The New Pauper Lunatic Asylum for the County of Essexby DONALD C. CAMPBELL, M.D.
Medical Superintendent of the Asylum
At the Easter sessions of the year 1846, fifteen justices of this county were appointed a committee, to superintend the erecting or providing of an asylum for the pauper lunatics, in terms of the Act 8th and 9th Victoria, Cap. 126. And at a meeting held on the 30th August 1847, the committee directed their clerk to advertise for the site for the asylum, according to the rules of the Commissioners in Lunacy. They finally selected the ground on which the asylum has been erected – eighty-six acres of the Brentwood Hall estate, t he same having be purchased for the sum of £8000. After obtaining the sanction of the Court of Quarter Sessions, the committee proceeded to take further steps in the execution of their commission, and at a meeting held on the 25th October, 1848, they resolved to select a certain number of architects, not exceeding ten, who should be invited to send in plans for the asylum, and that the sum of £100 should be awarded to the second best plan, and £50 to the third best. The committee having availed themselves of the advice and assistance of the county surveyor, and also of a medical gentleman connected with asylums, and having taken their opinion on the comparative merits of the respective plans, resolved on accepting the plan of Mr. H. E. Kendall, Junr., of 33 Brunswick Square, London, as the best offered to them; which, after having been altered and amended to the satisfaction of the Commissioners, was submitted to the January session, 1950, for the approbation of the Court.
On the 24th January, 1853, the Superintendent was appointed. He met with the committee on the 7th February, and gave his advice and suggestions as to the fittings, preparations, and arrangements of the building.
The asylum being arranged and prepared for the reception of patients, was opened on the 23rd of September; shortly after which all the patients belonging to the county confined in registered hospitals or houses licensed for the reception of lunatics, were removed into it.
The asylum is situated at South Weald, near Brentwood; and few spots could have been selected in the county so suitable for such an institution, being near the railway station, and commanding a very beautiful and extensive prospect.
The general view of the asylum is handsome, from its great extent, variety of colour and broken outline, from its water and ventilation towers, chapel spire, and out offices; the effect of the building being also much aided by the grounds which are well wooded. They are eighty-six acres in extent; the building within the airing court walls occupying over eight acres. The building is constructed from red bricks, pointed with blue mortar, and interlaced occasionally with black bricks in various fancy patterns, like the charitable buildings of older times. The roofs are covered in plain tiles, having crested ridges. The style of architecture adopted throughout, externally and internally, is mediaeval, of the Tudor period and is very cheerful. The entrance building forming the centre of the east front is devoted to the residence of the Medical Superintendent, the Assistant Medical Officer, Steward, Matron, &c., all being perfectly distinct, with separate entrances to each. It also provides a large Committee room, Clerk’s room, Visitors’ room, room for Chaplain, patients’ reception rooms, porter’s room, &c. The entrance hall porch and arcade are paved with Minton’s tiles; the ceilings being open timbered and very effective.
Passing from the entrance house, the galleries of the asylum are approached by cloister corridor communication passages branching right and left, and paved with Staffordshire tiles; at the termination of which immediate access is obtained to all parts of the building occupied by patients: the left hand wing is devoted to the males, the right hand to the females.
The asylum stands due east and west; the latter being more genial is given up to the galleries and airing courts for the patients, from which they have an uninterrupted view of the country around, with free access of air and sun. There are nine galleries on the male side, two of which are infirmaries, and seven on the female side, one of which is an infirmary. The infirmaries advance in front on either side, at the junction of the wards; and the wards for quiet or convalescent patients recede from the front line on either side eastward, centralizing the Superintendent’s house, the kitchen, offices, stores, and chapels.
The galleries are twelve feet wide and thirteen feet high, the floors boarded, the ceilings fire proof, and constructed with hollow hexagon bricks, which have a good appearance. The windows are in fancy forms of cast iron, and open in a manner good for ventilation and safety – the casements opening outwards, with double frames, so that one of them unglazed remains in position. The day rooms and dormitories are spacious, the single rooms are nine feet long, six feet six inches wide, and thirteen feet high, with the ceilings arched. The whole number of galleries are capable of accommodating 450 patients; 150 in single rooms and 300 in dormitories, some of which are constructed for only four beds. Hot water is the medium for transmitting the heat to the fresh air, with is conveyed into the several rooms by horizontal flues under the floors and by vertical flues in the walls; the foul air being drawn off also be means of flues in the walls and thence conveyed by large horizontal flues in the roofs to the lofty ventilating shafts, where the furnace fires effectually draw it off. The system of ventilation appears on the whole pretty good, but I am glad to say, that as each gallery contains three open fire places, and also a fire place in some of the larger rooms, I have been enabled to discontinue its use, feeling assured that open fires are better both as regards ventilation and health, as well as comfort to the patients.
Each gallery contains two rooms for attendants, so arranged as to overlook the dormitories, a store room, scullery, bath room and lavatory, all well fitted, and a supply of hot and cold water is available at all times, night and day. Convenient to the wards are two large rooms, one on the male, the other on the female side, used as dining rooms for the attendants, also a large amusement room.
The chapel occupies the centre of the west front, projected forwards but attached to the wards. It is a very good specimen of ecclesiastical architecture, simple and appropriate, having a nave, aisle, transepts, channel, vestry, &c., and will accommodate near 300 persons in sittings.
The asylum kitchen is large, lofty, and erected in a good position, being surrounded by galleries, with a communication by means of enclosed cloister corridors; attached is a large kitchen court with spacious cellarage below, and corridors all round, with access to the stores, dispensary, bakehouse, steward’s office &c. The water tower is over the scullery, the tank is supplied from a large reservoir at the bottom of the grounds by a seven horse power non-condensing engine. From this tank, holding 10,000 gallons, the general distribution of water all over the asylum is made; the airing courts and gardens for the patients are spacious, they are all fenced around with boundary walls, ten feet high, the walls sunk in ha-ha’s, so that the patients can overlook them, and see the country without the appearance of confinement.
In a working court on the male side, and at a convenient distance, stand the workshops, in which various kinds of handicrafts are carried on by some of the patients. Here there is also a brew house; and at the back of the building are the dead house and post mortem examination rooms. In a similar court on the female side is a detached building, consisting of washing house, laundry receiving room, boiler room, drying closet, laundry maids’ bedrooms, &c., all well fitted.
Every part of the asylum is lighted with gas, supplied by contract from the town of Brentwood.
A little removed from the asylum are the gardener’s house and farm buildings, which latter comprise cow house, piggery, barn, cart shed, diary, and other offices. Attached to the establishment there are seventy-eight acres of ground to be laid out in kitchen garden, pleasure ground, &c., thus affording great facilities in giving the patients the necessary exercise and amusement, and also in employing them in wholesome recreatory employment.
Looking at the asylum altogether, it is well calculated for such an establishment, and is highly creditable to the architect, in whose views I entirely agree when he says, “The style of architecture adopted throughout is the best adapted for such a purpose, being substantial, cheerful, English in character, most suitable to our climate, and not expensive; this style gives the opportunity of breaking the building into masses and picturesque forms, without adding to the expense; the bays, clock tower, water tower, gables, spire, and ventilation towers, &c., being absolutely necessary; the stone dressings and red brick facings interlaced with black, form a pleasing contrast in colour; they not only make the building effective without cost, but give a cheerful look and variety; and there is an important advantage in this; most medical men agreeing, that a cheerful looking, varied and picturesque building, has a beneficial effect on the patients in a curative point of view; and to ever such charitable building something of comeliness should be assigned under the direction, of good taste; usefulness of purpose, and beauty of design, may always be made subservient to each other. It is a common error to suppose the beauty of design much necessarily be more expensive than deformity or plainness; it is the quantity of materials used, and not the form of their application, judicious or otherwise, that induces expensive; and handsome and complete as this asylum is, the truth of the assertion is proved by the erection of it at a less cost per head than most of the asylums throughout the country.
D. C. Campbell, Medical Superintendent,
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