Lunatic Asylum, Abergavenny


Lunatic Asylum, Abergavenny
Architects: Fulljames and Waller (1849-1852)
Engraving: published in The Builder (1852)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library

In 1845 the government passed the Lunacy Act. Counties and boroughs now had to provide accommodation for the poor troubled by mental illness. Soon, throughout the country, a great number of mental hospitals sprang up, architects cashing in on the newfound opportunities.

One of the finest surviving is the Pen-y-fal Hospital, Abergavenny (1849-52). Designed to house 250 patients, it was built to serve the counties of Monmouth, Brecon, Hereford and Radnor. Its architects, Fulljames and Waller, chose the then fashionable Tudor Gothic style, using local red sandstone with Bath stone dressings to animate its charming gathering of gables and chimneys. Over the years it was much expanded, but many of the original buildings, shown here, can still be seen, converted now to housing.

This engraving, published in The Builder (1852), depicts the main façade in its landscaped setting. Picturesquely framed by arching trees, all seems delightful. However, HowweHp looking closely at the plan beneath, we can see the many cells, work rooms and walled airing courts. Would readers of this architectural journal have noticed the private reality of the hospital?


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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