang came from inside one of the top floors and almost like an old mans laugh CLEAR AS DAY. so you can imagine what we did! ran to the car locked the doors and sped off as quickly as possible. to this day i always sit on a night time and think,, did we p*ss someone off. or was we being ridiculed!!!! scaryyyyyy sh8*TT

 

How easy is it to get into the site now? And is it still worth visiting, or has the decay taken over?

 

you can’t say, as a journo’ : ‘but I bet the name change is probably to lose any stigma associated with the original hospital. This might be a wild guess though, but I doubt it.’…

do your bloody homework mate!!!!!

 

and Dave… well said. Very open an honest. My uncle who I never met had his teeth removed and died, suspected of ill treatment, in an assylum. My dad said ‘ they never had to take his teeth out..he was a really gentle kid…’ So, Bastards also sometimes. The past not always a great place to be.

 

Just wondering if anyone has been in recently, i would like to know til fits easy to get in with all the security I don’t want to cause any trouble, just want to sneak in check it out and sneak back out :)

 

Shan, its impossible to get inside, there’s steel guards over every door and window me and a group of friends went, checked every window, door, corner and crack and we just couldnt get in. we eventually got taken off the site by security

 

Can definitely get inside there’s gaps in the fences and even an open gate if you walk around the perimeter! Went a couple of weeks ago and found an open door in the main building! Demolition has really progressed in the past couple of weeks though they’ve torn holes through the corridors so can see it being very easy to get it now!

 

It is very easy to get into now I’ve been a couple of times in 7 days to take various pics, demolition is well under way and I can’t see it being there for much longer! Good luck

 

today ive been lording crush brick for a building site in blackpool the building that are left standing ,are so good to look at ,the designs are so intugueing its unreal

 

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