A look inside the former Mid Wales Hospital in Talgarth, where barbaric treatments were inflicted on patients
Built in 1900 and opened in 1903, the hospital, also known as Talgarth Hospital and the Brecon and Radnor Counties Joint Lunatic Asylum, operated for 99 years before its closure in 1997 and sale in 1999. The hospital was designed by the partnership of architects John Giles, Albert Edward Gough and Trollope of London and follows a ‘compact arrow’ design plan.
This design is based on a series of ward buildings placed around the outside of a central ring corridor which connects these wards together.
The service buildings such as offices, kitchens, nurses’ accommodation and the large hall used for entertainment and recreation were then built in the centre of this design.
The site also had ts own chapel, mortuary and separate isolation block for patients with infectious diseases including tuberculosis.
Each of the separate wards was designated and designed for specific conditions based on the severity of the mental illness and the treatment required.
According to the website countyasylums.co.uk the six classes of ward were acute, chronic, epileptic, infirm, admissions and infectious diseases.
Reflecting the time it was built, there are designated male and female wards, identical in design but totally separated.
The six male wards were constructed on the west side of the main building and six female wards were built on the east side. Anyone looking at the crumbling site today may notice that one of the buildings looks grander than its surrounding neighbours; it’s actually Chancefield manor house.
During the second world war the hospital was used as a military hospital for wounded service personnel including those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.
After the war treatments for patients included electroconvulsive therapy, also known as ECT. Maybe the most controversial of all treatments used at the time was prefrontal lobotomy, predominantly used on patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (then known as mania) and manic depression.
This procedure included inserting a scalpel into the patient’s brain through the eye socket.
At the time this procedure was used to sever the nerve connections in a lobe or lobes of the brain from those in other areas of the brain.
In July 1948 the hospital was taken over by the NHS and by 1955 had 496 patients, more than the site was designed to treat, so more wings were built.
During the 1950s the treatment of patients began to develop towards medication and the increasing treatment of patients in an outpatient capacity rather than onsite for many cases.
By 1959 many patients only stayed for a short time at the hospital and by 1961 the emphasis on community care was announced by the government. The plans outlined a development towards outpatient care supported by psychiatric units attached to district hospitals.
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