Our new home was once part of the Warwick County Mental Asylum - that’s what psychiatric hospitals were called in those days - and was built in the Gothic style on a grand scale.
It was opened in 1852 and rapidly expanded, gradually acquiring neighbouring farms, and developed into what amounted to a self-contained village with a blacksmith, a chapel, cricket and football grounds, an orchestra, hairdresser and beautician, water from its own spring. It extended over nearly 500 acres and was pretty much self-sufficient, with patients growing and cooking their own food, putting on plays and hosting an annual fête.
If all this seems very different from our ideas of Victorian asylums, that is because it was very different.
The activities and the grounds in which they took place were part of the treatment regime. Occupational therapy we would call it now. But although the treatments were ahead of their time in some respects, they were also of their time. For example, Electro-Convulsive Therapy was used; so was LSD.
Nevertheless, under the direction of John Connolly and William Parsey, pioneers in the humane treatment of mental illness, Central Hospital (as it was renamed) became, relatively speaking, a centre of innovation and excellence, visited by specialists from all over the world.
But as you can see, they did a pretty good job. Yes, there are many new houses built, but much of the landscaped grounds was retained and the original building sympathetically converted into homes.
One of which is now ours. Location, location, location - and the rest is history.
Today from the everysmith vaults: I’m listening to Close by James Knight. It’s a song cycle and it’s about as personal and heart-rending as any piece of music as I know. Including Four Last Songs and the Last Quartets.