North Wales Hospital

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North Wales Hospital
Established 1843
Construction Began 1844
Opened 1848
Closed 1995
Current Status Closed
Building Style Echelon Plan
Architect(s) Thomas Fulljames
Location Denbigh, Wales
Alternate Names
  • Denbigh Asylum
  • North Wales Counties Asylum
  • North Wales Mental Hospital


Built from 1844-47 and opening to patients during 1848 in response to concerns for Welsh only speaking patients having to be treated in English hospitals as Wales didn’t have the facilities to accommodate them. A purpose built Victorian Asylum with additions and detached buildings. It was one of the most sophisticated and pioneering of the early Victorian asylums.

The cost of building such an institute in agricultural North Wales was too prohibitive for one County alone to shoulder and so through collaboration with neighbouring Counties and affluent businessmen and landowners the creation of the ‘North Wales Counties of Caernarvonshire, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Merionethshire and Anglesey Asylum’ which provided the communities of North Wales the care they needed.

North Wales Counties’ Lunatic Asylum at Denbigh was built by public subscription, primarily out of concern for the welfare of Welsh-speaking patients who had previously been sent to asylums in England. The original core of the hospital was an impressive U-shaped range in Jacobean style with a central clock-tower, designed by Thomas Fulljames of Gloucester and opened in 1848. The principal benefactor, the local landowner Joseph Ablett, was commemorated by a bust in a niche in the entrance hall. The original building housed 200 patients, but there was progressive enlargement.

By 1908 there was a self-sufficient ‘village’ of 1,000 patients and staff with a chapel, a farm, workshops, and private water and electricity supplies. Significant inter-war developments included schemes for dispersing patients and staff: six detached villas for patients were planned (though only two were built), a substantial nurses’ home was added and a reception hospital for voluntary patients (the ‘nerve hospital’) was established in an adjoining villa.

During its long and noteworthy life many different practices were used here, such as Insulin Shock Treatment, Electro-Convulsive Treatment (ECT) and Pre-frontal Leucotomies or Lobotomies as they’re better known.

The hospital was gradually closed down over a number of years and eventually put up for sale. Some interest in the property was displayed during 1996 which came to nothing. In 2001 thieves stripped the building of many of its original features which have ended up in architectural salvage yards before being sold off and lost forever. It was at this time that the clock above the main entrance was removed.

The buildings stand empty now suffering from neglect and being the target of a couple of arson attacks which have caused irreparable damage. Recently Denbighshire County Council has agreed to Compulsory Purchase the building in order to halt its decline and hopefully open it up to re-development again.