Although psychiatric institutions have changed considerably over the past 60 years, they have once been the place of systematic abuse, barbaric treatments and extreme punishment. Treating the patients as inmates, the archaic asylums were surrounded by high metal fences with the patients locked in their over crowded dormitories. Many of the patients had no mental disorder at all, and were simply suffering from social inadequacies and anxiety issues.


Explore the history of psychiatric institutions through the medium of a simple, yet thorough timeline. Starting with the admittance of ‘distraught and lunatic people’ in Bethlem Royal Hospital in 1247, this page delves through centuries of change within the psychiatric community and the laws which were created to protect those deemed most vulnerable. red more


The treatment of mental illness has developed throughout the years, performing some of the most dangerous acts upon society’s most vulnerable people. This time-line covers the most widespread psychological treatments throughout history, from the lobotomy and electro convulsive therapy to rotation therapy and the ingestion of pharmaceutical drugs. red more

Asylums and Institutions


Initially, the hospital was called the Moss Side house. It was built in the 1830’s as a home for children from the Merseyside workhouses, but it quickly changed to house the ‘lunatics’ from the surrounding areas, predominately Liverpool. During the First World War, it was temporarily renamed the Military Red Cross Hospital to treat soldiers suffering from mental or nervous disorders. red more


The Athens Asylum for the Insane opened its doors in 1887 in Athens, Ohio to provide assistance after the Civil War in the surrounding area. Like so many others of its kind, the asylum was build based on the Kirkbride structure, and housed both male and female patients in separate wings. During its hundred year operation, the asylum treat a wide range of ‘illnesses’, from epilepsy, high libidos and anxiety, to Civil war veterans suffering post traumatic stress disorder (unnamed at that time) and violent criminals suffering from mental disabilities. red more


Bethlem Royal Hospital was first built in 1247 as the Priory of the New Order of St Mary of Bethlem in Bishopsgate, London. It was not initially an asylum for the insane, but a centre for the collection of alms to aid the Crusader Church. The first record found of mentally ill patients in the hospital was in the early 15th century, when a group of six ‘mad folk’ were admitted. red more


Known as one of the three high-security psychiatric hospitals within the UK, Broadmoor Hospital lies in the south east of Berkshire. It has been a male-only hospital since 2007, when the females were removed and distributed to other high security hospitals such as Ramptonred more


Danvers State Hospital was opened in 1878 after four years of construction. The Boston architect, Nathaniel Jeremiah Bradlee, designed the building in accordance with the Kirkbride Plan, and it cost  a total of $1.5 million to construct. The self-contained psychiatric hospital is rumoured to be the birth place of the pre-frontal lobotomy, and has also been the disturbing setting for films, games and novels. red more


The former psychiatric hospital was originally opened in 1888 as the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. Designed by J Vickers, it was built on a 300 acre estate, south to the village of Menston in Yorkshire. During the 155 years it was open, it served those deemed mentally ill. Many success stories come from High Royds Hospital, as do the stories of abuse and horror. red more


Now known as the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, the asylum opened in 1931 as the Pilgrim State Hospital, and was the largest hospital in the world. At its height, the hospital held over 13,000 patients and the size and complexity of the building has never been paralleled. Renowned for their experiments with shock treatments such as insulin shock therapy and the electro-convulsive therapy, the asylum became a place of great despair and misery for thousands of patients. red more


Opened as an overflow facility for Broadmoor Hospital in 1912, Rampton Asylum was built in the countryside of Nottinghamshire near the village Woodbeck. It houses approximately 400 patients, all whom require high security care and have been detained under the Mental Health Act. Out of the three high-security psychiatric hospitals in Britain, the others being Ashworth and Broadmoor, Rampton holds the only remaining Dangerous and severe Personality Disorder Unit, named the Peaks Unit. red more


Seacliff Lunatic Asylum was opened in 1872 in New Zealand, and was quickly named the largest and most extravagant building in the country. Amid the dismal treatments and punishments offered to patients, Seacliff was notorious for structural damage, partial collapses and a fatal fire which claimed the lives of 37 female patients. Patients were finally transferred to Cherry Farm Hospital upon Seacliff’s closure in 1973. red more


Opened as the Weyburn Mental Hospital in 1921, Souris Valley was once the largest building in The British Commonwealth and considered to be on the forefront of experimental treatments. Located in Weyburn, Saskatchewan in Canada, the hospital treat the mentally ill with a series of experimental treatments including insulin therapy, lobotomies, and LSD. red more


During the 1840s and 50s, Dorothea Lynde Dix petitioned across America to improve conditions for those deemed insane. In 1852, she brought her campaign to Washington, and it was decided that Congress would provide $100,000 to establish the first federally run psychiatric hospital in the United States. red more


The Topeka State hospital was located in Topeka, Kansas and first opened its doors in 1879. During its 118 years in operation, the asylum gained a notorious reputation. Some experts claim that it was a pioneering hospital, at the forefront of the industry, whist others claim it to be one of the most horrific and barbaric asylums in creation. red more

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