St Audry’s Timeline

1765-1826  Melton House of Industry for the relief of the poor

1829  The Suffolk County Asylum for Pauper Lunatics opens

1832  Dr John Kirkman appointed Medical Superintendant

1876  Dr W Eager takes over as Physician Superintendant

1896  Dr Eager retires and Dr J R Whitwell takes over

1902-1904  Period of expansion with new wards, isolation hospital, farm buildings, bakehouse and mortuary

1906  Hospital renamed Suffolk District Asylum – a name that lasted until 1930

1917  Asylum became known as St Audry’s Hospital for Mental Diseases

1924  Dr W Brooks-Keith replaces Dr Whitwell as Medical Superintendent

1930  Mental Treatment Act enables patients to be voluntarily admitted

1934  Occupational Therapy starts for some male patients

1935  Patient numbers reach a peak of 1200

1940-5  Part of the Hospital serves as Emergency Medical Service Hospital during WWII

1947  Occupational Therapy starts for women

1948  NHS act brings St Audry’s and St Clement’s under central control of Suffolk Mental Hospital Management Committee.

1950  Dr Brooks-Keith retires and Dr I J Davies appointed

1960  Open days introduced

1963  Dr Davies retires and Dr Rixon appointed

1972  Amalgamation with St Clements as part of East Suffolk Health Authority

1974  Museum set up for visitors in old dormitory

1993  St Audry’s Hospital closes and the last 100 patients are transferred

Who was St Audry?

St Audry was born in 630AD and died in 679AD.  She was the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia.  Although she married twice she remained a virgin, vowing to dedicate her life to God.  She lived a frugal life and after her death many miracles were attributed to her, amongst them stories that “those possessed of the devil” were made well.  Miracles were said to continue many years after her death.

A note on terminology

The official terminology associated with the history of mental health care appears  insensitive to modern eyes.  In Victorian times, asylums were commonly referred to as ‘mad-houses’. Someone with mental illness was routinely described as  ‘insane’ or  ‘a lunatic’, and others (who in later years might be identified as having a mental handicap or a learning disability) would be dubbed an ‘imbecile’ or ‘idiot’.   A nurse at the asylum was an ‘attendant of the insane’.  Nowadays the very word asylum conjures up so many negative images that it is difficult to remember that it originally meant a place of safety.

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