Ashworth Hospital

From Asylum Projects
Jump to: navigation, search
Ashworth Hospital
Established 1875
Opened 1878
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Liverpool, Merseyside
Alternate Names
  • Moss Side House
  • Ashworth Secure Hospital


The first hospital appeared on the Ashworth site in 1878 - a convalescent home, Moss Side House, for children from Liverpool workhouses. By 1914, it had been taken over by the Red Cross and established a reputation for treating shell-shocked soldiers from the First World War. Moss Side became a special hospital in 1933. In the 1970s, overcrowding at Broadmoor resulted in further expansion and the construction of Park Lane Special Hospital on land at the facility.

Park Lane opened in 1974 and was gradually expanded until 1984 into a high-security psychiatric facility operating independently of Moss Side. In 1989, the two hospitals were amalgamated to become Ashworth Hospital.

The Mental Health Act of 1959 came into fruition, and demanded major changes of not only Moss Side house, but of all psychiatric institutions within the country. Clear and definitive roles were given, and Moss Side House (or Ashworth Hospital as it was soon to be known as), Broadmoor Hospital and Rampton Secure Hospital were all declared as high-security hospitals. The Broadmoor overspill unit, named Park Lane Hospital was soon merged in with the Moss Side house, creating the new and improved Ashworth Hospital.

The hospital has had a mixed history and in the 1990s was the subject of two major inquiries. The Blom-Cooper report in 1992 found evidence of bullying and abuse of patients. The 1998 Fallon Inquiry was even more shocking. It too raised concerns about how patients were treated, as well as uncovering evidence of drug and pornography use.

In the surrounding area of Maghull, Lydiate, Melling and beyond, Ashworth is noted for the weekly test of its alarm system, sounded at 9:00 am every Monday morning. The alarm, based on the air raid sirens used in WW II, is audible in much of the surrounding area, as far afield as the outskirts of Kirkby, Crosby and Skelmersdale. It is intended to warn residents and institutions of escapees, of which there have been two in its history as a psychiatric hospital. There have, however, been no escapes from within the current site and in this respect it is unique among the English high-security hospitals.

The old East site has been leased to the prison service. It will be the site of temporary prison HMP Kennett, which opened in Spring 2007, as part of the drive to increase prison capacity in the United Kingdom.