Hospital BadgeWinwick Hospital Remembered...


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The first public hospital for the care of the mentally ill was opened in 1766 when the Manchester Infirmary was extended to allow the admission of "Poor Lunaticks". The hospital was moved to Cheadle in 1850 and later became Cheadle Royal.

By the mid-nineteenth century, three public asylums had been built in Lancashire: at Lancaster, Rainhill and Prestwich. In 1894 Lancashire Asylums Board commissioned a new asylum to be built on the 207 acre Winwick Rectory Estate north of Warrington, Lancashire. Work started in 1896, and pending its completion it was agreed to convert Old Winwick Hall - previously home to the Rector of Winwick - into a home for accommodation of about 50 'idiot boys'. Winwick Hall opened in 1897 and Winwick Asylum - later Winwick Hospital - opened in 1902 at a cost of 383,000. About 1905 Old Winwick Hall was demolished and later replaced with a new building, also known as Winwick Hall.

By the time of the First World War the hospital housed 2,160 patients. Almost all of these were transferred to other asylums when it became a military hospital - the Lord Derby War Hospital*. Between 1915 and 1920 some 56,000 wounded soldiers were treated there, and the hospital began to resume its original purpose in 1921.

The Mental Treatment Act of 1930 revised the Lunacy Laws, replacing the term 'asylum' with 'mental hospital', permitting voluntary admission for treatment, and introducing psychiatric out-patient clinics. This marked significant progress for Winwick along with other asylums throughout the country.

In 1940 a separate unit - Delph Hospital - was built on the opposite side of the A49, initially as a new reception hospital. It was later used to house tubercular patients, becoming an admissions unit again in the late 60s. It is now demolished and a new hospital stands on the site. Winwick Hospital itself saw many changes over the years, particularly in the 1960s following the 1959 Mental Health Act, and had moved from its original largely custodial role to a more enlightened treatment-orientated one.

In 1974 the hospital began a community psychiatric nursing service to follow up discharged patients and practise preventive psychiatry in the catchment area of Warrington, Lymm, Newton-le-Willows, Haydock, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Bootle, Crosby, Ormskirk and Southport. With an increasing emphasis on 'care in the community' the reduction in the number of in-patients which began in the 1960s continued apace, and the hospital finally closed its doors in 1997 after 100 years of providing care and treatment to the mentally ill.

Most of the hospital buildings were demolished and replaced by a housing estate, although what was Winwick Hall still remains as part of the administrative complex of Hollins Park Hospital, which stands on part of the old grounds.

For a detailed account of the building of Winwick Hospital and life within its walls a recommended read is "A Place of Safety" by Ken Lewis RMN, published in 1995 by Willow Printing. Ken also provided the following epitaph to Winwick:

Holed beneath the water line
I lurch in heavy seas
No redemption
No reprieve
I seek my final resting place
Drowning in a hundred tears
I speak with dignity and pride

My structure groans as if to say
Please, Please
Don't let me slip away
I cannot be calmly pushed aside
Yet, if I am about to die
Then die I must
No 'patching of the holes'
Remember me by name, you must
A saviour of souls.