Bridgend Asylums, South Wales

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Historic Buildings

Bridgend Asylums
Care of the mentally ill in Glamorganshire was mainly provided in the home, until the 1840’s, when at the county’s expense, a number of patients were accommodated at the Vernon House Asylum in Briton Ferry.
Later, on 4 November 1864, The Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum at Angelton, Bridgend was opened to accommodate 350 patients, with the Quarter Sessions having appointed a committee of visitors to manage the asylum.


Due to the increase in patients, a further building was constructed during 1887 at Parc Gwyllt in Bridgend, and the two institutions became the responsibility of the new Glamorgan County Council in 1889, which later changed the name to the Glamorgan County Mental Hospital. 

Another hospital, Penyfai, which was built as an admissions unit for Parc and Glanrhyd Hospitals was opened in 1934. The hospital had 161 beds, and became part of the National Health Service in July 1948.

The three combined hospitals were named Morgannwg Hospital, with the original 600 + bed hospital of Angelton being renamed Glanrhyd Hospital. The 845 bed Parc Gwyllt changed its name to Parc Hospital, with the Welsh Hospital Board appointing The Morgannwg Hospital Management to oversee the running of the hospital.
A prison housing Category B men and Young Offenders now stands on the site of the former Parc Hospital which was demolished in 1996, and housing has been built on the site of the former Penyfai Hospital.
Only 7 gravestones remain in the Glanrhyd Asylum cemetery, where there is also a war memorial in honour of Rifleman Charles W. Murphy, which is a distance away from the remaining 7 gravestones.
Born in Monmouthshire, Murphy served in the Monmouthshire 1st Reserve Battalion. It is believed that after serving oversees he began suffering from what was then termed as ‘Shell Shock’, probably what is today known as ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’. He was admitted to Glanrhyd Asylum and died there soon after, on 31 July 1918, aged 36.
The graves of the other patients and staff were apparently relocated, but the 7 gravestones that remain are amongst overgrown woodland adjoining the hospital grounds. It seems evident that there were more gravestones left behind which have fallen, with some smashed, down a small ditch, which is also badly overgrown.
Although most of the inscriptions on the remaining stones are ineligible, two of the stones clearly reveal the names of children.
The first gravestone reads:
In Loving Memory Of
Francis G.H. Hill
Who Died June 9th 1889
Aged 4 Years & 6 Months
Lost Awhile Our Treasured Love
Gained For Ever Safe Above.


The second gravestone reads:
In Loving Memory
Nellie Williams
Who Died January 16th 1888
Aged 6 Years


The 1880 Slaters Directory describes the following:
The Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum is situated about a mile and a half from the town, on the road to Maesteg. It comprises an extensive pile of buildings, principally in the Gothic style, and consists an extensive of a main building and three detached blocks, the main building is in the form of a cross, the centre consisting of the medical superintendent’s house and the public offices, on the right hand, towards the public road, are two large detached blocks for the male working patients; on the left hand the church, a neat little Gothic structure, engineer’s offices and works, also a large block for female patients, connected with which are the laundry and drying ground. The only public entrance is on the north side, on entering which on the left hand is the church which will accommodate about 250 patients; on the south side is the asylum farm; the dining hall adjoins the kitchen and is a lofty room about 80 feet long by 40 feet wide; the grounds covering about 14 acres of the estate, which consists in all of about 60 acres. It is calculated to accommodate over 600 patients, and is said to be the largest in South Wales. The river Ogmore runs through the grounds, which are beautifully laid out and planted, and its banks afford pleasant walks for the inmates. The internal arrangements are on the most extensive scale, and the various departments of the establishment are conducted with a view both to comfort and economy. The building is of recent erection, having been completed in 1864; the architects were Mr. Bell, of London, and Messrs. Martin and Chamberlain, of Birmingham.


Another description of the asylum was published in the Weekly Mail on 5th February 1887:
Few people who have not paid a visit to the Glamorgan County Asylum have any idea of the extent of that institution or of the manner in which those poor creatures who have been unfortunate enough to lose their reason are treated. The general impression appears to be that an asylum is very much like a gaol, and that padded rooms are continually brought into requisition. To a person holding these ideas a visit to the Glamorgan Asylum, which is situated about two miles north of Bridgend, comes as a pleasant surprise. The whole estate-I am dealing now with the old asylum only-is about 83 acres, and the buildings and ailing courts take up about twelve acres. The administrative block is in the centre, and the wards extend right and left, some of them being detached from the main building. The asylum, viewed from a distance, appears like a small town, and, indeed, it has a population almost as large as many places which are honoured with that name. The institution was opened in November, 1864, when accommodation was provided for 360, but the administrative block was constructed sufficiently large to allow for extensions in the wards, and at the present time there is accommodation for 600. For a long time this number has been exceeded, and there have been over 150 boarded at Carmarthen, Abergavenny, and Briton Ferry. In proportion to the increase of population in the county the number of lunatics has advanced, the average addition for the last fifteen years being fourteen males and sixteen females per year. The percentage has remained pretty much the same, but it is satisfactory to find that in regard to lunacy Glamorganshire is in a very healthy state as compared with many English counties. There are reasons for this, and Dr. Pringle, the medical superintendent, in a report which he prepared some three or four years ago, states:—”Compared with other counties in England and Wales, Glamorgan stands most favourably, there being only five other whose ratio of pauper lunatics to general population is slightly smaller. A considerable number of counties have to provide for a half more lunatics than Glamorganshire, and a few even double the number to the population. I believe this to be owing to its being an industrial county which offers great facilities to the more enterprising of the labourers from agricultural districts, who, attracted by high wages, make it their home and contract marriages, which, being mixed, tend to the production of a more healthy race than when, as in a stagnant agricultural district, there is a limited choice. This, at any rate, is the first effect, although eventually pursuits such as those of colliers and miners, tend to dwarf and deteriorate their descendants.” All patients when they are first admitted are sent to the infirmary, and are under the immediate attention of the medical superintendent. If there is a chance of their recovering they are sent to certain wards where there is a similar class of patients, and chronic cases will in future be sent to the new asylum at Parc Gwyllt. The old asylum is said to be one of the best arranged and conducted’ in the kingdom, and, by Dr. Pringle’s kind permission, I was allowed this week to go through the institution. My attention was first directed to the means of communication which the superintendent possesses in his office. A telephone wire is laid from here to the new asylum at Parc Gwyllt, a distance of two miles. A most useful and ingeniously constructed machine is the “tell-tale” clock, which acts as a complete and infallible check on the night nurse and attendants in the observation dormitories, set aside for epileptic and suicidal cases. In a small case beneath the face of the clock is a cylinder, around which a printed form is placed. Wires connect the clock with the observation dormitories, and the attendants there are expected to communicate with the office every quarter of an hour. By their touching a small button, the same as is used for electric bells, a brass pin in the clock makes a mark on the paper around the cylinder, and by examining these marks in the morning the Medical superintendent can see whether there has been any neglect on the part of the attendants. This is a very necessary precaution where there are so many epileptic and suicidal patients, and the “tell-tale” clock has been found to act very satisfactorily. My visit happened to be during the dinner hour, and from the medical superintendent’s office we went to the dining hall, a large and beautifully decorated room. The roof and walls have been exquisitely painted by patients, and everything in the room looks bright and cheerful, There were 200 at dinner, and it would be difficult in a cursory glance to discover that these poor beings had lost their reason so rational was their behaviour. One old man got up as soon as we entered and invited us very warmly to sit down and partake of the meal. Those who live in the blocks detached from the main building have their meals in their own wards, and, as a rule, there are about 25, who, from sickness or violent habits, cannot dine with the others. The first ward on the male side is a large, well-ventilated room, and accommodates 43 inmates. On the tables were a large number of periodicals, mostly illustrated, in which many of the men seemed interested. In one corner two men were playing draughts with an intelligence which was surprising, and a negro “”one of the most good-natured men in the institution—was evidently taking a very great interest in the result of the game. Some were writing, and all seemed to be happy and contented. I may mention here that there are letter boxes in all the wards, and that the inmates can communicate with the medical superintendent or with their friends without any interference on the part of the officials. They avail themselves very fully of these privileges, a great number of letters going out daily. In the next ward which we visited the patients seemed to be equally happy, and an old grey-headed man was apparently much amused at a game of bagatelle which he was playing with an imaginary opponent. The infirmary came next in order. This was built some five or six years ago, and supplied a want which was very much felt. There are here twenty beds for men alone, and about six of them were occupied. This room, like all the others, presented a very cheerful appearance, artificial flowers of the brightest colours being tastefully arranged around the gas fittings. The more bright and cheerful the rooms are made the more quiet and contented are the patients. The dormitories are also very nicely furnished, and the large one for epileptic and suicidal cases contains many as 46 beds. Proceeding to No.4 ward, where the worst class of patients are lodged, we passed a Padded room in which a German was confined. The man it appeared had been very violent, and when interrogated as to his grievance he expressed a desire to bite off the attendant’s nose, at the same time showing two rows of beautiful teeth. His answers to Mr. Davidson, the head attendant (who conducted me through this part of the institution) were given very distinctly. In this ward the patients sometimes become very violent, but fortunately the attendants are assisted by the inmates themselves when the necessity arises. Most of them appear to think that they are all right, and that their companions are mad, a delusion which makes it very much more easy to deal with a large number of men. This will at once be noticed in going through the wards. One man informed us that he had left a watch worth £120 at Llantrisant and had never received any money for it. His statement was a source of amusement to some of the patients who heard it, but immediately afterwards this very man would laugh as heartily as any at the idiosyncracies of another. One of the wards-No. 5—is exclusively for chronic cases and here, I am sorry to say, there are 111, some of whom have been inmates since the institution ‘was opened. This is detached from the main building, and has a small kitchen for itself. Close to this ward is the large airing court for the whole of the male inmates. An interesting part of the institution is that which is devoted to work- shops. One room is set apart for mattress making, and the whole establishment is supplied from here, the patients doing the whole of the work. The shoemakers and tailors’ rooms adjoin. It appears from last year’s report that about 1,000 articles of clothing were made by the tailors and nearly 15,000 repaired. In the shoemakers’ shop 513 pairs of boots, shoes, and slippers were made and 798 repaired. The attendants in these shops are, of course, tradesmen, but the greatest part of the work is done by the patients. In the carpenters’ shop there is always a lot of work to be done, but lately there has been more than usual owing to the furnishing of Parcgwyllt. The wardrobes, washstands, and, indeed, most of the heavier kind of furniture for the new asylum has been made here. One of the patients in this shop has a fancy for making bird cages, and very handsome ones, too, he turns out. He was he said a smelter and copperman by trade, but devoted his leisure hours to making bird cages. There is also a painter’s shop, where a good deal of useful work is done. No. 6 ward is occupied by 57 men, most of whom work in the garden. Near the main building is a pretty little church, where services are conducted by the chaplain, the Rev. James Jones. There is no pressure put upon any of the inmates of the asylum to attend, but they are sometimes persuaded to go to the services. As a rule about 300 attend. They behave themselves with the greatest decorum and join heartily in the responses and singing, the latter being particularly good. Near the church is a hospital for infectious diseases, which I was glad to find is not occupied at present. Before leaving this part of the institution Mr. Davidson took considerable pains to show us what precautions have been taken against fire. Buckets, full of water, are placed in every part of the establishment, and in the administrative block there are two Fire Queen” extincteurs. In front of the main building is a fire engine station, containing a manual engine and fire escape. In case of fire a hooter is sounded, and the attendants who form the brigade fall in at the engine station. In order to show how smartly this could be done Mr. Davidson had the hooter sounded, and in three minutes the engine had been taken about 40 yards, and a stream of water was being poured upon the front of the building. The brigade are thoroughly under command, and have evidently been well drilled. The sounding of the hooter was quite a surprise, so that no preparation could have been made. I next visited the female side. Here there are six wards, two of them detached from the main building. This part of the institution is very similar to the other wing, except that the rooms which form the wards are smaller and furnished in a manner which is doubtless more pleasing to the female eye. Many of the inmates were engaged in sewing, and others were reading newspapers and periodicals. There are two airing courts on this side. A large number of the women are engaged in the wash-house and laundry, where all the machinery is worked by steam. The stores are in this part of the institution, and a peep inside will show any visitor what an amount of work is done by the inmates in clothing alone. The clerk and steward is Mr. William Jenkins, who has discharged his duties satisfactorily for a number of years. The total number of pauper lunatics in the county is 833, and before the end of this week there will be 756 in both the old and new asylums. As it is sometimes stated that the charges made for the maintenance of pauper lunatics at Bridgend is high it may not be out of place to point out some of the disadvantages under which the committee labour. At Abergavennv the charge is 7s. 8½ d. but at Bridgend it is 9s. per week. At Abergavenny there is sufficient ground to grow all the potatoes which the inmates and staff require; at Bridgend potatoes have to be bought. At Abergavenny the authorities get all the water they require by gravitation in their own grounds, at Bridgend the committee have to pay hundreds of pounds to a company and afterwards they have to pump the water into their cisterns. At Abergavenny there are two-railway sidings, belonging to competing lines, going right into the grounds; at Bridgend 8 s. 3 1. or 2s. 6d. a ton has to be paid for the haulage for everything supplied to the asylum. These are matters which must be taken into consideration when the cost per head at the two asylums is considered. The Parc Gwyllt Estate is 129 acres in extent, and the new asylum which has been erected there will accommodate 354 patients. The administrative block, however, is sufficiently large for an asylum to accommodate 1,000, and extensions will take place on the male and female sides as necessity arises. The blocks now erected are
(1) for epileptic patients, to accommodate 125;
(2) infirmary, 104 and
(3) epileptic and chronic, 125; total, 354.
The total number which can be accommodated when the whole building is completed will be 818. The contract for the work which has been completed was taken by Mr. Lovatt, of Wolverhampton, for over £ 32,000. Dr. Pringle, the medical officer, will have both the asylums under his charge, but Dr. Finlay will reside at Parc Gwyllt.
Dr. David Yellowlees: Appointed Medical Superintendent of the County Asylum 1863.
Dr. Henry Turnbull Pringle was the Physician Superintendent of Angelton from 1867 and was appointed Medical Superintendent in 1874. He retired in February 1904 after serving 37 years at the asylum.
Dr. R. S. Stewart: Medical Superintendent of Angelton from February 1904. He had previously been the Deputy Medical Superintendent to Dr. Pringle. Along with his new post he received a salary of £1,000 a year.
Dr. Tinlay: Medical Superintendent of Bridgend Lunatic Asylum during 1910.
Dr. Marshall Wilfred Annear: Medical Superintendent at Glanrhyd from 1951.
In Volume 10 of a ‘Bulletin of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’, published in January 1986, the following obituary article was written:
DR MARSHALL WILFRED ANNEAR: Consultant Psychiatrist, Psychiatric Postgraduate Centre, Morgannwg Hospital, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan, Wales. Dr Marshall Wilfred Annear, MRCS, LRCP, FRC Psych, DPM (Eng). DPM (Brist). died on 28 July 1985, at the age of 67 after a very brief illness. He was a staunch supporter of the College and joined the RMPA in 1942, serving on its Education Committee and on the Films Subcommittee as Vice-Chairman. Later he became a member of the College Council, the Programmes and Meetings Committee, the Nursing Subcommittee, the Psychiatric Tutors Sub committee, the Audio-Visual Aids Group, and the Central Approval Panel. He was an examiner for the Membership.
In Wales he had served as Chairman of the Welsh Division and as Approved Panel Convenor. His first psychiatric post was at St Andrew’s, Northampton, and from there he was called up to see active service as an RAMC Captain in North Africa and Italy. He had a special interest in the emergency treatment of battle neuroses. He concluded his Army service in 1947 as Area Psychiatrist for North-East England.
Back in Wales he had a spell as Senior Psychiatrist at Whitchurch Hospital, Cardiff, before joining the staff of Morgannwg Hospital, Bridgend, in 1951. He became Medical Superintendent of Morgannwg and brought his great energy to bear on the revamping of that large institution, in keeping with the revolution in mental hospital practice just beginning.
Dr Annear’s most enduring professional monument, however, shines in his prodigious efforts in the field of postgraduate education in psychiatry. He became Postgraduate Organiser and Psychiatric Tutor at Morgannwg and built up a magnificent Centre and a series of courses to meet the needs both of young psychiatrists and of general practitioners. All this he achieved in the face of many difficulties, but his enthusiasm and zeal prevailed and very many doctors owe a great debt to his devotion. Even after his retirement from consultant practice he continued to work as Tutor until his death.
Marshall was greatly respected in the Principality as a psychiatrist and for his personate qualities. He was Chairman of the Welsh Psychiatric Society, Chairman of the Mid Glamorgan division of the BMA, President of Barry MIND, and psychiatric adviser to the Penarth Pastoral Foundation.
His wife Doreen (also a doctor) and he were keen travellers and visited most parts of the globe bringing back a fund of stories and pictures. Marshall had a great interest in books, especially concerning the historical aspects of medicine and psychiatry, and was a Chairman of the History of Medicine Society of Wales. He is survived by his devoted wife and companion, by two sons (both consultant psychiatrists), and by a daughter, who as a nurse and social worker has worked in the psychiatric field.
After his death, his name was placed on The Royal Society of Medicine Wall of Honour by Dr. John Annear and is displayed as follows:
In 1962, Glanrhyd Hospital suffered an outbreak of ‘Smallpox’, when a 75-year-old patient collapsed with what were originally thought to be signs of pneumonia. A week later the patient died, but it was later still before it was concluded that the smallpox virus had killed her – she was the first victim out of the 13 patients who had died from the outbreak. It was reported that her body was sewn up in sheets and a blanket before being passed through the door to staff on the outside.


Out of the three Bridgend asylums, the only one that still remains is the original 1864 Angelton/Glanrhyd. It is now known as Glanrhyd Hospital, which is under the management of Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, and continues to provide treatment and care for those suffering from Mental Health conditions.
Bygone Times


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