One of my favourite history places: the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Primary History feature

By Bev Forrest, published 14th June 2021

The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, High Royds, Menston

This certainly represents one of the more unusual in the ‘My favourite place’ series: a hospital for the mentally ill for the poorer sections of society. Buildings such as this, however, were often imposing structures with fine architecture and an important history. With a growing recognition of the importance of mental health, buildings such as this can provide a valuable insight into past attitudes and treatments.

“A place like no other…” reads the publicity from the property developer urging us to purchase a home in an iconic Victorian clock tower. Yes, a home here is certainly unique as what they fail to tell any prospective buyer is that this particular tower was formerly the centrepiece of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Menston. The institution, built on the outskirts of Leeds, opened its doors to its first patients in 1888. It was set in over 200 acres of beautiful parkland and intended to house the insane from the ever-growing industrial conurbation of Leeds and Bradford. J. Vickers Edwards, the county engineer, designed the asylum in the new echelon style. This approach resulted in the wards being housed in detached blocks linked to a main hospital corridor by small corridors. Different classes of patient could be separated in the blocks according to their condition. It also served to divide the whole hospital into male and female zones. The hospital was closed in 2003 in response to changes in attitude towards the treatment of mental health... 

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