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Abandoned psychiatric hospital in Preston that hides a dark and scandalous history


Thanks to their usual role in horror films, ghost hunt events and supernatural TV shows, abandoned hospitals are automatically accompanied by the label: creepy and haunted.

And the Whittingham Hospital in Preston is no different while it also has a fascinating history.

The former psychiatric hospital, which first opened as the Fourth Lancashire County Asylum in the 1870s and expanded to be the largest facility of its kind in Britain, has been closed since 1995. In the past two decades, the scandal-hit complex, which includes a graveyard and the abandoned Grade II-listed St John’s Church in the vast grounds, it fell into ruin.

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The site was renamed Guild Park in 1909 and the building at the entrance opened as Guild Lodge, offering mental health services for a limited intake of patients, with in-patient cottages later built nearby. Today, the main hospital building has been demolished and work is already underway for several hundred new homes to be built on the land, while the Lodge, the church and its graveyard are still standing.

For years, especially when the derelict building were still there, it was a popular location for urban explorer and local teens looking for adventure. However, it is private land and security would often patrol the area to deter trespassers.

What else was Whittingham Hospital known for?

The hospital was famous for its pioneering use of electroencephalograms (EEGs) to diagnoses patients. The system measures electrical impulses on the scalp. Incidentally, the 150-year-old church underwent repairs by the council to help maintain it.

The hospital also had its own railway station and two-mil stretch of tracks running to Grimsnargh to transport goods and staff to and from the site. It closed in the 1950s.

Former St John's Church on the ground of Whittingham Hospital, Lancashire.
Former St John’s Church on the ground of Whittingham Hospital, Lancashire.

The hospital’s dark and scandalous side is what it is remembered for, with reports of patients being left unattended for long periods of time, physically abused and starved. In summer 1967, student nurses working there submitted complaints reporting cruelty and fraud. As a result, the hospital opened an inquiry in to the poor conditions and accusations of corruption.

Due to the advancement of available treatment for in-patients with mental health conditions and large institutions like Whittingham falling out of favour, patients gradually returned home or transferred to newer facilities. It was also used as a military hospital to treat soldiers injured during World War I and II.

Lancaster Moor Hospital was the first Lancashire County Asylum.


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