Dates: 1814 – 2013
Number of patients: Over 2,000
Size: 30 hectares
Grangegorman Mental Asylum (otherwise known as Richmond Asylum) was part of St. Brendan’s Hospital, a psychiatric facility located in Co Dublin, Ireland. Interestingly, it was Ireland’s first ever public psychiatric hospital and it was my first “abandoned building” experience.
The site was relatively easy to access. All I had to do was climb over a wall and wade through a big field of nettles. Then, all of a sudden, the huge shadow of the former asylum was in front of me. The interior of the building was in a major state of disrepair. Most of the ceilings had fallen through, the floors were soft and had huge gaping holes, and there was a severed rope attached to one of the ceiling beams. I ended up re-visiting the hospital numerous times, as many film directors reached out to me for help finding the location after they spotted my photographs online.
You can see from the photo of me below that the site was the perfect location for a horror movie!
The Dark History of Grangegorman Mental Asylum
According to reports, lobotomy was carried out on a significant number of patients, which consisted of severing the frontal lobes from the rest of the brain. Many of those operated on were described as being so damaged that they became incapable of independent living or of even being able to use a toilet.
Other forms of brutal treatment came and went, including insulin-coma therapy, where patients were repeatedly injected with the hormone to induce a coma.
Other forms of proof that immense tragedies occurred within the walls of the Grangegorman Mental Asylum, have been found and are being currently documented. When the hospital patients died and were subsequently buried in unnamed mass graves in Glasnevin cemetery, their modest few belongings were stored away and forgotten about in the attics of the hospital.
The belongings, consisting of holy pictures, packets of cigarettes, lipsticks, letters, shoes, rosary beads, photographs, and handbags were rescued by a group of dedicated retired psychiatric nurses who have begun the process of cataloguing them.
Dr Ivor Browne, a former chief psychiatrist who began working at St Brendan’s in 1962, once commented on the conditions of the hospital:
“Many of the wards had more than 100 people in them. There were crowds of patients, jostling each other, some of the women with their dresses pulled over their heads, and here and there a nurse, struggling amid the chaos.
There was a cacophony of sound, and I felt as though I was lost in some kind of hell . . . I remember passing a little old lady, quite sane and conscious, sitting in bed and shaking with terror.”
As of now (2017), the site has been demolished and rebuilt as a new library campus for Dublin Institute of Technology.
If you’re interested in reading more fascinating history, check out these Grangegorman Mental Hospital Committee Meeting notes dating back to 1926.