St John’s Hospital aka County Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Lincoln

St John’s Asylum in Bracebridge Heath was a mental asylum built in 1852. The grand Italian style building is now a shell of its former greatness.



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St John’s hospital in Bracebridge Heath near Lincoln was built in 1852 to house and treat people with mental illnesses. Designed by architects Hamilton and Thomas Percy in a grand Italian-Style, the building now is now a shell of its former greatness. The asylum was built using county rates at a cost of around £30,000.

The building is of an Italianate design in local ‘blue’ stone, with dressings of Mansfield stone, and slate, hipped roofs and many stone stacks. The various additions are in keeping with the style of the original building 1

Originally called Lincolnshire Lunatic Asylum, the hospital could house 250 patients. The building was expanded in 1889 to house upwards of 680 patients, and by 1902 the site covered 120 acres. By 1926 the site had been further expanded and covered 160 acres. At its height the asylum had 944 beds available for patients, almost four times the original size. 2

The corridors and most of the cells and day-rooms have a honeycomb vaulted ceiling, and a common belief is that the honeycomb pattern was to reduce noise levels, to stop the cries and screams of inmates travelling down the long corridors. The truth in fact is nothing like this at all, these hospitals were nowhere near as horrific as people imagine. The honeycomb vaulted ceiling was a type of fireproofing incorporated into the buildings construction. This style was commonplace in mid-nineteenth century hospitals. 3

Like many asylums the hospital had male, female and children’s wings and used some of the traditional medical techniques in that day to “cure” insanity, including electric shock treatment.

Conditions such as depression and post natal depression were classed as a mental illness and treated the same as someone with schizophrenia. Brain surgery was believed to cure mental illness and was commonly used in asylums such as this.

The asylum grounds also included the hospitals own burial site for those unfortunate enough never to escape from its intimidating walls. Whilst surveyors were excavating the grounds, work had to come to a stop when human skeletons were uncovered. It turned out they had found the burial site. 4

The grounds were tended to by the inmates, including the expansive recreation grounds coving 6 acres. They were tastefully laid out with flower beds, shrubs and trees. Around 30 acres of the land were used as a farm which was partly tended to, and provided paid employment for many of male the patients. A good number of the female patients were employed in needlework. 5

The hospital was closed down in 1990 and is now being privately developed into housing. The new housing developments surrounding the asylum are set on the original grounds. The popular Homestead pub was the director’s residence and was also within the hospital grounds.

The original hospital buildings are Grade III listed and therefore protected from demolition. The water tower is not protected and there are plans to demolish it. 6

St John's Asylum - Cell Doors

St John’s Asylum – Cell Doors

Our Visits

St Johns isn’t all that far away from where I live so I have visited numerous times in the company of Mr T, Kriegaffe9 and Cowboy55. I have seen the site change over the past year or so while the beginnings of redevelopment slowly creep in. A highlight is always the grand staircase, although surprising the first time you see it, it’s always iconic in any photo set from here.

One fun visit in particular stands out in my mind, Mr T and I had decided to see how much light painting we could do before being spotted. This obviously had to be a night visit and we soon discovered we weren’t alone on site. A group of teenagers were heading towards us, looking for a way in. They hadn’t spotted us, so we hid and jumped out at them.  Screams in the night, just like back in the asylums heyday! We made our way in and later on once again spotted the group. By this time, they were already getting freaked out by the place, so us jumping out at them once again resulted in the loudest screaming I have ever heard, one poor girl looked like she was going to have a heart attack!

I’ve also had some solo night visits, they can be surprisingly relaxing. There are plenty of stories of ghosts at St John’s but I can’t see I witnessed anything like that myself…. Until we found Annabel the cursed doll!

The Nursery
St John's Nursery - High Chairs and the Alphabet Wall

The Teddy Bears Day Nursery operated in one of the buildings at St John’s asylum, long after the asylum had ceased to be used as a hospital. The level of decay and leftover items make the nursery feel a world away, and has been well preserved due it being notoriously difficult to gain access to. Please check out my separate report on St John’s Nursery for full details and photos.

Go to St John’s Nursery Report

On with the photos – There’s quite a few on this one…

  St John's Asylum - Staircase

St John’s Asylum – Staircase

St John's Asylum - The Staircase

St John’s Asylum – The Staircase

 St John's Asylum - Staircase Through The Door

St John’s Asylum – Staircase Through The Door

St John's Asylum - Doors

St John’s Asylum – Doors

 St John's Asylum - Admin Block Main Entrance

St John’s Asylum – Admin Block Main Entrance

 St John's Asylum - Main Hall

St John’s Asylum – Main Hall

 St John's Asylum - Corridor with Honeycomb Ceiling

St John’s Asylum – Corridor with Honeycomb Ceiling

 St John's Asylum - Communal Area

St John’s Asylum – Communal Area

 St John's Asylum - Children's Ward Murials

St John’s Asylum – Children’s Ward Murials

 St John's Asylum - View up the Tower

St John’s Asylum – View up the Tower

 St John's Asylum - Silhouette

St John’s Asylum – Silhouette

 St John's Asylum - The Pink Ward

St John’s Asylum – The Pink Ward

  St John's Asylum - The Last Inmate?

St John’s Asylum – The Last Inmate?

  St John's Asylum - Medical Ward

St John’s Asylum – Medical Ward

 St John's Asylum - Lights in a Ward

St John’s Asylum – Lights in a Ward

St John's Asylum - Annabel

St John’s Asylum – Annabel

St John's Asylum - Water Tower

St John’s Asylum – Water Tower

 St John's Asylum - View from the water tower

St John’s Asylum – View from the water tower

 St John's Asylum - Looking down the water tower

St John’s Asylum – Looking down the water tower

St John's Asylum - "Silent Asylum" Star Trail Night Shot

St John’s Asylum – “Silent Asylum” Star Trail Night Shot

 St John's Asylum - External Details

St John’s Asylum – External Details

St John's Asylum - Staff Access Corridor with Lincoln Cross Detail

St John’s Asylum – Staff Access Corridor with Lincoln Cross Detail

If you liked this report please check out Proj3ctM4yh3m's St John's Asylum Reports too.

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