Mid Wales Hospital
Brecon and Radnor Counties Joint Lunatic Asylum
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What:Mental Hospital, later failed business park
Where: Talgarth, Powys
Built: 1903 with later additions
Architect: Messrs. Giles, Gough and Trollope
Visited: 2009, 2010, 2016
Last Known Condition: Derelict.
Page Updated: November 2016
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. As I walked towards the hospital buildings 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 failed business park conversion. Inside the buildings water ingress 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 upwards and outwards. The wards are largely empty, but here and there are surprising traces of their former use - Edwardian furniture, a piano, a broken doll, patient artworks and even a prosthetic leg.
The Brecon and Radnor Counties Joint Lunatic Asylum was originally opened with a 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 buildings, designed by Messrs Giles, Gough and Trollope of London had cost £126,000 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 private electricity and water works.
In the early years, patients were admitted for everything from dementia, mania and alcoholism to epilepsy and learning disabilities.
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 also four padded rooms, two for males and two for females, which were last used in 1955. Patients who were able-bodied were expected to work, the ratepayers and Commissioners in Lunacy being of the opinion that the asylum should be both curative and productive.
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 first required to take 67 male and 48 females patients from Cardiff City Mental Hospital which had been requisitioned as a war hospital and shortly after found itself given over to military use. Patients were transferred to other Welsh mental hospitals and the Mid-Wales spent several years 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, the desegregation of the sexes and increasing emphasis on short stays and rehabilitation over long-term institutionalisation.
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. The last ward closed on April 7th 2000 and the remaining patients were transfered to other hospitals or discharged.
The redundant hospital site 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, 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.
Seven years after my first visit, I decided to return once more to the Mid Wales Hospital. A quiet early Autumn afternoon and a quick scan of the perimeter saw me inside. I spent nearly three hours on site and saw everything bar the chapel and annexe wards. The hospital buildings have gone into steep decline since the roofs were taken off: floors have rotted through, windows fallen from their frames and plaster has fallen from the walls. Parts of the hospital are now all but unrecognisable and one ward has now completely collapsed.
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Seven years ago, I'd have said these beautiful buildings were worth saving; now I'd say they are beyond hope, destroyed by greed and indifference.
This page is respectfully dedicated to the patients who lived and died at The Mid-Wales Hospital.
"Gorffwysant bellach esmwyth hun o hedd"