Friends of St. Francis
The Sussex Lunatic Asylum opened near Haywards Heath in 1859. The site had a perfect location. It was in the centre of the county, one mile from a railway station and facing beautiful views of the Sussex South Downs. The first chaplain of the asylum, Henry Hawkins, poetically described them:
“They delight the eye under almost every change of season and of weather, sometimes appearing nearer to the eye – ominous, then, of bad weather – sometimes more remote; sometimes standing clear and bright in the sunshine, or overshadowed by the passing cloud, or partly shrouded by mist, or at times in winter capped or covered in snow.”
Mid-Victorian mental health reformers believed that if you placed “lunatics” in a therapeutic environment they would have a much better chance of being cured. Space was seen as vitally important and for this reason when it was built the Sussex asylum had a hundred acres of ground for its capacity of 400 patients. In addition, a healthy diet, recreation and education were seen as equally important.
The asylum’s first superintendent, Dr Robertson, was a man of great strength and foresight in the treatment of the insane. He introduced humane methods and his treatments included pet therapy, Turkish baths and weekly dances for patients with their own band playing. Artisans were employed to teach trades and many patients helped out on the asylum farm. After a while it was said that the asylum was self sufficient in everything but tea and sugar. Patients even made all the furniture on the wards which were well decorated with pictures and liberally supplied with books and magazines. The old methods of placing patients in straight-jackets and chaining them up were banished.
For anyone who used to work at the old St Francis Asylum then join our Facebook page.
We arrange reunions held at the St. Francis Social & Sports Club and its a great chance to see some familiar faces from the old working days.