|Current Status||Preserved (Partially)|
|Building Style||Corridor Plan|
The hospital first known as the South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum was declared open for the reception of patients on 21 August 1872, and the first six were admitted on 27 August. It had its origins in the County Asylum Act of 1808, which permitted local Justices of the Peace to build asylums financed by the county rate and which resulted in the West Riding of Yorkshire building its first asylum at Wakefield in 1818. The general response to this permissive legislation was, however, poor and for a long time the workhouse in Sheffield provided the main local accommodation for pauper lunatics, with only the more difficult cases being transferred to Wakefield. (As early as 1797, at the establishment of Sheffield General Infirmary, the need to provide an asylum or lunatic hospital in Sheffield had actually been first suggested).
Public concern about the apparent increase in insanity and the overcrowding in the Wakefield asylum grew and under this pressure for action, a Select Committee of Justices, under the chairmanship of Lord Wharncliffe, was appointed to explore the possibility of finding a suitable location for a new asylum in South Yorkshire. A site was identified, adjacent to the Wharncliffe estate, between Middlewood and Wadsley, and permission was sought from the Commissioners in Lunacy for sanction to purchase it. Plans were prepared by the West Riding surveyor for an asylum of 750 beds and building work started in the summer of 1869. The official opening ceremony, presided over by Lord Wharncliffe, chairman of the Building Committee, was the occasion for a dinner for 80 people, held on 7 September 1872. South Yorkshire Asylum took in patients from the temporary asylum Mount Pleasant House at Sharrow, from Wakefield Asylum and from a number of Poor Law Unions, its catchment area comprising Sheffield, Ecclesall Bierlow, Rotherham, Doncaster, Thorne, Penistone, Wortley and part of Worksop. Expansion was soon found necessary and this was put in hand, carefully preserving some 250 million year old fossilised tree roots found in the course of the work. By 1906 its accommodation had more than doubled, and provided beds for 1,600 inmates.
In January 1915 the central government Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency set aside 15,000 asylum beds to be used for sick and wounded soldiers. The asylum, by then known as Wadsley Asylum, was one of the locations thus selected as a war hospital. During March 1915 the mental patients were evacuated, mainly to the West Riding Asylums in Wakefield, Storthes Hall near Huddersfield, and Menston. A small number were maintained at the Asylum's farm residence. Wadsley Asylum was adapted for military use under the name of the 'Wharncliffe War Hospital' with, at its largest, 2039 beds including 112 'shake-downs'. It was placed under the general supervision of the Officer in Command of the 3rd Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, with the asylum's medical superintendent, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, appointed by the War Office in local command. A number of Wharncliffe Hospital's convoy patients were accommodated at Auxiliary Hospitals at Worksop and Darfield. Wharncliffe War Hospital finally closed on 31 July 1920, having treated nearly 37,000 patients since opening on 1 April 1915. The asylum buildings were reinstated and the mental patients were thereafter readmitted. Between 1920 and 1922 the male detached block was loaned by the Visiting Committee to the Ministry of Pensions, to be used as a hospital providing 300 beds for the treatment of ex-soldier pensioner cases. After the war several forms of name were used for the institution, and 'asylum' was phased out in favour of 'mental hospital' in around 1923. The site and facilities developed: outdoor tuberculosis wards for males and females were opened in 1926; and a new Admission Hospital, with convalescent villas, was opened on 13 February 1935, named 'Middlewood Hospital' to distinguish it from the main institution. Set up under the 1930 Mental Treatment Act, it was to receive, study and treat all newly appointed patients with a view to separating those who could be readily cured and returned home from those whose prospects were less favourable.
After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Emergency Medical Services took over part of the hospital, with many existing patients being temporarily accommodated in other wards or being transferred to Storthes Hall. Five more wards were built and the accommodation was named the 'Wharncliffe Emergency Hospital'; it was equipped to treat medical, surgical and neurosis casualties. At the end of the war it was selected to become a 'Dispersal Hospital' under Army Demobilization Regulations. Some 31,000 convoy patients passed through the hospital altogether. A general medical unit was continued as 'Wharncliffe Hospital', providing medical and surgical facilities not only for the mental hospital patients. In 1953 premises were converted to provide accommodation for 26 female tuberculous patients from the Doncaster and Barnsley areas. The hospital also provided plastic surgery, particularly after burns, following on from its treatment of aircrew during the war. In 1954 all cases of spinal injury were transferred to Lodge Moor Hospital in Sheffield and other facilities were phased down. Wharncliffe Hospital closed in October 1978 by which time its 129-bed unit had only 11 patients, who were then transferred to the Royal Infirmary and Hallamshire Hospital.
The mental hospital continued its services during World War II and in fact extended its catchment area to include Doncaster County Borough when Pinderfields Emergency Hospital was established at the Wakefield Mental Hospital. Following the National Health Service Act 1946 the hospital from 1948 became known as 'Middlewood Hospital and expansion was proposed: in 1949 Sheffield Regional Hospital Board recommended the provision of 1,000 additional beds to address the need for increased institutional accommodation for the region's mentally ill. In the mid-1950s some geriatric patients were accommodated in Moorgate Hospital and later at Swallownest Hospital (the second-line smallpox hospital), both in Rotherham. Following reorganisation of psychiatric services in 1956, male patients under observation in accordance with Section 20 of the Lunacy Act 1890 were transferred to Middlewood from Sheffield's Fir Vale Infirmary and Moorgate Hospital; male mental defectives were transferred from Middlewood to Grenoside Hospital; 20 male and 30 female patients were transferred to Fir Vale Infirmary; and 20 female patients were transferred to Swallownest Hospital. Also in 1956, Middlewood Hospital farm, which had long since provided farming activities and employment for patients and staff alike, was disposed of. In 1957 'The Yews' at Worrall was adapted as a psychiatric Day Hospital; it opened in October 1958 in association with Middlewood Hospital. Extensive plans for the modernisation of Middlewood Hospital were put forward in 1958 and some upgrading took place over the next few years despite plans mooted in 1959 to develop Aughton Court, Grenoside and Thundercliffe Grange Hospitals to permit Hollow Meadows and Middlewood Hospitals to close.
The 1971 memorandum (Circular HM(71) 97) 'Hospital Services for the Mentally Ill' set out the principle that future psychiatric treatment should be based on general hospital units. There would also be day care facilities and other services would be provided by local authorities. Although significant costs were incurred when Middlewood's Kingswood block was upgraded in 1972-1973, services began to be scaled down. Patient numbers were reduced: some were transferred to the Psychiatric Unit of the Northern General Hospital. By 1984 Middlewood's Psychiatric Services Management Team was planning the running down of the hospital altogether and the development of a community oriented service for the mentally ill in conjunction with Sheffield City Council. In 1986 there remained just over 600 patients (at its height the hospital had accommodated 2,200). Alternative provisions were made in the community, jointly provided by the NHS and the local authority, such as the unit for mentally handicapped adults at Norton. In early 1990 Middlewood Hospital was listed for closure within five years; it finally closed down in 1996 and the land sold for development.
The South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum was administered by the Justices of the Peace for the West Riding of the County of York until the Local Government Act of 1888; thereafter the new West Riding County Council took over the responsibility for administering the asylums in West Riding including the then renamed West Riding Asylum, Wadsley. The asylum administrator reported to the Wadsley Asylum Visiting Committee of the West Riding of York, later the West Riding Asylums Board, which was the controlling body for the four asylums of the West Riding. It came into operation in October 1912, following the West Riding of Yorkshire Asylums Act, and was later renamed the West Riding Mental Hospitals Board.
The central government department responsible for the overall monitoring and regulating of county asylums and the treatment, admission and discharge of their inmates was the Commissioners in Lunacy, established under the Lunacy and County Asylums Act 1845. It was replaced following the Mental Deficiency Act in 1913 by the Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency. The Board of Control was brought under the supervision of the Ministry of Health in 1920 and the term 'asylum' was generally dropped in favour of 'mental hospital' (though the old term was still used to some extent for several years). Most of the functions of the Board of Control passed to the Ministry of Health in 1948, after the National Health Service Act 1946, and it was finally dissolved in 1960. Following the National Health Service Act 1946 (in force 5 July 1948) mental health services were integrated with the general health services. Mental hospitals were vested in the Minister of Health, financed and controlled by the Ministry through the Regional Hospital Boards and Hospital Management Committees. Thus management of the newly named Middlewood Hospital fell to the Sheffield No 2 Hospital Management Committee of Sheffield Regional Hospital Board.
On the reorganisation of the National Health Service in 1974 Hospital Management Committees were abolished and the administration of Middlewood Hospital came under the Southern District of the Sheffield Area Health Authority (Teaching), within Trent Regional Health Authority. In summer 1978 Sheffield AHA was 'redistricted' and Middlewood Hospital was transferred to the newly drawn up Northern District. Simplification of the NHS took place in 1982, resulting in district health authorities taking over the responsibilities of the old Area Health Authorities: Middlewood Hospital was thus moved into management by Sheffield Health Authority which, two years later, committed itself to devolved management at Unit level. This change in the NHS was effected in 1986 when general management by Unit General Managers with a complex array of committees and responsible bodies was introduced. Middlewood Hospital, then under an Assistant Unit General Manager, was one of the three localities in Sheffield's Mental Illness Unit. The National Health Service and Community Care Act, 1990, implemented on 1 April 1991, reinforced the joint community-based provision of mental health care by the NHS and the local authority.