Mid Wales Hospital
Brecon and Radnor Counties Joint Lunatic Asylum
Toggle site summary [+/-]
What:Mental Hospital, later failed business park
Where: Talgarth, Powys
Built: 1903 with later additions
Architect: Messrs. Giles, Gough and Trollope
Visited: 2009, 2010
Last Known Condition: Derelict.
Page Updated: November 2015
The first time I visited the Mid-Wales Hospital, I set out early, arriving a little before noon. It was Winter and patches of snow still clung to the shadows and the peaks of the mountains above and around were clothed in dazzling white. As I walked towards the 1950s college of nursing I expected to encounter builders or security guards but the place had an eerie stillness about it. Aside from the houses on the road and a small part of the workshop block which was being used as an industrial unit there was no-one on site and no-one came to question my presence.
Navigating the vast complex was made difficult by the absence of large sections of corridor, demolished as part of the abortive business park conversion. Inside the buildings water ingress following the removal of slates from the roof has caused rapid decay: suspended ceilings have collapsed sodden under the weight of water and the pitch pine floors have bowed and swollen, forcing boards up and outwards. The wards themselves are largely empty but here and there are surprising traces of their former use such as a piano, a broken doll, handwritten notices, patient artworks and even a prosthetic leg.
The Brecon and Radnor Counties Joint Lunatic Asylum was opened amid public ceremony on 18th March, 1903 by the Rt Hon. Lord Glanusk who said of it "everything has been done that human ingenuity could devise for the happiness and safety of the inmates, and under the blessing of God, for their speedy restoration to health." The complex, designed by Messrs Giles, Gough and Trollope of London had cost £126,000 to build and included wards, kitchens, workshops "in which the patients [were] encouraged to spend their time profitably", a tailor, bakery, shoe-maker and printing shops as well as 8 acres of market gardens and its own electricity and water works.
Concise Bibliography - Home
In the early years of the hospital, patients were admitted on such diverse grounds as dementia, epilepsy, mania, venereal disease, alcoholism and idiocy.
The hospital was divided down the middle into male and female sides, each subdivided into wards for acute cases, the sick, epileptics, observation and 'quiet' cases. There were four padded rooms, two for males and two for females, which were last used in 1955. Patients who were able were expected to work, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of the asylum. Like all county asylums, the Mid Wales Asylum regularly came under scrutiny from ratepayers and the Commissioners in Lunacy, who were of the opinion that such therapy as there was should be both curative and productive.
Although the population of the two Welsh counties remained small, by the end of 1925, 455 patients were in residence.
After the First World War, patients from Montgomeryshire were also admitted, and the 'asylum' was extended and renamed the "Mid-Wales Counties Mental Hospital" During the second World War the hospital was required to take 67 male and 48 females patients from Cardiff City Mental Hospital which had been requisitioned as a war hospital and in July of the same year, it was agreed that most of the hospital should be given over to military use. Patients were transferred to other Welsh mental hospitals and the Mid-Wales spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war camp before returning to civillian use in 1947.
Beginning in 1948, the NHS brought a number of advances to the hospital, including occupational therapy and the integration of the sexes, as well as increasing emphasis on short stays and rehabilitation.
By the 1990s, patient numbers had begun to decline as more effective treatments and better community care became available:
in 1994 the number averaged around 140 and wards began closing gradually. Final closure took place on April 7th 2000 and the remaining patients were transfered to other hospitals or discharged. Those services still deemed necessary were transferred to nearby Bronllys, a former tuberculosis sanatorium which continues to operate as a general hospital.
Following closure, the hospital was controversially sold to the resident Chief Medical Officer for just £227,000. For a while, it was operated as a sort of business park, and optimism surrounding its conversion to industrial units ran high. In 2008, however, the park went bust and the owners began asset-stripping the hospital, removing many of the slate tiles (valued at £2,000,000), scrapping the clock mechanism from Admin and demolishing large parts of the interior. Damp and rot have inevitably followed and the whole place has become a sad, decaying mess.
This page is respectfully dedicated to the patients who lived and died at The Mid-Wales Hospital.
"Gorffwysant bellach esmwyth hun o hedd"