Looking at the past in the south west – our museums

At present most of the documentary evidence around our past services is in our local County Archives or our own workplace archive. However, there are also two museums in the South West dedicated to preserving and educating about the psychiatric hospitals of the area.

Wotton Lawn Hospital

The first is at Wotton Lawn Hospital in Gloucester assembled by Sue Dark. The artefacts continue to generate a great deal of interest and discussion from healthcare professionals, members of the public and visiting Mental Health Trusts.

So many items have been lost, however the items that are left still represent the psycho-social aspects of the old Horton Road and Coney Hill ‘asylums’ and indeed the history of psychiatry in Gloucestershire. It is a rare opportunity to give a flavour of the original ‘asylums’ and the structures and services delivered within the Hospital.

Note: Some of the terminology used in this article to describe people experiencing mental ill health is now outdated and rightly perceived as discriminatory and offensive. We apologise if this terminology, which was commonly used in the past, causes offence.

Wotton Lawn Hospital

Photograph courtesy of Dr Peter Carpenter and Dr Ross Runciman

Glenside Hospital Museum

Glenside Hospital Museum
Glenside Hospital Museum

Glenside Hospital Museum, Bristol, is set in the church built for patients of Bristol’s purpose built mental health hospital. The 1881 church and the hospital building are now part of the University of West of England. This museum is probably the largest museum of psychiatry in the country in terms of preserved artefacts. Victorian treatment was founded on providing an ordered life, safety, adequate sleep, good diet, occupation, exercise, and a positive environment. Drugs were very rarely used.

The museum was founded by Dr Donal Early, who realised the hospital’s history could be lost and started collecting redundant items. Aspects of asylum life and a collection from Beaufort War Hospital, 1915 – 1919, are included as well as material from the Learning Disability Hospitals. The museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays – book online to visit. Further information can be found on the Glenside Hospital Museum website.

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