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North Wales Hospital: Primary Range, including adjoining walled 'Airing Courts' to NW and SE

A Grade II* Listed Building in Denbigh, Denbighshire

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Latitude: 53.1749 / 53°10'29"N

Longitude: -3.4204 / 3°25'13"W

OS Eastings: 305158

OS Northings: 365137

OS Grid: SJ051651

Mapcode National: GBR 6M.3X7P

Mapcode Global: WH771.FGGF

Plus Code: 9C5R5HFH+WR

Entry Name: North Wales Hospital: Primary Range, including adjoining walled 'Airing Courts' to NW and SE

Listing Date: 2 February 1981

Last Amended: 20 July 2000

Grade: II*

Source: Cadw

Source ID: 951

Building Class: Health and Welfare

Location: Located within its own parkland setting approximately 1km S of Denbigh set back to the W of the lane.

County: Denbighshire

Community: Denbigh (Dinbych)

Community: Denbigh

Locality: North Wales Hospital

Traditional County: Denbighshire

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The North Wales Counties Lunatic Asylum is the most important purpose-built mental hospital in the principality and ranks as one of the most sophisticated and pioneering of the early Victorian asylums in Britain. Plans for the asylum were first discussed in 1842, three years before the Lunacy Act of 1845 made the provision of such buildings mandatory at county level. In March 1843 the Committee for Management instructed Thomas Fulljames (of Fulljames and Waller, architects of Gloucester) to produce plans for an asylum for 200 patients. The building was constructed between 1846 and 1848 at a final cost of £63,906 15s 4 and a-half pence (£63,906.77p); the contractor is recorded as a Mr Hawke. The thirteen acre plot of land was given by Joseph Ablet Esq and the money raised by public subscription. It was stressed on opening in December 1848, that the asylum was intended 'not only for the reception of the pauper lunatics of the counties in union, but also for the admission of a limited number of patients of the middle and upper ranks of society'.

The building was skillfully designed in accomplished Tudorbethan style, as a U-shaped complex with male and female patients strictly segregated. The setting included a formal approach avenue with screen walls and gates, and 'pleasure grounds and gardens, tastefully laid out and highly cultivated.' In addition a series of 'airing courts' were constructed, in the form of walled garden enclosures where the patients were required to take regular exercise. The hospital was extended by Lloyd Williams and Underwood, architects of Denbigh, in 1867. Lloyd Williams had trained under Fulljames and was the son of the visiting Physician and Surgeon to the hospital, Dr R Lloyd Williams. The extensions effectively closed the open rear of the primary U-planned quadrangular section and also provided two twin-bayed 'villa' wards to the sides. Much of this work was demolished or incorporated into new ranges in a vast phase of building works carried out between 1903 and 1908.


Large U-shaped asylum building in well-considered Tudorbethan style. Of limestone ashlar with bathstone dressings and slate roofs; 2-stage grouped chimneys, some with octagonal stacks. The principal (entrance) front faces NE. This has 15 windows grouped as 5 bays of 3 windows each, the central and outer bays advanced; all save the central, entrance bay is of 3 storeys with the ground floor raised above a basement.
The central bay is of 2 storeys, with a double-height upper floor. A wide flight of modern steps (encasing stone) rises to the entrance which is contained within a full-height projecting porch with surmounting shaped gable. The steps are surmounted by a cast iron Gothic balustrade, probably contemporary, with conjoined quatrefoil oculi, scroll-work and spiral newels. Tudor-arched entrance with moulded, returned label and delicately-carved, foliated spandrels; vertically-panelled double doors. Above the entrance is a framed rectangular recess with a relief-carved scroll inscribed: `Anno Domin(i) MDCCCXXXXVIII.' Tall mullioned and transomed window of 9 lights to the upper porch, with hearaldic carved group in the gable apex. Flanking the porch are 3-light transmullioned windows to each floor, those to the upper floor taller and with returned, moulded labels. The central bay has a pierced occular parapet with square finials corbelled-out at the corners, a feature repeated on the gable; geometric finials to all apexes, some lost. Rising up behind the central bay is a large square clock tower with shaped gables and surmounting octagonal cupola; clock face to the front gable with blind oculi within square frames to the remainder. Labelled cross-windows and stringcourses as before. The recessed flanking bays have central shaped gables and slightly smaller outer gables of triangular form, coped and finialled as before. The ground and first floors have central 3-light and outer 2-light transmullioned windows, with cross-windows to the central bays of the second floor and tall single-light outer windows. The advanced outer bays are marginally taller and are parapeted with shaped gables to the centre; these contain heraldic shields. Two-storey canted bays to the centres, with pierced lozenge parapets; cross windows throughout with single transomed lights to the bay returns. Moulded string-courses between the floors and primary small-pane glazing throughout.
Long returned wings, formerly also of 15 windows in 5 bays, and of 3 storeys. Of these the Afallon wing (SE) is largely unaltered, whilst the Ablet wing (NW) had its elevation rebuilt and extended outwards by some 2m in the later C19. The former has 4 of its 5 three-bay sections visible, the western-most having been absorbed into a link block during this later phase. Three-bay central projecting section with 2-storey canted bay and shaped gable to centre. Flanking 3-bay recessed sections with central shaped and plain flanking gables. Transmullioned windows, mostly with the mullions and transoms cut out and with 1930s steel-framed windows inserted.The outer bays have crenellated open porches to the centre, supported on octagonal stone columns. These are the remaining sections of full-length, shouldered-arched verandahs which originally ran in front of these bays (and are shown in the architect's initial proposal drawing); Tudor-arched entrances to these, with original panelled doors.The central bay of the Ablet wing belongs to Fulljames' primary phase, though the remaining bays, now advanced in front of the latter, relate to the re-fronting. These have plain gables, stringcourses and transmullioned windows.
Adjoining the main front to the L (SE) and R (NW), and advanced to its sides, are two primary walled airing courts. These are large rectangular walled enclosures having limestone rubble walls rising to an avarage of 2.2m; sloped sandstone copings stepped up over entrances to the western and inner faces, formerly gated.


The interiors are generally plain and understated. The entrance hall faces a modest stone stair built around a square central pier; arched niche with inscription tablet niche facing the entrance, now boarded. Chamfered Tudor arches lead off to corridors to the L and R. Generous moulded architraves to the principal doorways with deeply-splayed and simply-moulded `cell' doors, the latter in rows on both floors of the long rear wings. A large, full-height board room above the porch has been sub-divided and had lower ceilings inserted; a Gothic arch with quatrefoil spandrel decoration does however survive in the void above, presumably with an associated decorative open roof.

Reasons for Listing

Listed Grade II* for its special importance as an exceptionally fine and pioneering example of early Victorian asylum architecture, recognised as the best example of its kind in Wales.

Group value with other listed items at the North Wales Hospital.

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