There are different ways of looking at things. Yesterday, a visitor named Beverley who lives in West Yorkshire, left the following thoughtful response to my "Asylum" post. I hope she won't mind that I have chosen to make it the main body of today's blogpost. Beverley reminded me and others that within those grim psychiatric institutions of long ago there were always dedicated and kindly members of staff doing their best to serve the residents or patients or inmates or victims - call them what you will - with kindness and professional expertise.
|Storthes Hall Hospital - the administration building|
"I would like to add some local insight to the above post. My husband worked at Storthes Hall Hospital for almost 40 years. His mother had been a nursing sister and my mother a nurse there over two very different periods in history. My husband and I still live in the next village to Thurstonland.
I'm sure in the early part of the century when there was less knowledge about the causes and treatment of mental illness that there was indeed cruelty to the patients, but from 1960 when my husband was an occupational therapist there, things were very different. Yes, the patients were in dormitory style accommodation but many were permitted total freedom during the day to attend church, or walk in the neighbourhood, catch the bus into Huddersfield etc. They were taken by mini bus to places of interest by my husband and his team. He was in the occupational therapy department but also took his painting/craft materials onto the wards where some of the patients were not permitted to wander outside alone. The work of some of the patients was childlike but some of them made wonderful pottery and woodworking items.
There was a theatre where outside theatre groups came to put on musical shows and dances for the patients. At one point there was a gardening group and patients went willingly to work outdoors tending vegetables that were destined to be taken into the kitchens for cooking.
A friend of mine was a therapist specialising in helping patients to make cakes and even meals for themselves.
Eventually the powers that be deemed that this practice smacked of exploitation and so the gardening and cookery ceased to be.
The patients who are buried in Thurstonland all had relatives in either Huddersfield, Barnsley, Sheffield or Dewsbury areas and so they could have taken their relatives back to the area they came from for internment, but of course it was shameful for families to acknowledge that they had a relative in a mental hospital.
I remember it as a small well knit community and the patients were in a safe environment which was not the case by the 1980's when the large hospitals were closed down in favour of care in the community which did not work in the patients favour at all. They were seen wandering around our town centre just killing their time aimlessly. Many were put into small houses with a couple of staff members to make it more like a home environment but sadly they had lost a lot of their friends from the "big house" as they were scattered back into their own local authorities.
I could go on at length and I do know that it wasn't all quite so idyllic. There is a book written by a lady called Ann Littlewood, who was a senior nursing officer there, and it has lots of photos and stories about the hospital from the 1900's up until its closure so if anyone wants an interesting read I'm sure it would be available on either Amazon or maybe even on line somewhere.
The whole hospital and its grounds are mostly derelict now except for the area where the student accommodation is and it looks so very sad to see it like this. The buildings, tennis courts and cricket field all gone to ruin.
The institutions did have much cruelty in the early days but once people understood more about mental illness then the asylum system wasn't so necessary as when people were much misunderstood and it was thought they should be incarcerated for everyone's good.
I hope that this gives a little perspective to what YP has experienced in a graveyard near by. I have many really good memories about the place from the last 60 years.
YP, the area around Thurstonland, Emley Moor and Farnley Tyas has some glorious walks. If you should ever take the train here again I could suggest some fantastic footpath walks that you would enjoy."
|West Riding Lunatic Asylum (Storthes Hall Hospital) in its heyday|