I listen to radio 4 in the car, which means I catch scraps and shards of whatever programme is on. A couple of times this week I’ve caught excerpts from Barbara Taylor’s memoir,The Last Asylum.</em
It's the story of her mental illness, and the time she spent in a massive psychiatric hospital in Friern, just outside London.

Those big bins are all gone now. I worked in the remnants of one in Bristol, and I visited one as a student, probably round the time Barbara Taylor was an in-patient. I have mixed feelings about them. They were dreadful places, and I saw some really institutionalized patients. On the other hand, they had the most beautiful grounds. Driving into Barrow early one morning, I saw a woodpecker on a post, and people regularly saw deer.

The big asylum in Friern was initially enormous. It was built before anpsychiatric drugs were developed, and I guess people stayed there for years. It had a farm, laundry, foundry, bakeries, all run by the inmates.

It’s a beautiful idea. To be able to go to a beautiful place, out in the countryside; where people would take care of you; where you could spend time in nature; where you could do meaningful work. If you could do it properly, with love, and care; thoughtfully; wouldn’t that be a beautiful thing? It’s a shame it all went so horribly wrong.


About sarahsouthwest

I'm now in my early 50s. I started writing again as a way of exploring the world, and feel that over the last 2 years I have really grown as a writer. By day I work with children and young people with mental health difficulties. I juggle my own two children, my work, my writing practice, generally managing to keep all the balls up in the air.
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