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Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteDevon Asylums


Exeter City Asylum

Founded in 1886 and became Digby Hospital under the NHS. 
Situated in Woodwater Lane, Exeter.

Exminster - White Directory

Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum is an extensive & handsome building, pleasantly situated about 3.5 miles south of Exeter. The first stone was laid June 27, 1842, & the building was finished in 1845, at the cost of about 60,000, including the sum paid for the 24A of land, now tastefully laid out in gardens, lawns, yards etc. The house has accommodations for 400 patients; & the wards, galleries & apartments are spacious, airy & well ventilated. The centre building comprises the dispensary & the residences of the supt., matron etc. Around these, are encircled & connected with corridors, the sick & day rooms of the patients, & other necessary apartments for the attendants. From this circle radiate 6 wards, comprising the bedrooms of the inmates. On the ground floor is a neat chapel; & the open spaces between the wards are appropriated as airing grounds for the patients. This large house of refuge for those afflicted with the worst of maladies, is under the control of the county magistrates & T E Drake Esq, of Exeter, is the secretary.
Source: White Directory 1850 p.406
Submitted by Betty Longbottom

Plympton House for Lunatics

Plympton St Mary, Devonshire
1851 census - HO/107/1877             Folio 401     Page 24

Richard Langworthy - Surgeon
Anne Langworthy - Wife

St Thomas Hospital for Lunatics

1801-1869 Bowhill House
Later became Wonford House Hospital.
Founded as Private Asylum for Upper Middle Classes.

Moreton Road, St Thomas Apostle, Devonshire.
1851 census - HO/107/1867             Folio 127     Page 12

William Dashwood Kingdon - Medical Superintendent Physician
Augusta Brutton - Matron

St Thomas' Hospital - White Directory

near Exeter, is a Lunatic Asylum, in the suburban parish of St Thomas. It was founded in 1801, when Bowhill House was purchased for its use at the expense of about 2650, including the cost of the furniture & repairs. Above 9000 has since been laid out in additional buildings & furniture.

This institution, for the safe keeping & medical treatment of those afflicted with the worst of human maladies, was founded long before the County of Devon Lunatic Asylum at Exminster. From its foundation in 1801, to Lady Day 1848, the number of patients admitted was 1461, of whom 759 had been discharged as cured. 

The hospital is an extensive building, standing on rising ground, in a salubrious situation. The rooms are spacious & well ventilated, & the windows command extensive views of the surrounding country. The gardens & airing grounds are extensive, & there are 5 in-door galleries, two of which are 112 ft long & 8 ft broad, & one of the others is 119 ft long & 8 ft broad. These galleries & the other arrangements admit of a convenient & satisfactory classification of the patients. The affairs of the hospital are under the immediate direction & control of the Governors & Treasurer, & it has attached to it 2 physicians, a chaplain, a Resident Medical Superintendent, a consulting surgeon, a matron, & 9 female & 5 male attendants.

The general management permits of amusements & means of moral & intellectual improvement; & those patients who may safely be trusted without the walls, are permitted to visit their friends, & to take walks & drives in the neighbourhood. Whilst enjoying the retirement & quiet of a private asylum, this hospital is really a public institution , subject to the inspection & supervision of the Commissioners in Lunacy, but not under the control of the County Magistrates. The expenses are defrayed, in a great measure, by the board of the patients, whose friends can afford to pay for their maintenance, the amount of which is about 1500 per annum. This is aided by the interest of benefactions & legacies, & by annual donations & subscriptions. Thomas William Gray, Esq, is treasurer; W D Kingdon MD, resident medical superintendent; Miss Augusta Brutton, matron; & the Rev J F Turner, chaplain. P Miller & T Shapter are the physicians, & C K Webb is the consulting surgeon.
Source: White Directory 1850 p.105
Submitted by Betty Longbottom

Records Available

Devon Records Office Web Site 

Castle Street, 

Tuly Street, 
EX32 7EJ

Unit 3, 
Clare Place, 

Useful Links

Devon County Lunatic Asylum 

Page updated March 12, 2008 by Rossbret