St. Columba's Hospital

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St. Columba's Hospital
Established 1845
Construction Began 1847
Opened 1855
Closed 1992
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Echelon Plan
Architect(s) William Deane Butler
Location Sligo Town, IRE
Alternate Names
  • St. Columba's Lunatic Asylum


The foundation stone for the new building was laid on November 7th, 1847 and construction work was carried out by a Mr. Caldwell, a prominent local builder. a bottle containing the current issues of the Sligo Champion and Sligo Journal newspapers, as well as silver and copper coins of the realm, were sealed in a cavity stone to mark the occasion. The building was completed in 1852 at a cost of £35,199 and opened in 1854 with a capacity for 250 patients. Dr. John Mc Munn was the first resident Medical Superintendent of the newly opened Sligo and Leitrim District Lunatic asylum.

During his tenure, which spanned 31 years, he was responsible for organizing formal dances and an annual ball for local people in one of the hospital’s larger rooms, which became known as the “Ballroom,” as well as parades, which included a procession of patients accompanied by the asylum Brass Band. These traditions continued until after World War One.

As a new century dawned, two chapels, one Catholic and one Protestant, were built to flank the front entrance to the building. The doors to each of the chapels faced each other about 60 metres apart and were designed by T. M. Deane. The early 1900s saw the construction of a row of houses on nearby Blackmud Hill to accommodate some of the married nurses who worked at the hospital. The builder who constructed these houses fitted a shiny brass knocker to each of the houses front doors, which became known locally as the ‘Goldrappers.’ Some of the wards in the building became well known locally by name. One ward in the women’s wing of the building became known as ‘Straw Lodge.’ This ward is reported to have received its name as a result of overcrowding and financial constraints during the early part of the 20th century. During this time, straw was spread on the floor and used as bedding by the patients.

The building was extended again in the late 1930s with the addition of a new complex of buildings situated on the hill to the right of the old building. This new building, however, is overshadowed in its design by the ornate grandeur of the main building. During World War II, a particularly industrious nurse trying to make a bit of extra money for the hospital decided that a sheltered portion of the hospitals 200 acres of farmland would be particularly suited to growing tobacco due to its sheltered location. Unfortunately, this venture was to prove unsuccessful and the field in question became known as the ‘Tobacco Field.’ This field was sold as part of a large portion of the hospital’s land that was sold to the state in the 1960s to accommodate the building of the regional Technical College. The site is now home to part of the Sligo Institute of Technology.

The hospital was renovated in 2005 and reopened as a hotel for the Clarion Hotels.


Photos of the hospital after closure Brief History