North Wales Hospital, records of

Scope and Content

In 1842 the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy investigated conditions in which pauper lunatics were kept in England and Wales. In 1844 their report revealed the appalling standards of care for Welsh pauper lunatics.

A group of landed gentry, clergy and businessmen in Denbigh formed a committee and held a meeting at the Denbigh General Infirmary in October 1842 ‘for the purpose of calling attention of the public to the importance of establishing a hospital for the insane in some central part of North Wales’. (HD/1/288) Local land owner Joseph Ablett of Llanbedr Hall gave 20 acres of land, worth £2,000, on which the hospital was to be built. The committee raised money through public subscriptions which included £50 each from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

The building of the hospital commenced in 1844, led by architect Thomas Fulljames with the advice and guidance of Dr. Samuel Hitch. In 1847 an agreement was reached with five of the six counties in North Wales; Denbighshire, Flintshire, Caernarvonshire, Merionethshire and Anglesey, who contributed towards the financing of the project. The hospital opened in October 1848 and was known as the North Wales Counties Lunatic Asylum. During the first 100 years the hospital was managed by the Committee of Visitors which consisted of representatives of the five counties and the Subscribers.

Within the asylum occupation was seen as a therapy and as a result patients were employed in various capacities, both to aid their recovery and also to support the running of the asylum. Females were employed in the kitchen, and laundry and performed various cleaning duties, whilst male patients were employed in gardening and outdoor work, and later in more industrial crafts as workrooms began to develop.

The hospital had its own farm which included herds of pigs and cattle. As well as the production of crops, milk and meat to support the running of the hospital the farm also provided employment opportunities for patients. In 1895 Kings Mill Farm was purchased to add to Parc y Twll Farm. In 1958 the farm was sold, guided by the advice of central government the Board of Control came to the conclusion that asylum farms were no longer appropriate to the needs of a modern hospital.

The hospital regularly suffered from overcrowding and throughout its history a number of extensions were built, and new properties were acquired. In 1862 a new chapel was built with seating for 200 patients, to replace the old chapel rooms on the top floor at the front of the building. In 1865 extensions were built on either side of the back of the building to accommodate a further 150 patients. In 1881 a further extension was built, consisting of a new male wing for 160 patients, a new dining hall to seat 400 and an extension to the chapel which now seated 440. In 1894 to help ease the continued problem of overcrowding it was necessary to rent Glanywern Hall near Llandyrnog to accommodate up to 80 female patients.

In 1897 a temporary annexe to house 100 female patients was built to help ease the overcrowding problem, and building started on a new significant extension which included a new heating system, electric lighting, a new sewage system, and a new water supply. The building programme faced many delays due to disputes with the architects and building contractors who had been hired to carry out the work. By 1905 the extension was fully completed and included a laundry, boiler and engine house, and isolation hospital which opened in 1902, female chronic and epileptic wards which opened in 1903, followed by a male attendant’s block, kitchens and dining hall which opened in 1904. By 1905 female staff accommodation, and an administrative block was opened. In 1908 two further blocks were added in 1908 to accommodate 78 male and 74 female patients. These were the final additions to the main building. In the 1920s additional properties were purchased including Gwynfryn house in 1926 to accommodate 25 to 30 females, and Trefeirian house in 1927 to house 20 convalescent males. In 1934 Reception wards opened in Gwynfryn house and the Nurses Home. In 1937 Pool Park Hospital in Ruthin opened, which provided accommodation for 80 patients.

In 1948 under the National Health Service Act the North Wales Counties Mental Hospital became the North Wales Mental Hospital, and the Committee of Visitors was replaced by a new management structure. The new Committee was given the responsibility for managing the Mental Deficiency Institutions of Coed Du, Broughton, Llwyn View in Dolgellau, Fronfraith and later Garth Angharad and Oakwood Park.

Following a visit to the hospital by the Minister of Health, Enoch Powell in October 1960, a national strategy to phase out the old style mental hospitals was announced. Despite plans for its eventual closure the hospital continued to develop, and a training school for nurses was opened in 1969. In 1987, as part of the development of locally based smaller mental health services, a ten year strategy was devised to enable to closure of the hospital, Pool Park was closed in 1991, and the main hospital closed in 1995.

The hospital had several names during its lifetime, when it opened in 1848 it was known as the North Wales Counties Lunatic Asylum. With the passing of the Mental Treatment Act in 1930 the asylum officially became a hospital and was known as the North Wales Counties Mental Hospital. After the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 the hospital became known as the North Wales Hospital for Nervous and Mental Disorders, and was often referred to as the North Wales Mental Hospital. By the time the hospital closed in 1995 it was known as the North Wales Hospital. Informally the hospital was and is often referred to as the Denbigh Asylum or Denbigh Hospital.


1. Management

1.1 Minutes

1.1.1 Committee and Sub-Committee Minutes

1.1.2 Management Committee Minutes

1.1.3 Subscribers Meeting Minutes

1.1.4 House Committee Minutes

1.1.5 Medical Officers Minutes

1.1.6 Meeting Agenda’s

1.1.7 Indexes to Minutes

1.2 Reports

1.2.1 Annual Reports

1.2.2 Committee of Visitors Reports

1.2.3 Ministers Reports

1.2.4 External Reports

1.3 Rules and Procedures

1.4 Correspondence

2. Building and Estates Management

2.1 Records of Building and Redevelopment

2.2 Records of the Hospital Farm

2.3 Records Relating to Land

3. Finance

3.1 Accounts

3.1.1 General Accounts

3.1.2. Ledgers

3.1.3 Maintenance Account

3.1.4 Building Accounts

3.1.5 Ablett Fund Accounts

3.1.6 Subscribers Accounts

3.2 Compensation Registers

3.3 Cash Books

3.4 Sale and Receipt Books

3.5 Annual Financial Statements

4. Patients

4.1 Patient Indexes

4.2 Reception Orders

4.3 Registers of Patients/Admissions

4.4 Registers of Discharges, Transfers, Deaths and Removals

4.5 Patient Case Books and Files

4.5.1 Female

4.5.2 Male

4.5.3 Mixed

4.6 Medical Registers

4. 7 Medical Journals

4.8 Registers of Mechanical Restraint and Seclusion

4.9 Patient Statistics

4.10 Ward Reports

4.11 Registers of Deaths

4.12 Post Mortem Reports

5. Staff

5.1 Staff Appointments

5.2 Staff Service Registers

5.3 Staff Changes Book

5.4 Staff Wage Books

5.5 Staff Pension Records

5.6 Contribution of Employees Books

5.7 Staff Armed Forces Records

5.8 Staff Promotion and Training Records

6. Photographic and Audio Visual Material

6.1 Photographs and Visual Material

7. Ephemera

8. Miscellaneous

8.1 Records of the National Eisteddfod

Conditions Governing Access

Hospital records containing personal or sensitive information are closed for 100 years.

Related Material

Related material held at Denbighshire Archives:

BD/A/598 - North Wales Mental Hospital visitor’s rota card (1937-1938)

DD/DM/18/115 - North Wales Hospital for the Insane; Denbigh: list of duties of attendants (1849)

DD/DM/47/7 - Clerk to Visitors of North Wales Counties Lunatic Asylum, and Secretary to Commissioners in Lunacy correspondence files (1881)

DD/DM/47/8 - Annual Report of the North Wales Counties Mental Hospital Denbigh (1916-1917)

DD/DM/201/6 - Letter: Chairman of Committee of visitors to North Wales Counties Lunatic Asylum, Denbigh about the possible erection of a new asylum (1888)

DD/DM/973/7 - Photograph of nurses' home; North Wales Hospital; Denbigh (1908)

DD/DM/1002/8 - Miscellaneous newspaper cuttings relating to the North Wales Hospital (1989-1991)

DD/DM/1029/5-6 - Newspapers cuttings and correspondence relating to the North Wales Hospital, (1972-1991)

DD/DM/1200/7-8, 10-12 - Includes various photographs of staff, and photographs of participants at the hospitals fancy dress ball (1909-c. 1925)

DD/DM/1230/2-4 - North Wales Times: reports on the North Wales Hospital (1923)

DD/DM/1304 - Annual reports dated (1849-65) and (1866-1880)

DD/DM/1451/1-5 - Papers relating to water supply from Nantglyn for the North Wales Hospital (1900-1905)

DD/DM/1738/8 - Newspaper cuttings including coverage of the closure of The North Wales Hospital, Denbigh (c.1980-1990s)

DD/DM/1770/15 - Notes for students, on working conditions and regulations at the North Wales Hospital (c.1970)

DD/DM/1799/161 - Papers relating to Joseph Ablett (Llanbedr Hall) (late 20th cent)

DD/DM/1801/10 - Abstract of title of the Visiting Committee of the North Wales Hospital to freehold properties in Denbigh and Llanrhaeadr yng Nghinmerch, 1875-1903, with plan and schedule (1903)

DD/DM/1829/1 - A Freedom of Information Request submitted to the North Wales Police relating to records of incidents and offences occurring at the North Wales Hospital (23 Feb 2010)

DD/DM/1832/4 - Notes, newspaper articles, inventories etc, concerning the North Wales Hospital and exhibitions staged by Denbighshire Heritage Service in Denbigh Library (2004-2005)

DD/HB/430 - Allington, Hughes and Bate MSS: Welsh circular letters appealing for money towards building of North Wales Hospital, Denbigh (1842)

HD/6 - Clwyd Health Authority, records of: Includes correspondence, an agreement between the five counties dating 1934, guides for journal medical staff, and guides for relatives and patients (1934-c. 1970)

DD/PH/155 - Plas Heaton Manuscripts: Reports of the North Wales Lunatic Asylum (1849-1855)

DD/PN/177 - Plas Nantglyn Manuscripts: Papers in dispute between visiting Committee of the North Wales Hospital, Denbigh and Messrs Wynne-Edwards and Croome Johnson (1897-1901)

PPD/24/351 - Denbigh Photographic Postcard Collection: Postcard of Group of Nurses in a Ward of North Wales Hospital (1918-1919)

QSD/AL/2 - Denbighshire Quarter Sessions: Contains numerous records relating to the North Wales Lunatic Asylum, including correspondence, orders and notices, resolutions, copies of mortgages, draft calculations, annual reports, rules, notices of discharges and deaths, half yearly returns of pauper lunatics, and plans (1845-1888)

NTD/1122 - Notes and Transcripts: Photograph of North Wales Hospital (1981)

NTD/1524 - Notes and Transcripts: 'Clwyd Grapevine'; including a short article on the North Wales Hospital (1996)

NTD/1733 - Notes and Transcripts: North Wales Hospital: Medical Officer's reports (1949 and 1953)

Related material held elsewhere:

Flintshire Record Office:

CC/F/1/5 - Plans of fire precautions at North Wales Hospital, Denbigh (c.1975)

D/DM/464/74 - Plan of Pool Park Hospital Denbigh (1931-1932)

D-JLA/3/8/22 - Release of Right of Way over Pool Park, Denbigh (1930-1935)

D-JLA/3/32/2 - Pool Park Hospital, Ruthin includes map of Pool Park, contract and conditions of sale, copy conveyance and correspondence (1928-1933)

D-JLA/9/2/6/9 - Dispute: Correspondence Relating to Enlargement Works at North Wales Counties Mental Hospital, Denbigh (1936-1939)

D-JLA/14/7 - Agreement re: Water Supply from North Wales Mental Hospital, Gwaenynog Estate, (1942)

H/6/4/11 - Standards of Care for mentally ill and mentally handicapped patients in hospital: summary of answers to check list by 27 wards at North Wales hospital, and report of working party presented to Secretary of State for Wales (1978-1980)

PR/70 - Denbigh, North Wales Hospital for the insane line engraving. Published by Thos. Gee, Denbigh. Also in J. Williams, Ancient and Modern Denbigh (1856)

Gwynedd Record Office

Gwynedd Record Office (Caernarfon) holds a sample of North Wales Hospital patient records (post 1948) for patients living in the Gwynnedd/Anglesey area only.

The National Archives

BD 18/2031 – Welsh Hospital Board: North Wales Hospital, Denbigh Correspondence (1971-1973)

BD 18/2032 – Welsh Hospital Board: North Wales Hospital, Denbigh Reports (1971-1972)

DT 33/1899 – Records of the General Nursing Council for England and Wales: Denbigh North Wales Hospital for Nervous and Mental Disorders (1948-1975)

MH 87/449 - Ministry of Health and Department of Health and Social Security: Hospital Management Committees, Registered Case Files: North Wales Hospital management Committee Information on Land Titles (1950-1953)

MH 95/1 – Board of Control Files: North Wales Hospital Denbighshire (1950-1960)

MH 96/890 – Welsh Board of Health Registered Files: North Wales Hospital Survey (1942-1946)

MH 96/1868 - Welsh Board of Health Registered Files: North Wales Mental Hospital Denbigh (1952-1960)

Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library holds Medical Officer of Health Reports for areas around the UK, including Denbighshire. The reports include details of the North Wales Hospital.