|Mounted print at Mental Health Museum, Wakefield|
Asylum Superintendent John Davies Cleaton was responsible for “commissioning” the original drawing. In his annual report published early in 1862 Cleaton explained that because there had been so many new buildings added to the Asylum in recent years he felt it would be appropriate to provide the Committee of Visitors and the magistracy of the West Riding, his employers, with an up to date view of the Asylum and its grounds. He went on to explain what he had organised.
A very faithful and clear isometrical drawing of the whole of the buildings, etc, upon a scale of 40 feet to the inch has been kindly made by one of the patients (Mr. W.) an architect, and having been examined as to its accuracy by Mr Bernard Hartley, the Riding Surveyor, it has been lithographed, and a copy is bound in with this report.
|West Riding Lunatic Asylum from lithographic stone, Mental Health Museum|
A case of mania, characterised by his excited conversation and manner though his conversation is generally coherent but of an exalted character. He is an intelligent man and can draw out plans neatly. He has a delusion “that the blood from his head and toes is being gradually concentrated in his lungs and in consequence his lungs are diseased”.
It is stated that excessive work has been the cause of his attack. He is now engaged in drawing out plans etc and conducts himself with propriety.
Not the usual pauper patient, James WALKER was a talented draughtsman and within just weeks of his admission Cleaton had persuaded him to put his skills to good use. Over his two year stay at the Asylum James' mental health continued to improve to the point where it was felt he should be allowed out on trial. As he had “continued well” during the trial period he was finally discharged, recovered, in September, 1863.
|Lithographic stone, Mental Health Museum|
|Original Asylum building|
|Scale model of original Asylum building, Mental Health Museum|
Accommodation for the Asylum Director and his family, seen to the rear between the two cupola, was added to the main building in 1837.
|Weather vane and group of women|
James was not content with merely capturing the buildings. He brought the scene to life by adding patients and staff across the site. In the top left quadrant there is a group of female patients who appear to be going for a supervised walk.
|Cricket match in progress?|
Built onto the original building the East Wing, opened in 1831, was the first major extension providing accommodation for 70 more patients. The demand for places would continue to grow driving further expansion of the Asylum over the next 30 years. The West Wing, adjoining the original building, opened in 1841 and provided a further 60 beds. The Gate House to the top right corner of this view would have been on what is today Aberford Road.
|George PENNY, 1871. Courtesy WYAS.|
|Chapel of St Faith|
|Ivy House, 1861|
|Farm buildings, Engine House, Gas Works and various workshops|
|Gate House, Female Ward, Laundry, Bake House and Brew House|
|"New Building" and Dining Hall|
There is no doubt that James WALKER had a special talent for drawing plans but was he an “architect” as we understand the term today? A conversation with the Royal Institute of British Architects confirms that in 1861 one did not need to have studied for years and passed many exams to be able to call yourself an architect so there is no register to consult. So did James earn his living as an architect? Knowing his home address from the Asylum case notes it was easy to find James in the 1861 census. To my surprise his occupation was “Proprietor of House”. Ten years later the 1871 census has James at the same address and his occupation shows “No trade – Income from houses”. Note the plural, so perhaps he was a landlord or even a property developer.
For now let’s celebrate the fact that through James' excellent drawing we have been able to fly back in time to see exactly how the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum looked 155 years ago.