Deva Lunatic Asylum - Chester

The Cheshire Lunatic Asylum opened for the receipt of its first patients in August 1829, work having commenced in March 1827.
The plans by William Cole (Jnr) County Architect were chosen by and erected under the directions of the visiting Justices
( John Feilden of Mollington, Richard Congreave of Mollington, and Townsend Ince of Christleton )
Deva was built by William Quay of Neston, the 1829 Building is of brick with dressings of stone. Its design is reputedly ‘inspired ‘by ‘The Retreat ‘ at York.

The hospital underwent a significant number of name changes over time
some of which reflect the social changes over the years...

1829 The Cheshire County Lunatic Asylum
1855 Chester Lunatic Asylum
1870 Chester County Lunatic Asylum
1921 County Mental Hospital (Cheshire County Council assumed responsibility)
1948 Upton Mental Hospital (NHS)
1953 Deva Hospital
1970 West Cheshire Hospital
1984 Countess of Chester Hospital (renamed as the District General Hospital site)
Mid 1990s reverted to West Cheshire Hospital in the late 1990s)
2005 . A new Mental Health Unit is due to open on the site of the former Staff Home and former Staff Social Club. (March 2005)

The asylum was built on land beyond Bache Hall, which was considered ‘healthy, well drained and having pleasant views.
Extensions and new wings were built through the 1850s and 1870s and new ward blocks during the 1890s.
An Administrative Block was built (‘The Main’,) between 1896-9, along with a central corridor system, which linked up previously separate blocks of accommodation
( including a splendid recreation hall, which would seat up to 500).
,br>A large Annexe complex was completed in 1915, intended to provide 320 beds for both ‘pauper’ and ‘private’ patients.,br> However the commandeering of nearby Winwick Asylum (Warrington) as a War Hospital, resulted in over 250 ‘Winwick ‘ patients being transferred to Chester, along with approx 80 from Middlesborough.
As with many English Mental Hospitals, Chester Asylum expanded in capacity over the years...

90 beds in 1829
512beds in 1879
1029 beds in 1910
1804 beds in 1937
1504 beds in 1964.

The hospital gradually reduced its capacity in line with national policy through the 80’s and to 326 beds in 1990.

The hospital estate grew over the years, and included a farm and two staff housing estates.
A little over a mile away, a disused military hospital at Moston became available,
and was taken over by the Deva Hospital in 1960 and transferred 370 beds to ease overcrowding on the main hospital site.
The Moston site was largely wooden military style buildings joined together in a large square by a corridor.
Moston closed in the late 1970s as a new unit was built at Clatterbridge on the Wirral,
and took patients for the Wirral area that had previously been admitted to Chester
. Moston was the site of the West Cheshire and Moston School of Nursing until the late 70s.

The catchment area of West Cheshire Hospital prior to Clatterbridge opening had included Rural Cheshire, parts of North Wales along the Dee Estuary, The Wirral, and Birkenhead.
Cheshire’s second Asylum was in Macclesfield (Parkside),
opened in 1871 partly due to overcrowding at the Chester Asylum.

The Site Today. The 1829 Building is retained as Health Authority Accommodation and is a good example of how old asylums can be retained,
with a classic portico entrance, and a magnificent coat of arms above the entrance.
(the sheaves of corn of Cheshire and two fire breathing dragons entwined).

At present the landmark chimney and water tower remain
Chester’s mental health provision is about to move from the ‘Annexe’ to the new unit (Bowmere).
This will continue over 175 years of care of the mentally ill on the ‘Deva’ site.

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© Chewy's Urban Exploration - 2008