The Brecon and Radnor Joint Asylum, opened in 1903 becoming the Mid Wales Hospital Talgarth, in 1921.
Originally called the Brecon and Radnor Joint Asylum on opening in 1903, the name was changed in 1921 to the Mid-Wales Hospital. Medical staff included a Chief Female Officer and a Head Male Attendant. There was also a farm, and service departments, which included a tailor, baker, shoe maker, printing shops, kitchen, laundry and church. There were also market gardens which consisted of about 8 acres.
The first patients at the hospital were admissions mainly from the Brecon area but numbers also arrived from towns further afield such as Swansea and Shrewsbury. Although initially intended to cater for 352 patients, at one point at the end of 1925 there were 455, stretching the resources to the limit. Some of this overcrowding was attributed to World War One.
In the early years the records reveal descriptions of mental illnesses such as dementia, epileptic insanity, delusional insanity, chronic mania, recurrent mania, alcoholic mania, melancholia. It was accepted that mania could be brought on variously by a number of causes, including of course, venereal disease and perhaps more unusually “disappointment in love”.
People were often put into asylums such as the one at Talgarth, for other reasons other than mental health problems. Patients also included those individuals that society didn’t have a place for: unmarried mothers, children with special needs and those disfigured by accidents such as burns from a fire.
In 1974 the Powys Health Authority came into being and assumed control, with matters changing again in 1993 with the formation of the Powys (NHS) Trust. The hospital was closed in 2000 with some facilities being combined with nearby Bronllys.
THE MID WALES HOSPITAL SCANDAL
THE DISPOSAL OF THE HOSPITAL
The Mid Wales Hospital was sold in October 1999. It was closely related to the Welsh Office/Assembly as they were the official owners. For a number of years it was occupied and used by the local Health Authority as a mental health hospital. The sale seemed to have had all the hall marks of inside trading.
It was sold to one of its former chief medical officers and his wife. Alun Michael MP, who was the Secretary of State for Wales and then the Assembly First Minister, was implicated with having a direct involvement with the disposal and sale to the successful purchasers. Although this was later refuted, it was found that all normal procedures , including sealed bids, inventories and district valuations were abandoned by the authorities involved with the disposal. The AGW investigation also uncovered what appeared to be a pay back scheme , whereby the Health Trust arranged a compensation payment of £128,000 to be paid to the new owners a few months after completion.
This meant that a 43 acre site with 200,000 square feet of hospital buildings and floor space, plus 5 large family sized houses, a chapel , tennis court and cricket pitch, was bought for a cost of only £227,000 (two hundred and twenty seven thousand pounds ).
The slate roof tiles alone have been valued at 2 million pounds.
Cutting Through The Red Tape
There is plenty of information available on the internet for interested parties to research the Talgarth Hospital Sale and draw their own conclusions.
The new owners can be contacted via www.prya.org. To date there has been very little activity on the hospital site which is falling into dereliction.
The National Auditors for Wales investigation into any malpractice identified shortcomings in the transaction but if you don’t feel like reading the entire document via www.wao.gov.uk, or clicking on the Auditor link on the front page, then the crux is as follows:-
‘ it is unfortunate that the Authority (Brecon Beacons National Parks) did not fully record all it’s decisions and actions in relation to the disposal. (of the hospital). By not doing so it failed to ensure the existence of a comprehensive audit trail to demonstrate unequivocally that it acted properly and thereby protect the reputation of the Authority and it’s staff.
Have Your Say
We would welcome your views and comments on this matter and invite you to use this site as a sounding board in the spirit of ‘accountability and openness’, something the BBNPA were reprimanded for in the auditor’s report.
Talgarth Hospital has an important part to play in our cultural heritage and interest is growing in the history of the asylum. Share your stories and pictures with us here whether staff or patient, neighbour or visitor and we will ensure that this important monument does not slip into obscurity.