Reports of the mistreatment of Welsh people in English asylums during the 1840’s led to the building of the Denbigh Asylum to provide a haven for welsh speaking residents to receive treatment without prejudice or a language barrier.
This was the first institution to be built in Wales. Construction commenced in 1844 and was completed in 1848. In 1956 the hospital reached it’s maximum capacity of 1,500 resident patients together with 1,000 staff at hand.
Various physical treatments took place at the hospital including Cardiazol, insulin shock treatment, and sulphur based drugs were used and developed in the 1920s and 1930s, and 1941-1942 saw the advent of electro convulsive therapy (ECT) and prefrontal leucotomy (lobotomy) treatments.
1959 saw the end of locked wards for all but the necessary, the majority of patients by this time were voluntary and only those on section or liable to endanger themselves remained on locked wards. The patients were free to enjoy the grounds, walk into town and became a part of life in Denbigh.
The hospital had it’s own band, sports teams, gardens and greenhouses, tennis courts amongst other things all within the grounds. It also held many social events for staff and patients, weekly dances, film shows and the annual ball.
After a visit to the hospital in 1960, Enoch Powell announced the “Hospital Plan” for England and Wales. This plan proposed that psychiatric care facilities should be moved to general hospitals favouring community care rather than institutions.
This was the beginning of the demise of the Denbigh asylum and others like it. A ten year plan to close such hospitals began in 1987 seeing the asylum’s final closure in 1995.
The asylum was saved from total demolition after being listed as a grade II listed building. Sadly some areas of this magnificent building have had to be demolished, however, plans for the remaining building is to convert into private dwellings.