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WATCH: Take a tour of abandoned Stafford asylum

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Shattered windows, crumbling walls, masonry-strewn floors and overturned bathtubs are all that remain of an abandoned Victorian mental asylum closed 20 years ago.

The images are a glimpse into the shocking past of the former St George's County Asylum in Staffordshire where patients were restrained by means of 'the leather muff,' 'iron handcuffs' and 'restraint chair'.

The archives show that dysentery and syphilis were once prevalent inside the Grade II-listed building.

Suicide cages were erected in the stairwells after a female patient threw herself off the fourth floor and landed near the reception.

It is now in a state of near collapse but building work is under way to transform the site into new homes.

Property developer Shropshire Homes is beginning work on demolishing parts of the asylum beyond repair as part of a project to revamp the structure into 102 apartments. The homes, the first of which are due to be occupied by early next year, will be priced between just under £100,000 and up to £300,000 for what company director Howard Thorne described as the 'penthouse apartments'. He said the parts of the asylum being demolished were 'structurally unsound' and that it was impossible for them to be preserved.

Opened in 1818, the asylum once housed almost 1,000 patients and expands over 350 metres in length overlooking the county town of Stafford. It was designed by Joseph Potter in the style of a Georgian mansion at a cost of £35,000.

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It was initially large enough to hold 120 patients but between 1879 and 1884 two extra wings were added. During the 1950s the asylum was renamed St George's Hospital. The lauded Mr James Wilkes who was Medical Superintendent of the asylum from 1841-1855 was appalled. He said of the asylum before he arrived at his post: "Previous to the year 1841, mechanical restraints were part of the system of treatment. The means of restraint were the leather muff and wrist straps, iron handcuffs, hobbles for the legs, the restraint chair and other devices.

"Many of the patients were confined to their beds by straps passing through iron loops. The evil of this system was perpetuated by high windows protected by iron guards."

The hospital shut its doors in 1995 and 145 long-term patients were re-located into the community. Since then it has lain empty and suffered vandalism and arson.

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