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Broadmoor Hospital, Berkshire

Country's first criminal asylum at risk from over-development

Copyright The Francis Frith Collection

Broadmoor Hospital in Crowthorne is at risk because of an ambitious and damaging plan to demolish part of the original hospital, convert the remaining blocks into a boutique hotel and build more than a hundred homes in the hospital's vast kitchen garden.

All these homes and hotel rooms would be just a few hundred metres away from a new high security psychiatric unit.

The Grade II-listed Broadmoor was built in the early 1860s as the country's first asylum for the criminally insane. Although often erroneously described as a prison, it is a hospital and its original design reflected a humane attitude to mental health.

Its buildings are now considered unfit for purpose and the NHS has submitted plans for a £250m redevelopment of the site. Under the proposals the original female wing and a block called Essex House will be demolished.

'We are concerned about the loss of historic buildings and that demolition will effectively write the presence of women out of Broadmoor's history and we are worried about the damaging effect of building so many new homes in this listed landscape', said Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society.  'But most of all we fear that this development jeopardises the future of Broadmoor's unique and well-preserved historic buildings'.

'The hospital claims it is protecting the listed buildings by building on woodland on the edge of the site, but how easy is it going to be to find a long term use for Broadmoor's buildings when they are situated so close to a high-security psychiatric institution?'

The plan is for a boutique hotel to take over the former hospital, but if that plan proves unviable there is a considerable risk that the buildings will remain empty and vulnerable.

Dr Dungavell added: 'Many of the buildings on our Top Ten list have suffered years of neglect, but Broadmoor is still in good condition and remarkably intact. It is vital that short-term decisions don't compromise its future.'

 

Sunday 9 October, 2011

More recent item: Hammerton School, Ouseburn Road, Darnall, Sheffield
Earlier item: A unique group of Victorian buildings under threat in Stockport

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