St. Brendan's Hospital

From Asylum Projects
Jump to: navigation, search
St. Brendan's Hospital
Opened 1815
Closed 2013
Current Status Closed
Building Style Echelon Plan
Architect(s) Francis Johnston
Location Grangegorman,Dublin
Alternate Names
  • Richmond Lunatic Asylum
  • Richmond District Lunatic Asylum


The first patients were admitted to St. Brendans in 1814. The original establishment was the “Richmond Asylum”, named after Charles Lennox, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and 4th Duke of Richmond. The Richmond coat of arms, inscribed 1810, still stands over the entrance of the lower house, which was the original hospital building. The hospital became “The Richmond District Asylum” in 1830, and in the early 1930s the “District Lunatic Asylum” became a “District Mental Hospital”. The original Hospital of 1814 had 6 male and six female ‘Keepers’, who - we are told - were warned to use civilised language, and not to inflict restraint of punishment. The keepers were assisted by a porter (whose duties included preventing escapes) and a Law agent. The housekeeper’s duties included changing the straw for the patients bedding every two weeks!

In the 1850’s Dr Lawlor set up a famous school for nurses, and introduced a series of classifications for nurses. Wages depended on class, and were considerably lower for females. In the 1890’s, formal lectures were set up, and examinations led to the title of “psychiatric nurse being created”. In 1919, the ‘Irish Asylum Workers Union’ succeeded in reducing working hours from 80 to 56 hours per week. The Governors of the Asylum acquired lands and established further buildings over the 19th century as the numbers of patients increased. The first mass was celebrated in 1836, and later churches for both Catholics and protestants were built. National Schools existed in the Hospital in the mid to late 19th century. Recreational Facilities included bowling, billiards and a library. In 1895 a residence was built for the Resident Medical Supervisor. This was founded at St. Dymphna’s –near Hanlon’s Corner on the NCR – and is a community community care facility today.

Between 1857 and 1885, the population of the asylum - as it was then known - rose from 600 – 1,000. Then in the last decade of the century the number of patients rose to 2,375 thanks to extensions to the facility. In response to the overcrowding situation, the governors decided to build a new asylum. This was situated at Portrane in north County Dublin, adjacent to a railway line. To begin with, 50 patients were moved from Grangegorman to an old manor there. By 1902 the new asylum was completed, with accommodation for 900 patients. This became the present day St. Ita’s Psychiatric Hospital. A farm was developed on the lands at Portrane, and this supplied both Grangegorman and Portrane with fresh vegetables and Pork. By the mid 1930’s the farm had become an internationally acclaimed model farm, operated by patients at the hospital. Grangegorman continued to grow and extend its facilities. When Professor John Dunne took over as Resident Medical Supervisor, there were between 3000 and 4000 patients in the hospital.

The present day Annexe or Administration building bears the famous clock tower that dominates over Rathdown road, the date 1916 inscribed on the weather vane. This was in fact built a prison, constructed at the request of Dublin Castle independently of the Hospital. The prison was closed only a decade or so after it was built. When circumstances were very extreme (such as during an outbreak of cholera in the city in the 1830’s or during the overcrowding at the turn of the century), the prison space was used as overflow for the hospital. A further wing of the building was demolished in 1937 to make way for the present day nurses home.