Dreaded and reviled by many, these nineteenth-century buildings provide a unique window on how the Victorians housed and treated the mentally ill. Despite initially good intentions, they became warehouses for society's outcasts at a time when cures were rare. Isolated, hidden in the countryside and surrounded by high walls, most have been closed since the 1980s, their original use largely forgotten. In "The Victorian Asylum", Sarah Rutherford gives an insight into their history, their often imposing architecture and their later decline and brings to life these haunting buildings, some of which still survive today.
Sarah Rutherford is a Kew-trained horticulturist who obtained an MA in the conservation of historic parks and gardens at York University. She later worked for English Heritage assessing sites across England for the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens, becoming Head of the Register. During this time she researched and completed her doctoral thesis on the landscapes of nineteenth-century lunatic asylums and visited many before they were closed and redeveloped. She is now an enthusiastic freelance consultant researching and writing conservation plans for parks and gardens.