Parc Gwyllt Asylum: Timeline

Group of Nurses and Doctors

18th March 1880
The board of the Office of Commissioners in Lunacy proposed that an additional asylum should be built in the Glamorgan area.  This new asylum would accommodate 500 lunatic papers that were deemed incurable.  The proposed site for Parc Gwyllt was a portion of two farms. The land consisted of approximately 127 acres and formed the northern part of the farms of Parc Gwyllt and Gelliau. 

Nurse Betty Thomas holidng a baby of one of the patients.
The contract for the asylum was signed.

The asylum was near completion but could not be opened due to problems with damp, amongst other things.

The first psychiatric nursing handbook is published. It is known as the Red Handbook.

Parc Gwyllt Asylum is completed at a cost of approximately £60,000.

January 1887
Parc Gwyllt Asylum is opened. Many patients deemed incurable were move to the asylum from Angelton Asylum (Glanrhyd) to receive specialised care.   

Dr. Finlay was draft to Parc Gwyllt from the neighbouring Angelton Asylum at the requested of Dr. Pringle (the Medical Superintendent) to look after the rapidly growing population of Parc Gwyllt.  The cost per patient (weekly) at this time was 8 shillings. The name Parc Gwyllt itself translates to Wild Parc – Wild Field.  At this time the asylum was self-sufficient with a farm, vegetable and fruit gardens and a church. The patient population was approximately 1000.  

1st April 1889
Parc Gwyllt Asylum became known as the Glamorgan County Asylum. The asylum itself is now under the responsibility of the Glamorgan County Council.

The Lunacy Act states that patients had to be certifiably insane before they could be admitted to Parc Gwyllt or any other Psychiatric facility.

The cost per patient (weekly) is 8 shillings and 2 pence (per patient).

Nurse Training commenced by the Medical Officers. Several of the attendants obtained certificates which were awarded by The Psychological Association of Great Britain and Ireland.

The infectious nature of Tuberculosis is recognised. Steps are then taken to enforce cleanliness to the highest of standards.

The working hours for attendants were very unsatisfactory for a system of doubling day and night duty was in operation. For example an attendant may start work at 6:00am and finish 8:00pm the next day. At this time the attendants only had 4 hours rest for the whole time

Christmas Photograph

1900 – 1910
As the patient population continued to increase the average (weekly) cost of maintenance rose to 9 shillings and 3d (per patient). The number of nurses obtaining qualifications also increased.

Cricket Team 1900 - 1910

Betty Westcott with colleagues c.1915

1910 – 1920: Female Uniforms
Female attendants wore full length dress of a dark colour with long sleeves. Wide white starched cuffs were worn around the wrists and starched white collars were worn around the neck. A full length white apron with a wide bib that reached to the collar was worn with cross straps tied behind the back.  The female’s hair was pinned up and covered with a white cap.

Gorup of Nurses.

1920 – 1930

The name of the hospital changed to Glamorgan County Mental Hospital.

The wages for attendants were £2 per week with 17s. 6. deducted for board at lodging. At that time all of the staff were required to be resident. The first 3 months of an attendants work at the hospital was seen as a probationary period.

Dr. Brown and Nurses

At that time the hospital was very strict on discipline. Any slightest misdemeanour or rule breaking resulted in either a caution, reprimand or a fine of 2s. 6d. – the fine was deducted from the ‘Good Conduct Money’ which was paid every 3 months and could amount up to 10 shillings.

Female patients were employed in the laundry, kitchen or at domestic duties on the wards. The males on the other hand   were employed in trenching gardens, in keeping the grounds in order and construction work. Several of the patients were employed at the Tailor’s and Shoe-makers shops on site.

Dr. Yellowlees believed that recreation and occupational treatments were very vital to the health of the patients, with the occupational treatments taking over the priority of the recreational treatments.

When the patients had finished their work they were allowed to take part in recreational activities. Cricket became an outside favourite with cards, draughts and dominos being an inside favourite. It was usually male patients that took part on sporting activities as it was seen that the best recreational activities for females were sewing and knitting.

The gardens and farm, which were completely cultivated by the patients at the hospital, provided ample supplies of potatoes and vegetables.  The farm cottage, piggeries and cattle proved to make economic gains.

The patients work extremely hard and were rewarded with an allowance of tobacco, tea, snuff and sometimes beer!

There was a long waiting list for people seeking work at Parc Gwyllt and for a long period of time it was considered a desirable attribute and even an asset whilst applying for work at the hospital  if the applicant possessed any sporting or musical abilities.

Dr. Brown and Nurses c.1928

Thomas Thomas and Nurse Esther Thomas
1930 – 1940

Outpatient Clinics opened at Bridgend and Pontypridd.

Occupational Therapy commenced. Weekend leave of absence was inaugurated,

Football Team - 1934

The average (weekly) cost of patient maintenance was £1.8s 4.d (per patient).

1940 to 1950

The day management of the hospital became to responsibility of the Morgannwg Hospital Management Committee.  

Much work was commenced in the upgrading and modernisation of the Hospital.

Cricket Team - 1947

5th July 1948
Hospitals vested in the Minister.

1950 – 1960

31st March 1950

At this time the average population of the hospital was 1,500 people and the weekly cost of the maintenance of the patients was £3.18s.9d (per patient).

On this date a serious fire occurred in which all of the trees that lined the entrance drive were burnt and completely destroyed. The fire burnt the main administration centre entrance block; this is why the façade is different from its initial design. This is also why there have never since been any trees lining the entrance.

May 1956
Mrs. Yvonne Morris - Ladies Hairdresser at Parc.
Farming ceased at the hospital when the farm was sold.

Wards were numbered, for example – Males; 1 -8 and Female; 1-10 but during this decade they were given names in endeavour to enhance the more homely individual personalisation of each ward.

The Mental Health Act of 1959 was implemented and all of the other acts were repealed.

April 1959
During this month Dr. J. M. Cuthill was appointed the first Consultant Psychiatrist at Parc Hospital.

This year was designated World Year in Mental Health.

1960 – 1970

Miss Annie Roberts
October 1963
New heating installation was commenced during this month.

(Matron) Miss Annie Roberts retired; a farewell dinner was arranged for the 27th of December.

Miss Marion Jones was appointed the new Matron and at the same time Mr. Blackwell was appointed Deputy Male Nurse.

October 1968
The Minister of Health decided a start should be made on the General Introduction of the Salmon Structure as advised to reorganise the Senior Nursing Staff Structure (Ward Sister and above).

Female Ward 10 - Sister Margaret .
August 1969
The First Inter Hospital Holiday Exchange between Parc Hospital and St. David’s Hospital, Carmarthen was arranged and “very much enjoyed”.

In this year Parc Hospital broke tradition by arranging the first mixed gender holiday.  Prior to this holidays had been organised on a single sex basis. 21 one patients enjoyed “a happy week” at a hotel in Southsea in Hampshire. They were accompanied by a married couple who were bot h nurse at Parc Hospital, Mr. and Mrs. Ray and Sheila Hatch.  

During this year the enclosure wall were demolished.

Winnie Orchard (Catering Staff) is awarded and B.E.M for services to Parc Hospital. She had completed 41 years’ service from January 1939 to January 19800 with only 2 sick days. 

1988 saw the publication of the consultative document that was to change the live of the patients and staff at Parc Hospital. The Health Authority proposed the closure of one of the major psychiatric hospital. Under pressure from staff organisations they conceded that it was Parc Hospital that was to close.  This drew a close to 107 years of care.

Ward 17 was transferred to Penyfai Hospital and Ward 3 went to Tyntyla.  Over the next 6 year the patients and staff of Parc Hospital were transferred to Rhondda, Taff Ely, Ogwr, Merthyr, Cynon Valley, Rhymney and West Glamorgan.

Parc Hospital was the first major psychiatric hospital to close in Wales. 

Parc Hospital during the Autumn.

Source/Images: "A Tribute to Parc Hospital"

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