Whittingham Hospital – An Abandoned English Psychiatric Hospital

Whittingham State Hospital

Whittingham Hospital was a psychiatric hospital near Preston in Lancashire, England. Founded in 1869, the hospital became the largest of it’s kind in Britain and had a church, farms, a railway, a post office, reservoirs, brewery, orchestra, ballroom and butchers.

There were three existing lunatic asylums in Lancashire in 1866 at Prestwich, Rainhill and Lancaster however all were at capacity and it was decided to build a new one and so Whittingham was opened in 1873. By 1915, there were 2820 inmates at the site. By 1939, the patients in the hospital numbered 3533 with a staff of 548.

In 1967, student nurses complained about conditions at the hospital that led to a major inquiry which began the decline of the hospital. As a result of new drugs and therapies for people with mental illnesses, the number of patients declined and by 1995 it was closed. The site has remained abandoned and has been renamed Guild Park. There are plans to build houses on the site.

Below are the findings into the inquiry relating to the hospital conditions in 1967 –

  • That patients had been left untreated
  • That some patients had been given only bread and jam to eat or had been given food mixed up and served as “slops”
  • That some patients had been locked outside, regardless of weather conditions, or in washrooms and cupboards.
  • That in one ward, students had witnessed patients being dragged about by their hair.
  • That on ward 3, a male ward, patients were given “wet towel treatment”, which involved twisting a cold, wet towel or bed sheet round a patient’s neck until the patient lost consciousness. Patients were also seen to have been punched and locked in a storeroom.
  • On ward S2, another male ward, it was alleged that two male nurses had poured methylated spirits into the slippers of one patient and into the dressing gown pocket of another and set them alight.
  • It was also reported that some wards were infested with vermin and others were too cold, too hot or too damp. In addition, it was found that there was a culture of petty theft on the wards and of serious fraud and embezzlement in some administrative offices.
  • In 1968–69, £91,000 was issued from sources for the use of patients, yet only £42,000 was recorded as having been spent in the hospital shop, supposedly leaving the remaining £49,000 unaccounted for.

Location: Lancashire, England

Category: Hospital

Abandoned: 1995


Whittingham Abandoned Hospital

An old photo of Whittingham Hospital

The derelict Whittingham Hospital

15 thoughts on “Whittingham Hospital – An Abandoned English Psychiatric Hospital”

  1. Thank you for some really good information and photos of Whittingham Ayslum. One of my ancestors was there for many years. What kind of life did he have? Not a very good one it seems.

  2. My Grandpa was in Whittingham Asylum in the the late 1960s visiting him, which I always did at the weekend, he had two black eyes, I asked him what had happened, he pointed to a male nurse at a desk and told me that the nurse had been hitting him, I was livid, I went and asked the nurse what had happened, he told me my Grandpa had fallen out of bed, I MAY have understood that if Grandpa's nose had been bruised, also told the nurse at the time, if there was ever a mark on him again, I would wait outside the door when the said nurse was going home on his push bike and that I would help him to move faster with the front of my car…..by the way Grandpa was on ward 11, one nurse to look after at least 100 men ?????? why was I never reported for my threats?? I have a darn good answer, Grandpa was telling the truth, ending this, my Grandpa never had another mark on him………….

  3. Visited on 18 August 2015, the old hospital is being demolished, only the front door and surrounding windows still erect, and the site is still active as a NHS facility (mental health?)

  4. I have different memories of Whittingham hospital, I lived on Woodlands Grove and attended Goosnargh, St Olivers C of E primary school between the years 1948 and 1953.
    Skating on the lake, playing cricket on the oval, riding bicycles through the grounds and seeing movies of the day in the large dance hall during the school holidays, are some of my memories. I would say mostly happy memories of childhood. But as children we would have had no knowledge of what it was like to be a patient or have family members inside the place. It sounds like it has a dark past.
    Seeing the videos of its current condition makes one think it should be totally demolished and the area populated with new homes and happy children and families. the area of Goosnargh is a pretty part of Lancashire.

  5. I was a student Nurse at Whittingham in the early eighties , there was a lot of abuse on some of the wards and there were efforts to improve the life for the people who lived there . The staff who had been there a long time were as institutionalised as the patients .
    Despite this a lot of patients did not want to leave and regarded the hospital as their home and a lot of the wards did try to make the best of things for the patients . I enjoyed my time working there and met some lovely people who had entered Whittingham in their early teens and we’re still there in their sixties , seventies and eighties .

  6. A relative of mine is registered as working as a nurse at Whittingham Hospital on 3.12.1965. Her name was Violet Elsie Dereszkiewicz [nee Welch-Rollason]. Does anyone have any information as to whether any records were kept/archived about the staff please?

  7. Ive just discovered that my 2nd great grandmother had been admitted to Whittingham in 1882 and died there on 1915 …33 yrs she spent there….does anybody have any idea if people who passed away in the hospital would have been buried on the grounds ..thanks

  8. My Great Grandmother Elizabeth Flanagan would appear to have been at Whittingham in 1891 cencus but it only shows her Initials E F. Is there any way of confirming it is her and the date she arrived and was discharged? Thank you

  9. Yes, as a nurse at Whittingham hospital, I attended funeral services of patients and they were
    buried in the hospital cemetery

  10. My grandad & Nana worked there, not sure what year, my grandad was a chef and nana was a cleaner never asked about what went on there but I can imagine before mental health was known about the patients probably were abused beaten and starved, and their needs were probably never met or they weren’t medicated. It’s a shame people’s family members suffered so badly in the 1900s

  11. Andrew Schofield

    Recently discovered my Great Grandmother was in Whittingham. For those asking about records I searched on Lancashire Archives website and found two mentions of her in the Whittingham records. She was there for 24 years until her death in 1945. Will have to visit to view the records but you might be lucky as well.

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