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Dorset County Asylum

The County Asylum is an extensive range of buildings, one mile from Charminster and 3 from Dorchester; it was opened in 1864 for 320 patients; the cost including 56 acres of land, was about 44,000; in 1895 an additional block of buildings was added at a cost of, including 94 extra acres of land, of over 80,000; it will now hold 720 patients.

A new House for Private Patients, with its own grounds, known as Herrison, Dorchester, was erected in 1904, at a total cost of 45,000, when the estate, which now extends to 400 acres, was increased by 150 acres.

Peter William MacDonald M.D.& C.M.Aberd. Medical Superintendant.
Rev. W.G. Barclay, Chaplain.
W. Skinner, Clerk to the Asylum.
Source: Kelly's Directory 1915

From PP 1867/68 Vol XXXI pp 1-301
Twenty Second Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy to the Lord Chancellor
p 125 E - Entries by Commissioners at County & Borough Asylums

Submitted by Alan Longbottom

p 149 Dorset County Asylums 9th and 10th May 1867

On these two days we have visited the Asylums at Forston and Charminster, and seen all their insane inmates. In the latter there are 315 patients and in the former 140. All the statutory records are kept at Charminster, with the exception of a special book at Forston, in which the cases there are now entered; whatever further relates to the Forston patients being copied weekly into the Medical Journal at the New Asylum, from memoranda kept by Mr. Clarke, the resident surgeon at the old building. There is now a fixed daily communication between the 2 asylums, for the supply of whatever is needful from the clothing and stores at Charminster.

Since the visit of the 15th February 1866, the admissions have been 114, or 43 males and 71 females; the discharges 44 or 19 males and 25 females; and the deaths 33 or 14 males and 19 females Among these admissions were 43 out-county patients (from Poole, Abergavenny and Oxford) 
Of those discharged, 27 were reported to have recovered. In the causes of deaths, there was nothing unusual; the principal being general palsy, epilepsy, diseases of the lungs and heart, 
and exhaustion after mania.
The numbers of male and female at Charminster are 158 and 157 and at Forston 82 and 58, of whom are 10 males and 8 females belonging to the private class, and 80 males and 59 females
or 139 patients altogether, received from counties and boroughs not in union.....

The numbers of patients employed in both divisions regularly are (out of 315 at Charminster) 149 and (out of 140 at Forston) a little over 40. In the new asylum, however, we found the wards supplied to a fair extent, with means both for occupation and amusement, of which the non-working patients are allowed freely to avail themselves; and parties are regularly taken for exercise beyond the grounds, especially from the female wards.

A considerable addition to the books in circulation through the wards of the new building, has likewise been made lately, and the
associated amusements are various, and seem to be sufficiently kept up. It is greatly to be regretted that in all these matters Forston is now so deficient. There, even the attendance at Chapel is now limited to 20 men and 11 women; and we could wish that it were larger at Charminster itself, not averaging at present more than 90 of both sexes, on week-days and 104 on Sundays. A new Chaplain, Mr. Hyson, has lately been appointed, and has entered into his duties; among which we have the pleasure of
observing, lectures, from time to time, to associated parties in the recreation hall. 

Another appointment has been made within the last year, by which an Assistant Medical Officer becomes resident at Charminster. In the absence of Mr. Symes, today, Dr Pearce accompanied us through the wards, and we trust, from the interest he shows in his duties, and from what we observe of his entries in the Case Books, that he will prove an efficient help to the Medical Superintendent in his responsible and arduous labours, heretofore performed, in less favourable circumstances, with so much ability and success....

Dorset County Lunatic Asylum

Founded in 1832 in Herrison.
In 1920 it became the Dorset County Mental Hospital, and in 1940 was renamed Herrison Hospital.


Dorset Archive Service
Bridport Road
Telephone:- U.K. 01305 250550  

Page updated 12 March, 2008 by Rossbret