DescriptionMinutes (1832-1985); Reports (c.1900-1954); Accounts (1829-1967); Patients (c.1837-1989); Orders and Certitficates (1832-1940); Building (c.1857-1964); Correspondence (c.1926-1937)
AccessConditionsRestricted Access to all Patients' Record less than 100 years old; please contact the Dorset History Centre for further details
AdminHistoryThe first Dorset County Asylum opened at Forston House in August 1832, and by 1843 there were 113 patients. At that time two Justices of the Peace had to certify that someone was either a "lunatic, insane or a dangerous idiot" before they were admitted. Forston House became too small for its purpose so a site at Herrison was bought in 1860, and a new asylum opened there in 1863 with 300 beds. The Forston site remained open, however, and did not close until 1895. Building at Herrison continued, and by 1884 there were 58 employees looking after 472 patients. Patient numbers increased, and in 1887 over crowding resulted in some patients being transferred to near-by workhouses. In 1895 electricity and heating were introduced, and a church that could seat 400 people was built.. 1904 saw the opening of Herrison House for private patients and by 1913 there were 957 patients in total at Herrison Hospital. By 1932 Herrison had become a self supporting community with its own farm (which closed in 1976), laundry, ball room, cinema, operating theatre and dental room. In. 1938 a nurse's home was built for 95 female staff. Patient numbers increased during the Second World War, while staff levels dropped due to conscription. 1948 saw the introduction of the National Health Service and Herrison, like other Victorian institutions, was nationalised. During the 1950s modernisation took place, in both treatment of patients and in building. Visits by officials during the early 1960s drew positive comments as to the care and treatment of the patients, but by the late 1960s overcrowding and management issues resulted in reorganisation. The 1970s saw efforts to help patients move back into mainstream society, and by 1979 there were 200 long stay patients left at Herrison. The 1980s saw increased community-based care and in 1986 Herrison House closed to patient care, continuing as the headquarters of West Dorset Health Authority. The hospital finally closed in 1992.
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