Building record MYO1794 - Bootham Park Hospital


County Lunatic Asylum, now an NHS mental health hospital. 1773-77 by John Carr of York; with separate building c1788-96; 1817 range by Watson and Pritchett of York; 1886 extensively refurbished internally with addition of link block by Fisher and Hepper of York; 1908 extension for affluent female patients by Alfred Creer of York. . Built from brick with stone dressings, additions date to circa 1790, 1814 and circa 1840. In 1886 it was largely remodelled internally and in the 20th century, various extensions were carried out. The hospital is of three storeys with a slightly projecting one-window bay at either side. The three-window centre bay has four giant engaged Tuscan columns rising over the upper storeys to a plain frieze, a Doric cornice and pediment. The sides each have three windows with those to the first storey having semicircular heads in arched recesses. There is a continuous moulded stone band to the first floor, a narrow stone string-course at lower sill level and another at impost level of the first storey. The building of the hospital was prompted by concerns held by the Archbishop of York for the mentally ill who at the time were being admitted to prisons because of their condition. Despite the intention to provide more suitable accommodation however, the conditions inside the psychiatric hospital were appalling and were the subject of a national investigation in 1813-14 as well as questions in Parliament. As a result of this scandal, the way in which the hospital was run underwent substantial reforms. MATERIALS: orange brick, sandstone dressings, slate roofs PLAN: a multiple phase complex. The original three-storey, rectangular front range has wide spine corridors with rooms opening off both sides. It originally had a central main staircase, removed to form an atrium and replaced by a staircase block in 1886 built against the centre of rear elevation. This block links the front range to a separate late-C18 two-storey building, which in turn is linked to a long 1817 two-storey range built parallel to the front range, the buildings together forming an H. The 1817 range also has wide spine corridors with rooms opening off both sides. At the south-east end of the 1817 long range is a 1908 two-storey extension. Grade I and Grade II listed.


Grid reference Centred SE 6008 5277 (41m by 36m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (6)

Full Description

York Lunatic Asylum was only the fifth public mental health hospital founded in England. The intention to found an asylum in York was announced in the York Courant in August 1772 and a committee to oversee its building was swiftly established. Money was raised through public subscription; the subscription list records the names of county gentry, city notables, but also ordinary citizens. In 1773 John Carr was appointed as the architect. He designed an asylum to house 54 patients in the manner of a large Palladian house. The plan was described as ‘'simple and convenient consisting only of a corrodore, extending from end of the building, and has on each side of it, on the two upper floors, rooms very commodious and securely finished for the reception of lunatics'’. The ground floor had accommodation for patients and provision for the physician and apothecary and for a committee room. Building work began in 1774, but construction was slow due to money shortages and the building was not completed until 1777 when the first patients were admitted under the care of Dr A Hunter.

By 1788 the asylum was over-subscribed and a further twenty rooms were added. These may have formed part of the separate building to the rear shown on a 1796 engraving which also contained a kitchen and sitting room for female patients. In 1795 an ‘extensive wing’ was built, which was probably the ‘detached wing’ which burnt down in 1814 with the loss of the lives of several patients. Although the asylum had been established with good intentions, and its rules of management had attempted to safeguard against abuses, by the last decade of the C18 conditions were appalling and management corrupt. The death of Hannah Mills, a Quaker, in 1790 led directly to the Quakers founding The Retreat in York in 1796, which championed more humane treatment methods.

NINETEENTH CENTURY The long north-east range was built for female patients in 1817 to designs by the York-based architects Charles Watson and James Pigott Pritchett. The upper floors were carried on a fire-proof construction of arched brickwork spanning between iron beams. The original front building was then used only for male patients. Around 1820 an additional suite of rooms was fitted out to accommodate affluent patients, though they were not popular and were under-utilised. In 1828 a new refractory ward was built for fourteen violent or troublesome patients to the north-west of the site.

The first edition 1:1056 Ordnance Survey map published in 1852 provides the earliest known surviving ground plan of the asylum. In addition to the main asylum building and the 1817 female range to the north-east, it shows two further blocks had been added to the north-west. One was a service block containing a wash house, bakery, brewery and stores. The other was an extension or a rebuilding of the earlier refractory ward to provide wards for male and female patients. The 1845 Lunatics Act had made the provision of accommodation for pauper patients compulsory and this building was presumably for pauper patients. The two wards were linked to the main buildings by two long corridors. Two small, single-storey extensions had also been added to the inner angles of the rear elevation of the front building.

In 1858 Dr Frederick Needham was appointed Medical Superintendent and remained until 1874. He had progressive ideas and championed the perception of the asylum as a curative hospital rather than a prison, which led to physical changes on the site. Heavy window and fire guards were removed, high walls round airing courts replaced with low walls and hidden moats, new furniture was installed, curtains hung, cages of birds, hanging flower baskets and pictures added to create a ‘civilised’ environment. Needham also oversaw the construction of two new pauper wards replacing the earlier refractory/pauper wards to the north-west side of the site in 1861-62, a Medical Superintendent’s house in 1862-63 on the south-east side of the 1817 range, and a separate chapel in 1865 designed by Rawlins Gould. In 1871-72 the pre-1852 service block was either demolished or extensively rebuilt to provide a grand recreation and dining hall spanning the area between the two long corridors, and new kitchen, larder, laundry, wash house and drying room, and boiler house. Gas cookers were installed to make domestic life easier, baths were replaced with enamel baths, the hot water supply was improved and stone flags were replaced by boards in some areas.

In 1884 Dr Hitchcock became Medical Superintendent. He was notable for his medical innovations, reducing the use of sedatives as treatment, and was pioneering in his therapy of acute mania cases. This was cemented in 1909 when two American doctors commented that the hospital ‘'was the most progressive institution they had visited in Europe'’.

In 1886 the link block between the main building and late-C18 building to the rear was entirely rebuilt as a two-storey building to designs by York architects Fisher and Hepper. The main staircase in the John Carr building was removed and replaced by a staircase in the new link block. Fisher and Hepper’s design built in a French chateau style was more decorative than the earlier buildings. The detailing, particularly that of the windows, suggests that Fisher and Hepper are likely to have been the architects of other parts of the complex built at a similar time. Between 1852 and 1892, when the first edition 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map was published, a long, two-storey cross wing under a single roof was built running north-east, south-west and located between the 1871-72 recreational hall and the 1861-62 pauper wards. The northern and southern ends of the south-east elevation of the wing have segmental-arched windows very similar to those used in the 1886 link block. Also sharing a similar appearance are the single-storey American bowling alley built before 1892 along the outer side of the southern long corridor (later a dining room), and a single-storey room projecting from the northern end of the cross wing. Both have similar decorative bargeboards. At this time the interior of the asylum was extensively refurbished including Minton tile corridor floors, fireplaces, fine doorcases and doors. The entrance to the 1817 range was remodelled during the refurbishment.

The recessed loggias in the back of the 1817 range were enclosed in the late C19.

TWENTIETH AND EARLY TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY The asylum began to move towards a wealthier class of patient and in 1904 it changed its name from York Lunatic Asylum to the more respectable Bootham Park Hospital. In 1906 a new city pauper asylum was opened at Naburn and all paupers at Bootham Park Hospital were then moved to the new hospital. In 1908 an extension for affluent female patients was built to designs by York architect and City Surveyor, Alfred Creer, linking the 1817 range and the Medical Superintendent’s house. Following the outbreak of the First World War many structural improvements were abandoned, though a few alterations appear to have happened during the 1920s. The northern end of the later-C19 cross wing has a single-storey extension dated 1928 on a rainwater hopper, originally with a veranda. A plan dated 1931 also shows that verandas had been built against the outer elevations of the two pauper wards. The third edition 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map published in 1931 shows that the small square, later-C19 building next to the gateway on the west side of the complex had been replaced by a rectangular building of double the size, which was used as a mortuary. In 1939 the central cupola on the front range was removed, leaving the square base, which was removed in 1951.

In 1948 Bootham Park Hospital was included in the newly created National Health Service (NHS). In 1953 the verandas of the pauper wards were replaced by single-storey extensions to provide additional beds. In 1955-8 a two-storey extension was built to the southern end of the later-C19 cross wing to provide outpatient facilities as part of the evolution of mental health practice towards care in the community. Other additions in the mid-C20 included a four-bay, single-storey extension to the northern end of the later-C19 cross wing and replacement of the 1928 veranda with a single-storey extension. A staircase hall was built in the inner angle between the former bowling alley and the southern end of the cross wing with an adjacent lift with vertically-projecting lift housing. A small, two-room extension was also built on the outer side of the northern long corridor. On the western side of the site a group of various service buildings were built, including large garages, a workshop, and a boiler house. In the 1960s a single-storey, flat-roofed ward was built between the two pauper wards to create a quadrangle with a central yard. A single-storey, flat-roofed ward was also built projecting from the south-east elevation of the later-C18 building behind the front range. The 1871-2 wash house and drying room was refurbished in the 1960s as ward space and the kitchen adjacent to the recreation room was converted into the Needham Treatment Suite and a small, single-storey annexe built on its south-east side to provide a sluice room/store/WC. In the late C20 the brick chimney stacks were removed from the front range. A projecting glazed entrance lobby was added in the late C20 or early C21 against the north-west end of the 1817 range. A new, single-storey ward building was also built attached to the rear, north-east elevation of the 1908 extension, and a new record store was built on the north-eastern side of the southern long corridor. Two new electricity sub-stations were built on the western side of the site adjacent to the group of service buildings. In 2015 the hospital was closed after shortcomings were identified in its use as a mental healthcare facility. It then partially re-opened while discussions about its future use for this function are on-going.

Https:// April 2016

NMR Information:

Bootham Park Hospital is situated at SE 601 528. (1)

For the full listed description please refer to the Listed Building System. (2)

Bootham Park Hospital, formerly known as York Lunatic Asylum was constructed in 1772-1777. The building of the hospital was prompted by concerns held by the Archbishop of York for the mentally ill who at the time were being admitted to prisons because of their condition. Despite the intention to provide more suitable accommodation however, the conditions inside the psychiatric hospital were appalling and were the subject of a national investigation in 1813-14 as well as questions in Parliament. Records from the asylum at the time were said to have been destroyed in a suspiciously timed fire while two contrasting sets of the hospital's accounts were discovered. As a result of this scandal, the way in which the hospital was run underwent substantial reforms. (3)

Bootham Park Hospital is a listed building and information used to create this record has been taken from the National Heritage List for England - for a full description of the site please go to this source. (4)

1 Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 1:2500 1962.
2 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest 28 City of York, June 1983.
3 World Wide Web page York Museums Trust. (nd). Bootham Park Hospital <> [accessed 29-JUL-2011]
4 World Wide Web page English Heritage. (2011). National Heritage List for England: Bootham Park Hospital <> [accessed 29-JUL-2011]

2015, Bootham Park Hospital Heritage Appraisal (Unpublished document). SYO1751.

JB Archaeological Services, 2020, Bootham Park Hospital (Unpublished document). SYO2601.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: 2015. Bootham Park Hospital Heritage Appraisal.
  • --- Unpublished document: JB Archaeological Services. 2020. Bootham Park Hospital.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Feb 15 2021 12:23PM


Your feedback is welcome; if you can provide any new information about this record, please contact the City Archaeologist.