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Tyne and Wear HER(6868): Newcastle, Gallowgate, lunatic asylum - Details

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Newcastle, Gallowgate, lunatic asylum



Health and Welfare


Psychiatric Hospital

Post Medieval


Documentary Evidence

This was the first public lunatic asylum. It was designed in 1765-7 by William Newton (who rebuilt the north front of the Guildhall with David Stephenson in 1796). Hodgson called the asylum a "retired and quiet situation, suitable to persons afflicted with this terrible calamity" whilst Mackenzie describes it as a forbidding place where "little attention was paid to free ventilation and cleanliness. The chains, iron bars and dungeon-like cells" [were like a prison,] "highly injurious to their health and lives. Many of the cells were close, dark, cold holes less comfortable than cow-houses". Patients were under the care of Drs. Hall, Wood and Glenton, later Noel Thomas Smith. John Dobson added to Newton's Lunatic Asylum in 1824. The improvements provided ventilated cells with enclosed walkways. Class 1 males were provided with an airing-ground (1000 square yard) and the corresponding wing for class 1 females was also improved and enlarged. The class 2 males were in the main body of the building with an exercise yard (650 square yards) and class 3 males were on the chamber floor. Class 2 females were contained in the upper rooms of the projecting wings and class 3 females had apartments in the front of the building. Each class was provided with a day-room, warmed gallery, water-closet, warm, cold, and shower baths. The doors contained proper ventilation with lowered windows to enable outward views and double boarded floors for sound proofing. On the ground-floor was a kitchen, bake-house, wash-house, a yard, offices, matron's room and physician's room. Thomas Oliver says that the hospital housed 37 men and 38 women. In 1810 the 61 patients were split into 50 in first class, 8 in second class and 3 third class. The asylum closed in 1867 due to overcrowding. Upstanding stone walls of the asylum survive in the boundary walls of the People's Kitchen on Bath Lane, behind the tyre garage on St. James Boulevard and in the plot south of Heber Street. All of these walls have been archaeologically recorded. Evaluation trenching in 2017 and 2018 recorded buried sandstone walls and mortar floors of the asylum.




John Wood's Map of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1827; E. Mackenzie, 1827, The Descriptive and Historical Account of the Town and County of Newcastle upon Tyne; Ordnance Survey first edition map, 1850; L. Wilkes and G. Dodds, 1964, Tyneside Classical - The Newcastle of Grainger, Dobson and Clayton; Archaeological Services Durham Univeristy, February 2007, Gallowgate Lunatic Asylum (SMR 6868); Mike Griffiths Associates, 2015, 2 St James Boulevard, Newcastle - Archaeological Assessment; Mayfield CA Ltd, May 2017, 2 St James Boulevard, Newcastle upon Tyne - Mitigation Recording of Stone Wall; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2018, Heber St - Archaeological Assessment; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2018, Land at Heber Street, Newcastle - Archaeological Evaluation; Mike Griffiths Associates, 2017, 2 St James Boulevard, Newcastle - Heritage Statement;

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