The A Listed former district asylum Hartwood hospital was built on land purchased from Lord Sir George Deas for its isolation and began construction in 1890 on what was then known as Lanark District Asylum, taking five years to complete at a cost of £153,000. The hospital was originally designed to house 500 patients across six wards – three female and three male and was completely self sustaining with its own gardens, cemetery, farm, power plant, reservoir, staff accommodation and railway line that ran from a siding at Hartwood station to the back of the hospital grounds. The complex was made up of a number of distinct buildings interlocked with enclosed corridors and dominated by two imposing clock towers. Doors opened to patients on May 14th, 1895.
The original hospital was overseen by Dr Archibald Campbell Clark, the medical superintendent and was involved with the inception of then unheard psychiatric therapies such as occupational therapy, electric shock treatment, industrial involvement and most controversially the lobotomy. It was the belief of Dr Clark however that the hospitals primary aim was to – “cure where possible and give the best possible care when a cure cannot be found“. His outlook on asylum care was seen as revolutionary and his influence and leadership was such that his ideas on occupational, industrial and recreational therapy were enthusiastically carried out by staff despite significant opposition from medical colleagues and the Board of Management. So committed was he to his work and the hospital that following his death on November 28th 1901 his body was interred in the hospital cemetery.
Many forms of treatment that were commonplace in psychiatric institutions at the time were being performed at Hartwood. As well as solitary confinement and the aforementioned electric shock therapy, Hartwood was the first hospital in Scotland to administer the infamous lobotomy. This was a form of surgery regularly carried out at a time before psychotropic drugs, when mental healthcare was still seen by most to be a disease. In many cases it left the patient lifeless and in a vegetative state. As a result many were destined to be interred within the hospitals cemetery, with Hartwood being the final place in their shattered minds.
Hartwood’s greatest era of growth occurred between its opening year 1895 and 1913, where patient numbers more than doubled from 420 to 960. Admission rates continued to spiral as a result of Lanarkshire’s industrialisation and population growth and were a steady source of income for the hospital. In the years leading up to the Second World War the hospital continued to grow, adding a Mental Deficiency Hospital complex about a mile and a half from the main site. Known as ‘Hill Hospital’, the annex was completed in 1939 and was briefly used during the war to house evacuees from Bangour Hospital before reverting back to its original role, becoming Hartwoodhill in the early 1950′s. By the mid 50′s the entire Hartwood site was home to 2,500 patients, making it the largest asylum in Europe and one of the most overcrowded in the UK.
Hartwood was to contribute to the growth of nurse education and had its own College of Nursing, which was annexed to Bell College (which merged with the University of Paisley to form the University of the West of Scotland in August 2007). The Category C listed Nurses Home, designed by Glasgow Architect James Lochhead in 1926, was designed to blend in with the Baronial style of the main building. Originally built as Nurses Accommodation for the Hartwood Nursing staff, it opened in 1931. prior to its conversion to a college the Scottish Western Region’s Hartwood School of Nursing was based here in the 1970′s-80′s and the vast majority of nurses practising in Central Scotland were trained there.
In stark contrast to its earlier years, the hospital was also first to implement rehabilitation services, which were set up in the mid 1980′s along with three in-patient ‘community’ sites at Law Hospital, Airbles Road Centre and Monklands District General. This lead to the formation of Scotland’s first Community Psychiatric Nursing Team in 1985. By 1990 despite a substantial decrease in patient numbers Hartwood still housed over 1,300 patients across 37 wards.
The beginning of the end for Hartwood, as with many other Victorian institutions in the area such as Gartloch Hospital, Stoneyetts, Lennoxtoun Castle and Kirklands, was the inception of the Community Care Act 1990. This gave rise to a more community-based focus for long-term mental health care and the consequent closure of long-term psychiatric hospitals. Hartwood began closing its wards in 1995 (its centenary year) and all remaining wards were moved to the Hartwoodhill annex with the main hospital reverting to an administrative role. This ceased with complete closure of the main complex in 1998, followed by the nursing college in 2000, which transferred educational services to Bell College’s purpose-built facility (the Caird Building) in Hamilton. Between 2000 and 2009 Hartwoodhill’s remaining 10 wards began closing and its 289 patients were steadily relocated at new mental health facilities at Wishaw General and Cleland Hospital. Hartwoodhill closed its last two wards in 2010.
Between 1999 and 2001 the original Hartwood site was briefly home to Lanarkshire Media Centre and short lived community television channel LTV. After this the complex fell into disrepair and after suffering several severe fires between 2004 and 2011, resulting in the destruction of the ballroom, kitchen block and much of the admin space, demolition claimed most of the original wards and outbuildings. The Hartwoodhill complex was demolished in its entirety following its closure in 2010. Today little remains of the once imposing institution with around 60% of the complex gone. Still owned by the health board the complex sits and rots with no sign of a buyer or development plans. Hartwood is still a popular spot for pikeys, arsonists and vandals who regularly come to steal and destroy whatever’s left. A beautiful building in itself, it’s honestly frightening to see what can become of a place left to decay that, at its height, provoked so much intimidation in its visitors and residents.