Rauceby Hospital

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Rauceby Hospital
Established 1894
Opened 1902
Closed 1997
Current Status Closed
Building Style Echelon Plan
Architect(s) G.T. Hine
Alternate Names
  • Kesteven County Asylum



History[edit]

The building of the new asylum went ahead rapidly. In October 1901, a lengthy report appeared in the Sleaford Gazette eulogizing the almost completed asylum and giving a detailed description of the building materials used, the excellence of the layout and the facilities provided. It went on to say that the workmanship and materials throughout were of the best. On 20th June 1902, Kesteven County Asylum opened its doors to its first patients. They were transported from Grantham by train and waggonette.

One can only imagine how the staff and patients must have reveled in the comparative luxury in which they found themselves, with large airy wards, heating and the miracle of electric lighting. Life in the new asylum followed much the same pattern as in the old one. All aspects of daily life were controlled by rules and regulations which were established in the general rule book published in 1904. There was strict segregation of the sexes, with the building being divided into two halves by locked doors leading from the inner entrance hall. There was another door halfway along the corridor adjoining the ballroom which itself had two separate entrances. Patients were not allowed private visits and could only have visitors once a fortnight. (this was mainly because it was felt it was too unsettling for the patient to have too frequent visits)

Workmen entering the female ward had to be accompanied at all times by a female member of staff. Each ward employed at least two attendants for every twenty patients who were tranquil or convalescent and one for every ten who were "dirty or dangerous".

The administrative and medical sections of the asylum were minimally staffed. The medical Superintendent was assisted by an Assistant Medical Officer with a head Attendant in charge of the male sections and the matron in charge of the female section. The clerk performed the duties of storekeeper and there was one engineer. The asylum was not connected to the public telephone system until 1928 although an internal system operated. The GPO provided a speedy and efficient telegraph system which was noted to be "adequate".

Security throughout the asylum was strict. Wards were locked at all times. After each meal the cutlery was counted and locked away. The windows throughout the building were fixed so that they opened just enough to allow some air to circulate.

1913 saw the first medical breakthrough in the treatment of mental disorder with the introduction of phenobarbital. This drug became the standard treatment for epilepsy and is still in use today. In adults the sedative effect could be troublesome and when used the children, who needed a higher dose, could cause hyperactivity. Apart from these drawbacks it still represented a major breakthrough in the control of a distressing disorder.

Admissions in 1939 reached an all time high. Dr Henderson Unfortunately make no comment in his reports on this increase so it is left to us to reflect that the country had gone through a particularly traumatic period with high unemployment and industrial unrest. It had been a time of considerable privation and deprivation particularly for those in rural area and the horror of the First World War had left indelible impression on the minds of the older population. The threat of another armed confrontation must have given rise to much stress and anxiety.

During World War II the main building of the hospital was used for general purposes and the Admissions Hospital now accommodated the Burns and Orthopedic Units. With such an influx of personnel from the United Kingdom and many other countries, there was a significant rise in the number of tubercular patients. Once again the verandas were called into use as isolation and treatment bays. As the war progressed RAF Rauceby played a central role in the care of service personnel. At the height of the war there were a thousand beds in use with another thousand in store ready for an invasion or bombardment. The hospital would have become a receiving and clearing station for both civilian and service personnel.

Although the war in Europe ended in 1945 the hospital remained in the hands of the RAF until April 1947. Apart from the work connected with structural alterations and damage resulting from the RAF occupancy, there were considerable engineering and building items needed including additional housing for staff. By 1949 the only outstanding work to be completed was the refurbishment of the burnt out ballroom. By the end of 1949 there were thirty three male and seventy five female patients in residence attended by twelve male and four female staff. Numbers only rose in 1950 when the hospital was ready to resume its normal role.

The desirability of the closure of mental hospitals was first mooted by the Government in 1961 and was an idea that met with little opposition. The introduction of the long acting psychotic drugs which successfully controlled the severe symptoms for many people suffering from schizophrenia theoretically enabled them to live outside the hospital. It was also recognized that long periods in institutions took away peoples ability to cope with independent living. The watchword through the 1960’s and 70’s became rehabilitation. Rauceby Hospital, in line with similar institutions, made rehabilitation a matter for priority. It became possible to discharge many more patients who then attended out-patients clinics where their progress was monitored. The former "Parole Village" was converted to a Day Centre and renamed "Verbena Ward". Government policy by the mid 1960's was for the closure by the end of the century of all mental health institutions and the gradual transition to care in the community and the development of the Community Mental Health Nursing Service.

The policy of closure of the mental hospitals and the emphasis on Community Care meant that as Rauceby Hospital followed the schedule laid down for its own closure Orchard House became surplus to requirements. Subsequently in 1987 it was handed over to the Area Health Authority to provide a centre for clerical and community use thus ending fifty years of service to the mentally sick. [1]

Cemetery[edit]

There are two grave yards, separated by a farm track, opposite the old staff houses to the rear of the hospital. Most of the stones were moved to the side of the yard in the 1960s to allow a power mower free access, but some markers bearing numbered brass crosses still exist. The League Of Friends Of Rauceby Hospital set up a project for RAF Cranwell cadets to restore the cemeteries.

References[edit]