The sad secrets of Glasgow’s abandoned mental hospital

The ruins of Lennox Castle Hospital hide a sad and traumatic history. Picture: Ron Shephard/Wikimedia Commons
The ruins of Lennox Castle Hospital hide a sad and traumatic history. Picture: Ron Shephard/Wikimedia Commons
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Hidden away in a secluded rural spot north of Glasgow, Lennox Castle Hospital is an abandoned building with a very interesting history.

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The castle itself was built in the 1830s, but in early 20th century, the space was converted into what would later become a truly infamous psychiatric hospital.

Lennox Castle Hospital was eventually closed in 2002, leaving the institution’s sad and difficult history to be forgotten, just like its crumbling, abandoned former home.

In 1925, plans were drawn up by Glasgow Council for a new ‘Mental Deficiency Institution’, and the Lennox Castle Hospital complex was opened a few years later, in 1936. When it opened, Lennox was hailed as being way ahead of its time, and was the largest and best equipped hospital of its kind in Britain.

The hospital cost over £1 million to build, and had space for 1,200 patients. There were separate dormitories for male and female patients, each one holding around 60 people in two wards.

Patients also had access to two communal dining halls (with seating for 600 people in each) and a central Assembly Hall, which housed a stage, equipment for cinema shows, and recreational facilities.

Despite a promising start, conditions at Lennox Castle Hospital soon began to deteriorate. The hospital was vastly overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded. Vulnerable patients were left to fend for themselves in the large wards.

Friends and family of patients generally reported that staff tried their best, despite the lack of resources, but conditions in the hospital were described as “wretched and dehumanising”. Conditions were so bad by the 1980s that Doctor Alasdair Sim (the hospital’s Medical Director at the time), said he had never worked in a “worse pit”, and that he was “sick to the stomach about the plight of these poor people”.

A 1989 study by the British Medical Journal found that a quarter of patients at Lennox Castle Hospital were dangerously underweight and malnourished. Some claim that there was more than neglect going on at Lennox Castle Hospital.

Former patients recall being given unnecessarily cruel punishments for small offences. Incidents included being struck with a baseball bat and being made to run laps barefoot around the castle, just for forgetting to address a staff member as “sir”.

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In more recent years, comparisons have been drawn between Lennox and cult TV series, American Horror Story: Asylum, thanks to the allegations of abuse, neglect and terrible conditions. Those who attempted to run away would be caught and locked up in isolation for up to six weeks, drugged with heavy doses of medication, and refused contact with visitors.

Patients who didn’t need drugs were given them, as a way of ensuring they remained calm and didn’t cause trouble in the overcrowded conditions. In reality, only around 10 per cent of the hospital’s residents genuinely required anti-psychotic drugs.

There are several reports of patients dying or being seriously injured due to the lack of care at Lennox Castle Hospital. One man was found set alight in the bathroom in the middle of the night and died the following day. Another was seriously injured when a nurse threw a scalding cup of tea on him, while a heart attack (brought on by severe distress while being physically restrained) resulted in another patient’s death.

After decades of keeping patients shut away from the outside world, Lennox Castle Hospital finally closed in 2002.

The last few remaining patients were reintegrated back into the local community, or transferred to more modern psychiatric units, before the hospital was abandoned.

Since then, the eerie site has lain empty, and the buildings have rapidly deteriorated. The formerly grand Lennox Castle is now a crumbling shell. The area remains empty, aside from occasional urban explorers looking to catch a glimpse of the former hospital.

Although several plans have been put forward to restore the castle and build new housing on the grounds, none have been successful so far.

In 2007, Celtic Football Club built a new training facility on the grounds of Lennox Castle. It’s likely that many of the players and staff come and go without having any idea about what went on at the former hospital, less than half a mile away from their state of the art training ground.

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This story first appeared on our sister site iNews.