September 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
This article gives an account of a 2-year project to establish the fate of the mental hospitals in three areas of the UK. There were two aims: to determine the proportion of mental hospitals that are currently open and to provide descriptive data on the fate of those that had closed….
Study of the advertising brochures supplied by property developers was possible for 12 of the former hospital buildings that were undergoing conversion. The other 14 converted hospital buildings had already been sold and were not on the market, so no material was available to study. Examples of the language employed by property developers in sales brochures advertising old hospital buildings included ‘sanctuary’ and ‘seclusion’ in ‘grade II listed buildings’, ‘tastefully converted period buildings’ and ‘luxury penthouses’. There was a strong emphasis on security, with ‘a secure and private environment’, ‘24 hour security guards’, ‘security gates’ and ‘CCTV surveillance’. Original asylum architecture is even imitated in modern buildings: ‘the classic facades that emulate the original architecture’, and the clock tower of one former hospital was used as a symbol to represent the whole development.
Residents at the redeveloped site of Nethern Hospital will be greeted by ‘the gentle bounce of tennis balls on private courts’ and ‘the distant voices of children’. They will, however, remain unaware of the 1976 inquiry into high levels of suicides that found serious understaffing and unsatisfactory conditions on the wards. At St George’s Park in Oxfordshire, prospective buyers were informed of the ‘original 19th century elegance’ and ‘original features including high ceilings’. They are not informed that the original psychiatric hospital has been newly built over the road. In total, reference was made to the former psychiatric hospitals in only four of the 12 promotional brochures and web sites. This was in the general reference to a former hospital or by euphemistic language, such as ‘society’s less able’, referring to people with learning disability at Earlswood Hospital. read more
ART: Derek Paul Boyle