Designed by architect Thomas Fulljames, the Denbighshire County Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1848 as the 1st Welsh asylum built as a refuge from the maltreatment in English asylums of Welsh speaking patients.
Amongst locals for many years the old Gothic institution has been referred to simply as ‘Denbigh Mental’. A small stripped chapel lies to the back of the site behind the maintenance shops and boiler house which was added to the site in 1862.
Various interesting and experimental treatments were tested and developed at Denbigh over the course of its history. In 1871 Turkish baths were installed to treat melancholia amongst other ilnesses and in 1916 all epileptic patients in the asylum were placed on a vegetarian diet since epilepsy during the early 1900’s was still at the centre of much speculative research.
Electro-convulsive shock therapy was also introduced at the hospital in 1941 as a means of managing the symptoms of madness, other ‘cures’ for delirium also included Sleep therapy and the widespread practice of the pre-frontal leucotomy. The asylum reached a maximum holding capacity in 1956 housing just over 1,500 patients.
This number however slowly decreased over the years as various parts of the hospital faced closure including the farms, workshops and various wards in order to cut costs until 1995 when the asylum shut down indefinitely.
The now derelict buildings featured most recently in a television series called ‘Most Haunted’. The administration block, although severely dilapidated is grade II listed but sadly in November of 2008 the main theatre was completely destroyed by an arson attack.
This incident occurred 2 weeks after a listing proposal was brought forward to the local council regarding the main halls status. Denbigh’s future looks bleak and as with most asylums, the land it lies on represents a redevelopment premium in location and so her beautiful old battered corridors may not survive for much longer.
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