ST JAMES HOSPITAL, MILTON, PORTSMOUTH

St James Hospital in Milton, Portsmouth Charles Dickens Portsmouth

In 1875 Portsmouth Town Council made the decision to build a lunatic asylum in the town, at this time mental patients were sent to the Hampshire County Asylum at Knowle, or even as far as Camberwell to the asylum there.

But it was agreed that a local facility was needed, so 75 acres of land was purchased at a cost of 14,000, from Messrs Smith and Goldsmith, located between Eastney Lake and Velder Creek in Milton.

The architect Mr George Rake of Portsea was appointed to design the hospital, which was built in the Byzantine Gothic style using Fareham Brick, the building was faced with Plymouth stone.

The memorial stone was laid on 11th July 1876 by Mayor William Pink and the building was due to be completed in 1878 but the main contractors Baily and Nance went bankrupt causing a delay, the building was finally completed in 1879. The opening ceremony on 30th September 1879 was performed by Mayor W.King, the farm buildings, church and boundary walls were not completed until later the same year.

The grounds of the hospital were left in a rough state, the plan being that the patients themselves would lay out, plant and tends to the grounds as part of their treatment.

The main building at St James Hospital in Portsmouth

The water supply at the hospital was deemed unsuitable so a new well was started in 1881 and was completed in 1884 this was capable of supplying 12,000 gallons / day. The water was stored in a large cistern of 60,000 gallons capacity under the laundry, from there it was pumped to a tank in the tower for general use and use in case of fire.

The hospital buildings included a dairy, laundry, brewery, shoe makers and tailors, as well as the farm, farm buildings and church mentioned earlier.

Between 16th October 1879 and 31st December 1800, 453 patients were admitted and treated. They came from the following areas, Portsea Island 162, Bethnal House 1, Camberwell 1, Southampton 105, Surrey 81, Windsor 1, Brighton 1, Criminal Lunatic 1, Private patients 16.

The nursing staff consisted of 11 male attendants, 14 female nurses and various employees classed as servants including a stoker, Head gardener, Gardeners, Farm baliff, Farm labourers, carpenter, Bricklayer, Brewer, Shoemaker and Tailor. The hospital rules stated that each nurse and servant was allowed to go out once every fortnight between 2pm until 9.45pm and every second Sunday from 4pm until 9.45pm. After 12 months good behaviour one weeks holiday would be given and after 2 years ten days holiday will be given.

The rules for government of the Borough of Portsmouth Lunatic Asylum were signed by the Mayor WD King on April 15th 1879 and approved by Mr Aston Cross one of the principal secretaries of state on the 14th October 1879.

The Committee of Visitors was formed by members of Portsmouth Council, this consisted of The Mayor WD King, Alderman Dore, Keat and Chambers and 14 councillors. They were responsible for the running of the asylum and would meet within 20 days after 20th December each year.

During the 1990's the NHS reformed it's approach to the treatment of mental health and many hospitals were closed in favour of a "Care in the Community" system, St James was one of these closures. The buildings, many of which are protected, were retained for community based facilities, although several of the villas were demolished due to their poor state of repair.

In 1995 a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) was made in order to protect the future of key trees on the site. Some land to the south of the hospital is now protected as a 'town green' under the commons registration act following a public inquiry in 2001.