Building record MYO4242 - Bootham Park Hospital: Two long corridors, recreation hall, bowling alley and pauper wards


County Lunatic Asylum, now an NHS mental health hospital. C19 additions to original 1773-77 asylum; two earlier-C19 long corridors which run in a north-westerly direction to two pauper wards of 1861-62 (replacing earlier pauper wards in the same location); 1871-72 service block including a grand recreation hall; pre-1892 American bowling alley. Listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: after the 1845 Lunatics Act pauper accommodation was compulsory in public asylums, here linked by long corridors to the main core of buildings behind the John Carr front range, whilst the later-C19 recreation hall and American bowling alley demonstrate a more humane approach to the treatment of patients; * Architectural interest: the architecture of the pauper wards was carefully designed to fit in with the earlier buildings in the complex, giving the effect of inclusivity rather than differentiation at a time when the style of pauper wards was usually of little consequence, while the detailing of the more decorative bowling alley suggests an affinity with the 1886 link block to the rear of the front range designed by Fisher and Hepper; * Function: the former American bowling alley is an unusual survival of a building purpose-built to encourage patients to participate in a specific recreational activity which was becoming increasingly popular at this time; * Interiors: the corridors have high-quality fixtures and fittings relating to the late-C19 major refurbishment of the John Carr front range and the core of buildings to its rear, and the impressive recreation hall and former bowling alley are both notable for the quality of their fitting-out; * Plan form: the plan form of all the buildings demonstrates their uses with the still readable plan form of the former pauper wards demonstrating the use of dormitories, thought to benefit quieter patients, in contrast to the single-cell arrangement off axial corridors used in the earlier buildings; * Group Value: the buildings have a functional group value with the other listed buildings which form Bootham Park Hospital having been built for use by the patients and are built in complimentary architectural styles using similar materials.


Grid reference Centred SE 6006 5283 (61m by 67m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

York Lunatic Asylum was only the fifth public mental health hospital founded in England. 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. 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.

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. 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 original front building was then used only for male patients. Subsequently further buildings were added as the asylum expanded. These included a refractory ward built in 1828 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.

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. 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 may have been the architects of other parts of the complex built at a similar time. These include a single-storey American bowling alley built before 1892 along the outer side of the southern long corridor (later used as a dining room). At this time the interior of the main buildings in the asylum were also extensively refurbished including Minton tile corridor floors, fireplaces, fine doorcases and doors. This refurbishment also encompassed the two long corridors.

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 and in the 1960s a single-storey, flat-roofed ward was built between the two pauper wards to create a quadrangle with a central yard. The 1871-2 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 2015 the hospital was closed after shortcomings were identified in its use as a mental healthcare facility and it then partially re-opened while discussion as to its future use for this function is on-going. April 2016

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

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Unpublished document: 2015. Bootham Park Hospital Heritage Appraisal.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

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Record last edited

Sep 28 2020 12:01PM


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