People can find out about life in the Whittingham Asylum at a special exhibition this month.
Archives as diverse as patient records including photographs and admission records, books containing details of staff wages, menus of the food fed to patients, farm livestock books and annual reports are just some of the items that will be on display at the free event.
These items, loaned from Lancashire Archives, will be displayed at The Food for Thought family event, part of the Whittingham Lives arts and heritage project. Material from the Museum of Lancashire collections will also form part of the exhibition.
The event will take place at the Whittingham and Goosnargh Social Club on Saturday 11 August, from 12 noon to 4pm.
The Whittingham Lives arts and heritage two-year project aims to research, explore, celebrate and review the culture and legacy of the asylum, which was open from 1873 to 1995. The event forms part of a series of programmes exploring the 150-year history of the asylum.
The family-friendly event will take a close look at the relationship between diet and mental health in the asylum during the 1920’s.
Whittingham Asylum was built on farmland purchased in 1869 and the associated farm, known as Got Field, was important in producing food for the residents of the institution.
As the asylum grew, more land was acquired and three more farms also supported the production of food needed to feed approximately 4,000 patients and staff.
The event has been organised by the Whittingham Lives Association, and will give people the opportunity to look at original archives and artefacts from the asylum, participate in a number of family arts activities and sample local produce from a selection of stalls. Refreshments will be available.
Former staff, patients, visitors and local residents are being encouraged to attend to share their memories and photos of Whittingham, Goosnargh and the asylum through the decades.
County Councillor Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: “I’m delighted that we are taking part in this superb heritage project to explore the history of Whittingham Asylum. Lancashire Archives care for some nationally-significant archives about the asylum, which are an important record of the care and treatment of mental illness since 1873. It is fitting that we are able to display some of these records at the event.
“An interesting aspect of this exhibition is that we get the opportunity to stitch together history from what are really quite mundane sources. Events such as this are significant in preserving the history of what life was like in the asylum. It also gives the local community an opportunity to find out about and understand issues around mental health in society, nutrition and wellbeing.
“Part of the therapeutic drive of the asylum movement was to encourage physical work where possible, and many patients found themselves working with livestock, crops, gardens, and other tasks such as dairy and butchery. Diet and nutrition were also central to the care of patients as many arrived at Whittingham physically unwell and undernourished. We will be able to demonstrate this by some photographs we will display of John Henry Riley, a 17 year- old weaver from Blackburn on his admission to and discharge from Whittingham Asylum. The photographs show the huge difference regular healthy meals made to individuals.
“We’ll also display a photograph which throws more light on the vital work of the farm system at the hospital. Father and son, James and George Allsup, were farm managers at Whittingham and for over 60 years developed the award-winning herds of pigs, cattle and heavy horses. They also managed over 500 acres, and provided the hospital with more than 300 gallons of milk every day and even 100 turkeys especially bred for Christmas.
“It is also pleasing that the Whittingham Lives project itself is able to raise awareness of these important documents, which also helps us to preserve this important collection.”
Original documents relating to the Whittingham farms which produced fresh food for the patients, and the hospital diet will be on display at the Food for Thought event.
Bernard Melling, Whittingham Lives Board member and event organiser said: “I am delighted to be involved in this community project researching the heritage of Whittingham Asylum. The Food for Thought event gives the people of Preston and the wider community an opportunity to visit the asylum site and gain an insight into life, mental health and diet at the asylum in the 1920’s.There will be a display of the research that has been carried out and the chance to discuss any areas of interest”.
Community groups have also joined with the Whittingham Lives Association, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Lancashire County Council to creatively record, interpret and celebrate the history of the hospital so that the legacy and heritage of this institution is preserved for future generations.
The project has received nearly £70,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.
More information about the Whittingham Lives project is available by contacting Shelley Cater-Shipway by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07972 677172.