Prestwich Hospital

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 MMC/9/45
  • Former Reference
      GB 133 J b 42
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      5 items

Scope and Content

A small collection of miscellaneous documents, including published articles on the Asylum's services.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lancashire County Mental Hospital was opened in 1851 by Lancashire Asylums Board, in Bury New Road, Prestwich, as Lancashire's second County Asylum. It served mentally distressed paupers, rapidly expanding from its original capacity of 350. Additional expansions through the nineteenth century took the capacity to 2,300 beds. The arrival of the new NHS saw the name of the hospital changed to Prestwich Hospital. The hospital population reached a peak in 1956 with 3,029 patients and Prestwich was one of the largest hospitals of any kind in England. Prestwich Hospital is significant in the history of mental health treatment in England, but not due to pioneering work, but rather to controversy. Staff from Prestwich Hospital were instrumental in establishing the National Asylum Workers' Union in 1910. Prestwich Hospital was the subject of an controversial book about asylum life by Montagu Lomax. This book led to an inquiry and Royal Commission which agreed with the need for reform. Despite being the focus of this inquiry in the 1920s, Prestwich Hospital failed to develop progressive approaches to psychiatric care. This was partly due to difficulties finding staff, a lack of material resources, and the size of the institution. When the Community Care Act of 1990 redefined the catchment area of the hospital, acute cases were transferred to Hope Hospital and most long term residents had been returned to their districts of origin. In 1994, reduced drastically in size, the Hospital formed Mental Health Services Salford NHS Trust, along with community based satellite sites.

Related Material

Records of the Asylum are held by Lancashire Archives, Preston (QAM/6).


John Hopton, 'Prestwich Hospital in the twentieth century: a case study of slow and uneven progress in the development of psychiatric care' History of psychiatry vol. 10, pt. 3, no. 39 (September. 1999), pp 349-369.