'My Asylum'. An Illustrated History and Personal Memoir of St Francis Psychiatric Hospital, Haywards Heath, West Sussex (1859 - 1995)


St Francis Hospital in Haywards Heath was the last national psychiatric hospital to be built following the requirement of the Asylums Treatment Acts of 1845 for each county to have its own asylum. Others were built following this, without the requirement of the 1845 Acts, as overcrowding became a problem and as the asylum system of care became firmly established. This was a period when hospitalisation of the mentally ill was viewed as being the answer. Having been delayed for fifteen years St Francis Hospital was finally opened in 1859 and continued on until 1995 to care for and treat mental health patients. With the emphasis changing in the system of treatment from the 1960s onwards, closure eventually came about as a result of new Care in the Community legislation in the latter part of the 20th century.


Joe Hughes revisits his thirty year nursing and demanding trade union careers at the hospital and produces a well-researched history which at times is controversial but also humorous and always enjoyable. This is a local history and memoir with a difference. Of special interest is the author's inclusion of several accounts from former staff of their life and times at the hospital and in the community dating as far back as the 1930s. Among these is an interview with the last and late medical superintendent Dr. Richard Wheeler. 


*Read of the old hospital's ghostly Grey Lady who is said to still haunt the corridors of the new Southdowns Park

*Wonder at how a nurse found his car on one of the hospital's wards on April Fool's day

*Be surprised and shocked at the hospital's speeding ambulance driver as he loses a patient's white shrouded corpse in the snow

*Relive national medical history as Dr. Charles Lockhart Robertson, the first and very kindly medical superintendent, began the use of Turkish baths in psychiatric treatment in England

*Gain new insights into the often strained relationship, spread over many decades, between the trade union COHSE (Unison) and management before and during the hospital's closing process.


These and many more little known facts and stories emerge from the time the doors of the hospital opened in 1859. Built to house just 400 patients at a cost of £46,531.16s.10p it carried on its work for 136 years until, in November 1995, it closed to fund and make way for advances in the community-based care of the mentally ill.


This is essential reading for anyone interested in local history, the history of psychiatric care in these islands and in the social history of our disappeared psychiatric hospitals which continue to present formidable architectural features in our national landscape.


Order your copy now from



'Where there is despair - let me sow hope - A DVD Photographic History of St Francis Psychiatric Hospital, Haywards Heath (1859-1995)'


The story of St Francis Psychiatric Hospital at Haywards Heath in West Sussex is brought beautifully to life by former nurse at the hospital Joe Hughes. He tells the story of this historic landmark, using rolling on-screen text, and illustrates it with hundreds of photographs, many of them lovingly taken and edited by himself.

'Asylum Symphony', composed and produced by Joe's daughter Ciara, complements the text and photographs beautifully.


We follow the journey from architect Kendall's design before the building opened in 1859 through the many varied approaches to the care of the mentally ill over the decades until closure in 1995 when Care in the Community legislation brought large institutional care to an end once and for all.

There is controversy here also as Joe deals with the diminishing powers of successive medical superintendents, the rise of the skilled psychiatric nurse and the important part played by the trade unions.


Many new photographs and drawings bring the text to life against an international time line of major developments in psychiatric care as Joe tells the warts-and-all story of the hospital, the community and the wider world.


Available from



'A Self Guided Walk of the former St Francis Psychiatric Hospital, Haywards Heath, West Sussex'


Joe's beautifully produced fold-out pamphlet takes you on a circular tour of the former Victorian hospital pointing out its many interesting features and former way of life. Available free of charge from local libraries or by Emailing Joe your landline address at and he'll pop you one in the post!




Set in a mythical psychiatric hospital in the southeast of England, the sleeve notes say it all.


'Of three things I was certain. First, there was order and then there was chaos. Secondly, there was Delaney and Corrigan. Thirdly, they found themselves thrown together in this story of sexual attraction,

violence and attempted murder.

The only question was - Who was the victor and who was the vanquished in the grueling and strange world of the MADHOUSE?'.


Available from



'Journeys with Aengus'


A poetry collection touching on many genres including Ireland, psychiatry, children's poetry, Catholicism, obituaries, humor and much more.


Available soon from

Poetry on Poemhunter


On you will find a variety of poetry from Joe spanning topics as far apart as Ireland, death, humor and psychiatry. Go there now for a wealth of enjoyment and remember to leave a comment.