“Nottingham founded its public General Hospital in 1781, and as early as 1788, the Committee had the foresight to begin collecting funds to build a public lunatic asylum, 20 years before the County Asylums Act of 1808 gave formal shape to the procedure. Largely due to this forward-thinking attitude, Nottingham was to build the first proper County Asylum in England and Wales at Sneinton, in February 1812 (see Sneinton Asylum page).
Sneinton served both the Borough of Nottingham as well as the County, and also had space for private patients, but by 1853, intense overcrowding saw a decision to house the private patients in a new purpose-built asylum, The Coppice, which opened in 1859. This temporarily took some of the strain off Sneinton’s bulging numbers, but by 1874 it had been decided that a new, much larger purpose-built asylum was needed, and so the plans for the site at Mapperley came to fruition.
Seven architects submitted designs, but the winning proposal came from Nottingham’s own George Thomas Hine, son of the noted architect Thomas Chambers Hine, who was also based in the city and many of whose works can still be seen there today, including the General Hospital. George Hine was a young and inexperienced architect at this point, and it is often noted that his father’s style pervades his first asylum design, although anyone familiar with Hine Junior’s later work will notice some of his little idiosyncrasies do already appear. In terms of its layout, the new Nottingham Borough Asylum at Mapperley was an unremarkable symmetrical corridor plan in red brick, with stone banding and detailing, slate roofing and some pleasingly gentle gothic detailing. The centre was punctuated by an admin block with a short, capped tower, with central services located behind it, and a recreation hall to the very rear. In fairness, Hine’s functional but restrained and unremarkable design at Mapperley gave little indication that he would go on to become the UK’s most prolific, inventive and influential asylum designer, completing 14 asylums in total, and making significant additions or extensions to 4 others. He would eventually move his practice to London, and go on to design many of the London County Council’s immense asylums from his ground-breaking work at Claybury (1893) onward until his early death in 1916.”
Explored: March 2019
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