The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) :: Shared Description

Problems created by the 'furiously and dangerously mad' were recognised by the 'Vagrancy Acts' of 1714 and 1744, which allowed justices of the peace to order their detention. 18th-century law held such persons responsible for any criminal acts, and prisons or bridewells (houses of correction) were the main destinations for their secure accommodation. Philanthropic efforts had already produced some care homes but the 1808 'Act for the better Care and Maintenance of Lunatics, being Paupers or Criminals in England' resulted in the construction of a number of large asylums ranging in capacity from 40 to 3,500 inmates. County Asylums were placed throughout the Country, usually (but not always) within the County they served and sites deemed suitable would commonly be large isolated tracts of land, often served by minor roads and branch railways, the qualities of such sites providing the ideal curative sources for good light, fresh clean air and a nice views across farmland and woodland. Locally they provided a sustainable source of employment for generations and developed their own communities to serve them. Further afield they were often viewed with suspicion or fear - a distant place where disturbed local people or relatives would be 'removed' to, and often surrounded with much folklore.

The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum was situated in Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew near Norwich. The architects were Francis Stone and John Brown (Norfolk County Surveyors) and Robinson Cornish and Gaymer of North Walsham. The County Asylum was intended specifically for pauper lunatics and was only the second institution of its kind when completed in early 1814. The buildings were originally designed for the reception of 40 male patients in April 1814, followed by female patients in June of the same year. The first Master, from 1814 to 1843, was Thomas Caryl. Among the treatments recorded in his diary are details of 'punishments', which he gave to patients as he felt fit, see Archive LinkExternal link. Roughly 70 patients were present on average in the early years. The compound was surrounded by a 4ft high brick wall which was soon heightened to 5ft (1.5m) after the first patient had escaped over it in 1814. Open drains carried the sewerage to the River Yare. The patients used knives and forks made from bone and were bathed three or four at a time. Attendants and nurses were called keepers, and the rooms were referred to as cells. The cells had an open paved drain at the centre and the doors had no handles. Cage beds, straight jackets, leather mittens, iron belts and handcuffs were in constant use. The bedding was straw, with barley straw used for the "bad cases". Fish oil was used for the lanterns and all furniture was secured to floors or walls.

Extensions in 1831 and 1840 allowed the number of patients to double, and with more substantial additions in the late 1850s as well as the construction of an auxiliary asylum, which was completed in 1881, some 700 in-patients could be accommodated. The auxiliary asylum or annexe is situated to the north of the main buildings, on the other side of Yarmouth Road, connected by a lane that was carried over the main road by a bridge. It was referred to as "North Side", whereas the original buildings were "South Side". In April 1889 the institution was re-titled the Norfolk County Asylum, and after its modernisation into 'a hospital for mental disorders' (with reorganisation into distinct male and female asylums) there was room for more than 1,000 patients.

In 1915, the Norfolk County Asylum was offered to the War Office and became a military hospital. Most of the asylum's patients were transferred to Norwich City Asylum at Hellesdon, Melton Asylum (Suffolk) and other hospitals in the region. A few "quiet useful insane" men were allowed to stay to work as gardeners. When the asylum was re-converted in 1920 it was named Norfolk Mental Hospital although the local use of the alternative, St Andrew's Hospital, was officially recognised from January 1924 onwards. In the period between the two wars the hospital housed more than 1,100 patients. During WW2, the hospital was used as a multi-purpose hospital (it had 1,991 beds), providing the additional functions of an Emergency Section hospital such as receiving refugees, evacuees and civilian casualties in cleared wards whilst maintaining its complement of mental patients.

From the 1950s onwards - with improved therapies and new medications, the changing perceptions of patients' rights, and increasingly critical assessment of the psychiatric hospital as an appropriate setting - St Andrew's spent most of its years as an NHS hospital under threat of closure, a long drawn-out process that was ultimately resolved with the securing in 1994 of a separate NHS Trust for mental health care services in Norfolk. The hospital was eventually closed in April 1998. The original Grade 2 listed hospital buildings from 1814, situated to the south of Yarmouth Road, have since been converted into luxury flats. The complex incorporates the chapel (in Francis Stone Court), also converted for domestic use.

In January 2011, the auxiliary asylum - St Andrew’s House and its 13-acre site, situated north of Yarmouth Road on the edge of St Andrew’s Business Park that has sprung up around it - has been put on the market by NHS Norfolk, touted as a prime site for development. It had most recently been used as offices by the Norfolk Primary Care Trust, now NHS Norfolk, which in 2007 had moved to more modern premises.

In February 2013 work started to demolish all buildings on the site of the auxiliary asylum, with only St Andrew's House, ie the water tower and the wing adjacent to both its sides, to be retained. According to Norfolk Heritage, a number of bricks with inscriptions dating from WW1 and WW2 carved into them have been recovered and preserved. Three years later the rubble has been cleared and the area they stood on tidied up, but no further work appears to have been done on the annexe. The only other building which has been left standing is the mortuary on the western edge of the site.

The hospital buried its dead at several different locations. The first burial ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Norwich on 4 August 1815 and Jsaac Secker from Smallburgh was the first to be interred here on 8 December of the same year. This, the first cemetery, was located east of the chapel, at the south-eastern corner of the airing courts and enclosed by a 1.5m (5ft) high brick wall. Together with the Governor's garden, the drying ground and the bowling green it formed a narrow band of open land which separated the hospital from the adjacent land which ran down to the River Yare in the south. This cemetery is marked on a plan dating from 1850. A temporary building used for housing sick military personnel was later built over it. It was demolished in 1970 and replaced by the Day Hospital. Another burial ground is said to have been located somewhere to the north of the chapel. A store and a recreation ground were apparently later built over it. A third burial ground, also within the asylum's walls, is believed to have been situated in front of the former Orchard Ward. This location is still marked by many shallow depressions.

From 8 December 1815 until 25 May 1844, 385 graves are recorded to have been situated in the asylum grounds. The numbering of burials/graves then starts anew with #1 on 1 June 1844, ending on 18 March 1875 with #465. A document dating from 1859 states: "And whereas the number of persons residing within the said Asylum is considerable and the burials from the same are numerous and there is not sufficient room in the Church yard belonging to the said Parish of Thorpe next Norwich nor in the three pieces or parcels of land or ground of the Asylum." It would seem that burials from 1 June 1844 onwards were then made in Thorpe St Andrew's parish cemetery which is situated between Yarmouth Road (A1242) and Common Lane, to the west and outside of the asylum complex. This burial ground is still marked on OS maps as Hospital Cemetery. A document dating from 1861 informs that hospital patients at that time were indeed buried in Thorpe cemetery and that a bell was tolled to mark the occasion.

In 1903, a new cemetery and a mortuary chapel situated roughly at its centre were opened adjacent to Plumstead Road (now Green Lane) and consecrated by the Bishop of Norwich on Friday the 26th June 1903 at 3pm. Water was laid to this new cemetery in the same year. This burial ground first appears on the 1908 OS map. All the surrounding land has since been developed into a business park, accessed by a new road called Peachman Way near the junction of the A47 (Norwich Southern by-pass) and the A1042. The narrow green space of the cemetery is adjacent to the roundabout at the end of a short road called Memorial Way, wedged in-between huge warehouses. According to a hand-written plan of graves (anon and undated) held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO), the cemetery contains 217 graves. The burial records, however, mention many graves not shown on said plan, suggesting that the cemetery contains more graves than the 217 outlined on the plan, see LinkExternal link.

Almost all the graves contain two bodies, the last having been interred here on 14 October 1966. It is not known if some of the graves had headstones, but all originally had numbered iron markers. The graves of three Polish nationals who decided to remain in the country after WW2 were marked with iron crosses. In 1968, however, the Hospital Board decided, against the advice of the chaplain and various members of staff, to remove and sell for scrap all iron markers and crosses. The cemetery was officially closed in 1973, but rededicated in late 1980 and a memorial set up roughly at its centre, presumably where the mortuary chapel had stood. Today only the shallow depressions and outlines of the old graves can still be discerned, but it is not possible to know exactly where in the burial ground a particular individual is buried.
by Evelyn Simak
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TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Sept 2017 by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's House - stained wall by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's House by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - the mortuary (interior) by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's House Reception (sign) by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's House - the water tower by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - the mortuary (interior) by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's House from the north by Evelyn Simak
TG2708 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's House from the north-east by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - the mortuary (interior) by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Annexe by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) - Sept 2017 by Evelyn Simak
TG2809 : St Andrew's hospital - cemetery by Evelyn Simak
TG2708 : The Norfolk Lunatic Asylum (St Andrew's Hospital) by Evelyn Simak

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Created: Thu, 3 Feb 2011, Updated: Thu, 14 Sep 2017

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