The construction of Whittingham Asylum began in 1869, when the three neighbouring asylums in Lancaster, Prestwich, and Rainhill were deemed to be full. While the hospital officially opened its doors on 1st April 1873, building work continued, expanding the site to include a ballroom, a brewery, a Roman Catholic chapel and an Anglican church, several farms, a sports club, and it’s very own Post Office and railway. In 1923, the asylum was renamed Whittingham Mental Hospital, and by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, housed more than 3,500 patients with a staff of over 500, making it the largest facility of its kind in the country and the second largest in Europe.
It was here at Whittingham Hospital that the very first Electroencephalogram (EEG) was developed, paving the way for better diagnosis and treatment for patients with epilepsy. But sadly, this is not how most will remember the hospital. Following allegations of abuse and neglect during the 1960s, the NHS reviewed its healthcare policy with respect to psychiatric patients and, with the introduction of new drugs and therapies during the 1970s and 1980s, many long-stay patients were either returned successfully to the community or admitted to smaller units in the surrounding area. It was this progressive decline in the number of patients that led to Whittingham Hospital’s closure in 1995.