Cumbria Crack

Secrets of the Asylum: 100 years of the Garlands Hospital

[O]n Wednesday 8 November 2017 the county council is holding a unique event in Carlisle, to explore attitudes to mental health over the last 100 years with a fascinating insight into the history of The Cumberland and Westmorland Joint Lunatic Asylum, also known as The Garlands Hospital.

The event takes place from 1pm – 4pm with a presentation from guest speakers starting at 2pm in the Harraby Community Theatre.

At the event Cumbria County Council’s Archive Service will be exhibiting a range of materials such as maps, photos and recently released patient records, which provide a glimpse into daily life at Carlisle’s Garlands Hospital. The exhibition will shine a spotlight on the 100-year-old case notes of ‘inmates’ like Edward, William, Mary, Hannah and many more.

At the event there will also be a host of guest speakers, including:

  • Cllr Deborah Earl, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Community Services
  • Michael Stephens, Cumbria County Council Archivist
  • Chris Graham, Lighthouse Manager at Carlisle Eden Mind
  • Colin Cox, Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health
  • Cara Dobbing, Independent Researcher and Garlands Expert
  • Richard Thwaites, Clinical Director of the Mental Health service First Step at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Councillor Deborah Earl, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Community Services, said: “This event brings together the county council’s Archive Service, Public Health Service and health partners and we hope will encourage a variety of discussions on the subject of mental health.

“The exhibition and items are a real eye-opener, everyone can learn something from practitioners and professionals working in health, people who may have had relatives work at the Garlands and members of the public.

“The exhibition will look back as far as the 1860’s to provide a glimpse into the very early days of mental health care provision in Cumbria, the patients at the Garlands and their treatments.”

Colin Cox, Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Starting discussions and talking openly about mental health can help to break down stereotypes and take away stigma out of something that can affect us all. This exhibition provides an opportunity to have a discussion about mental health in a really interesting and unusual way. What’s striking about the archive material is both how far we have moved in terms of language and how we discuss mental health, and yet how similar some of the current approaches to treatment are to those practiced so long ago.

“It’s this insight, and the parallels between past and present, that make this exhibition so interesting and so valuable. I hope this unique event will provide an exciting opportunity to explore how we approach and talk about mental health.”

Richard Thwaites, Clinical Director of the Mental Health service First Step at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s not only fascinating to learn about and reflect on the way mental health problems have been dealt with historically in Cumbria, it’s actually essential. Looking back helps us to remember what has been largely forgotten in terms of the way people with mental health conditions were treated and it also reminds us how far we have come in terms of understanding and treatments.

“As a mental health professional I have found this incredibly interesting; most of the people who were admitted to this facility would not be now, and part of that is testament to how much we have begun to break down those barriers and started to speak about mental health, which is something that is also helping us continually improve treatments. The archive is very detailed and the knowledge of the staff there is fantastic and such a good resource for Cumbria.”

Chris Graham, Lighthouse Manager at Carlisle Eden Mind, said: “The archive exhibition provides a rare opportunity to gain an insight into how people were cared for at the Garlands Hospital by shining a spotlight on the 100-year-old case notes.

“Much has changed in society and mental health services since the days of large psychiatric hospitals and by looking at the inner workings of Garlands Hospital we can gain an understanding into the modern mental health NHS services.

“Third sector services such as national Mind and local Mind Associations have been representing the voice of mental health service users for over 70 years and continue to do so.”

Following the event on Wednesday, the exhibition will go on to be displayed at additional locations and more information will follow soon at

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