The North Wales Hospital in Denbigh is arguably the most well known derelict asylum in the UK, thanks to its notoriety. This is somewhere that I have seen online since 2013. In January of 2022, as I was in the area, I thought I would finally pay this place a visit after nine years. And just in time as well – demolition contractors are well established on site now for the redevelopment.
The North Wales Hospital is the most important purpose-built mental hospital in Wales and ranks as one of the most sophisticated and pioneering of the early Victorian asylums in Britain. Plans for the asylum were first discussed in 1842, three years before the Lunacy Act of 1845 made the provision of such buildings mandatory at county level. In 1843, the Committee for Management commissioned architect Thomas Fulljames to design an asylum for 200 patients. The building was constructed between 1844 and 1848. Upon opening in December 1848, it was stated that the asylum was intended not only for the reception of the pauper lunatics of the counties in union, but also for the admission of a limited number of patients of the middle and upper ranks of society.
The building was designed in an impressive Neo-Elizabethan style, as a square building with a central courtyard, with male and female patients kept apart in their respective wings. The original main section is Grade II* listed. The setting included a formal approach avenue with screen walls and gates, and grounds and gardens. In addition, a series of airing courts were constructed, in the form of walled garden enclosures where the patients were required to take regular exercise. The hospital was extended by Lloyd Williams and Underwood, architects of Denbigh, in 1867. Lloyd Williams added the Grade II listed chapel in 1861, which was built in a simple Neo-Gothic style on a hill above the hospital’s isolate ward and morgue, also a Grade II listed building. The extensions effectively closed the open rear of the main quadrangular section and also provided two twin-bayed villa wards to the sides. Much of this work was demolished or incorporated into new ranges in a vast phase of building works carried out between 1903 and 1908, which meant that the hospital could then accommodate over 1,500 patients. These new extensions can be easily made out today – the original works are of neatly coursed ashlar, whereas the newer sections of the asylum are built of random assortments of rough rubble.
The hospital joined the newly formed NHS in 1948. However, the Care in the Community began the decline of the hospital, with plans for its closure drawn up in 1987. In 1991, the phased closure of the site began and culminated with the entire hospital’s closure in 1995. Since then, the hospital has lain derelict and at the mercy of thieves and vandals. In 2008, the hospital’s main hall was destroyed in an arson attack. Since then, many fires have reduced parts of the hospital to rubble, with lead theft from the roofs and vandalism allowing the elements into the building. As of 2022, the hospital is a completely rotted husk of what it once was.
After a failed exploration attempt of a large manor house nearby, my friend Landie_Man and I rocked up at Denbigh and decided to wander around for a few hours. Access was very easy – simply a walk in now. We spent a good two hours walking around the site. Despite the hospital’s advanced state of decay after 27 years of dereliction, there were some really rather nice sections of the buildings that didn’t look too bad. Enjoy the photographs: