Explore #2 of the ‘Almost Died Tour’
The first proper explore of our Ireland trip was an absolute beauty…
History (abridged and rewritten from here and here)
Connacht District Lunatic Asylum (latterly known as St Brigid’s Hospital) was one of the earliest of the Irish district asylums, and opened in Ballinasloe Co. Galway in 1833 with an intial capacity of 150. It was designed by William Murray, based on an earlier design by Francis Johnson, and built to an X-shaped “panoptic” layout, with staff and management based in the centre so as to easily monitor the patient wings which radiated outwards.
The asylum was intended for the care of ‘curable lunatics’ and opened in a spirit of optimism and a progressive approach to public health. However, the reality was often much darker – as with nearly all (if not all) Irish asylums it was continually underfunded and overcrowded, with stories of mistreatment and abuse of patients throughout its history.
By 1900 it had 1,165 patients crammed into accomodation then designed to hold only 840. This overcrowding was caused by referrals (which could not legally be refused) from local workhouses keen to offload their most challenging inmates, and from families wishing to emigrate to the USA who feared that any relatives exhibiting abnormal behaviour might jeopardise the application for the entire family.
Towards the end of the twentieth century the asylum became known as St Brigid’s hospital, reflecting an evolution in mental health treatment away from the long-term institutionalisation of patients towards more community-based therapy. The hospital was an acute psychiatric ward with only 22 beds by the time it finally closed in 2013, only months after a €2.8m revamp. The hospital and its grounds have lain disused and increasingly derelict ever since, with little apparent effort by the Health Service Executive to sell or redevelop the site.
At the end of our explore I flew my drone over the site – unfortunately I only had 10 minutes battery life left after other sorties earlier in the day, but managed to grab a couple of quick shots. I’ll show the other two drone photos at the end of the report as I usually try to post my shots roughly in the order I took them, but this one gives an overview of the site’s ‘X’ layout, with the staff HQ in the centre and the laundry section to the right hand side of the shot…
Thank you for your stay – I hope you’re feeling better now.