Barrow Gurney Hospital – Bristol

Barrow Gurney Hospital closed in 2006 and had the dubious honour of being the dirtiest hospital in the country. I can’t even begin to write an introduction that details this location’s history. If you are interested, please check out this excellent write up on Forlorn Britain.

Barrow Hospital occupies a huge, foresty site. Unfortunately time was against us, so we only saw a few buildings…

  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney

Southside

The main building we explored was “Southside” which contained a large number of wards and other rooms. There was also a small chapel of rest and body fridge.

  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney

The Southside building was one of the first to close, and is in the worst condition. Corridors are flooded. Windows smashed up. Rooves are falling in. etc..

  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney

And there was a wonderfully complete small dentist room. This now houses some bats.

  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney

Dundry Villa

Dundry Villa was home to Barrow’s acute unit for mentally ill patients.

  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
  • Thumbnail of Barrow Gurney
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55 Responses to Barrow Gurney Hospital – Bristol

  1. simon says:

    Reminds me of the hospital in the movie “Jacobs Ladder” Spooky :-0

  2. Hazel says:

    what a terrible waste
    What about the woodlands

  3. Mrs. Riley says:

    Isaiah Hall, my Dad, served in 2 Wars. Beginning of 2nd was stationed at this Naval Hospital, rank of Chief Petty Officer, Sick Berth. Escorted men home by train when they were discharged from the care in this Hospital. This is all I know. Extremely interesting to me. Stumbled on this Webb site by accident.

    • rachael utting says:

      Dear Mrs Riley
      My great uncle died here in january 1941 and i’m looking for details of his time there. Do you have any photos, or details of the hospital at this time?
      thank you and best wishes
      Rachael

    • june baxter says:

      Just read the entry re the hospital in ww2. My grandfather also served at this hospital as a petty officer in ww2. His name was Irvy Ellis, which is a very unusual first name. I am afraid that I don’t know any more than that

  4. Norma MacPherson says:

    My Dad, Norman MacKenzie, was also a Petty Officer here in December 1940 and I have a photograph of him with dozens of staff at a Christmas Party there.

  5. Hazel says:

    u should see it now

  6. matt says:

    Have had the chance to stay the night here back in 2003 and I can assure you i didn’t get any sleep.
    I wish i had taken a camera.

  7. bristol explorer says:

    I visited this place on saturday – in its a pretty bad state now and has largely been demolished though theres still plenty to see. The dental equipment, morgue and hydrotherapy baths are still there and lots and lots of bathrooms. Seems to permanent security at teh front gate (plus dog) so go in the back way!

  8. jeff says:

    sadly this hospital was derelict long before the patients moved to the new Callington Road site. In particular, Dundry Villa – the one featured in the pictures was closed quite a few years before the hospital officially closed. At one time a piece of the ceiling fell on a patient and was featured on the BBC. I have lots of pictures taken from the official closing day.

  9. emma littlewood says:

    I worked here as an auxiliary nurse after leaving uni and not knowing what I wanted to do as a career. I had to hold the patients down while they were given ECT. It must have been, let’s see, 1983 or 84. I worked on the acute female admissions ward, and a girl from my school was a patient, very depressed, and escaped out of the window. I had to drive around the lanes of Barrow Gurney in my old 2 CV looking for her. She kept taking overdoses. The buildings were okay then, they hadn’t been neglected, but then Thatcher hadn’t had the chance to bleed the NHS dry yet. So very very weird seeing these now. Like some Victorian asylum. Dentist chair super eerie. Thanks.

  10. steve daly says:

    i was a patient here in 1998 residing in dundry villa at first then transfered to john carey (i think that was the name!) and again in 1999 residing in blagdon villa, although i was quite ill at the time i had good memories of my stays and to see how it is now is quite upsetting shame. just to add i have made a full “recovery” of my shizophrenia thanks to clozaril!

  11. Patricia says:

    I am looking at the use of this hospital during WWII. Could anyone help?

  12. Jan says:

    I was a student nurse here in 1978 and loved it. I still think that closing this type of hospital was a bad idea. They just needed reforming. More carefully selected patients and more humane treatments would have been the answer. I feel sorry when I see such a beautiful building in such a state .It holds happy memories for me.

  13. I was in Barrow in 1980 as a patient, I have some horrifying memories. I am currntly trying to get hold of my mental health records fron that time. Were they destroyed or have they been stored somewhere? How much would it cost to retrieve them if they are amongst thousands of records and are all the records still there? Who do I phone in Bristol to see if they can retrive my records. If anyone can help please phone 01530270494.

    • Jazz Davies says:

      @David .

      I was a Student Nurse at Barrow Hospital from 2000 to 2003 , also did some bank nursing shifts around the hospital site in particular East Villa (rehab) and Brockley House (locked Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit)

      Your files are in archive somewhere and would of never been thrown away .. I think they are kept for 100 years or even more .. With the recent freedom of information act you are entitled to access your medical records ..

      Barrow Hospital was under the management of Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS TRUST — Any files would of been transferred to the new Callington Road Hospital or their HQ in Trowbridge ..
      Below is the website link of contact details to access medical records from the Old Barrow Hospital Site .. Hope this helps ..
      http://www.awp.nhs.uk/templates/xform____293.aspx

      • tessa king says:

        Tried to get my records but have been destroyed. I knew someone who was working on the woodlands there and he came across an old barn full of records piled high. This really upset me that they could
        A. discard “us” in this way
        B. anyone could walk in and read them
        I think they all went up in flames

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  15. Emma says:

    My nan was a patient here after her son died, can anyone tell me an easy way to get in? Recently been to the Sand Hill Hospital in Taunton, that was very eery but incredible.

  16. Leo sheedy says:

    looking for people, families/relatives or nurses that used to either work or be a patient , or know about barrow gurney hospital when it was a working hospital. and who wouldnt mind being interviewed and possibly filmed for a documentary in bristol. (possibilty of it being aired on tv) please get in touch either via here or 07767 289 612

    • Jazz Davies says:

      @ Leo ,

      I would be quite interested in being interviewed ..

      Have a unique story to tale .

      My mother was in and out of Barrow Hospital in the mid eighties , have memories visiting her when I was little kid , even have some pics of her with my sister when she was a admitted on the mother and baby unit for mums suffering from post natal depression .. Sadly my mother bipolar relapsed and again have memories of visiting her at Barrow in the early nineties in particular at Redcliffe Ward , John Carey House and the old intensive psychiatric Unit called Ashton Unit , before the new build of Brockley House.

      Again , early 2000 to 2003 .. Was doing my Mental Health Nurse training at UWE (GLENSIDE) , had a lot of student placements at Barrow Hospital .. I have worked on East Villa (my favorite/the cleanest ward – Rehab for severe and enduring mental health client aka burnt manic depressives or schizophrenics ) , Dundry Villa ( Acute Mental Health Ward – Cacthment area was inner city Bristol ) , Brockley House (Locked Intensive Psychiatric Care Unit – Hated the ward ) … When I qualified I did a few ad hoc shifts on Leigh Assessment Unit (Geriatric) and Dundry again .. Moved to London in 2006..

    • tessa king says:

      Can you give me more detail as to what you want to know?

      • Bonny Cother says:

        I am interested in old photos of the building during the time the Navy had control of the hospital…..WWII. I know it would be a miracle if any then sailor is now alive and would give an account of what the hospital was like during that period of time. During my visit I took many photos of the old buildings and the destruction is sad. The surrounding countryside is so scenic. The houses along the road leading into the hospital entry….. were they built for the hospital staff. Seems a long way out of any local town for this row of houses……

      • Rachel Duncan says:

        Hi Tessa,

        I am currently a second year Television Production student, creating a documentary based around this hospital and Glenside. I am looking to interview a patient about their time at the hospital.

        I would appreciate it very much if you were able to help me out with this.

        Thank you,

        Rachel Duncan

    • Bonny Cother says:

      My father was at this hospital during WWII, I visited today to try and get a feel of where he had been…he is now dead. I have copies of his war records noting he had been there a few times. He was in the RNVR on Corvettes on the Atlantic Ocean convoys…….a bad time for any sailor. I would love to know of any nurses and or workers during that time……… he was a personable man…..later became the Master of Errol Flynns Yacht Zaca…….see Amazon.com USA………I have compiled a book……..with photos etc., currently working on dad’s story.

    • Rachel Duncan says:

      Hi Leo,

      I am currently a second year Television Production student, creating a documentary based around Barrow Hospital. I was just wondering whether you have any contacts of patients that were at this hospital, that are willing to be interviewed? I have managed to contact a nurse and an expert, but so far no luck with a patient.

      I would appreciate this very much.

      Thank you,

      Rachel Duncan

  17. Ian says:

    I was an inpatient in John Carey ward with bipolar disease duribng the 70`s and during a period of 18 months, spent 9 months there with 3 0r 4 admissions. The consultant was Dr. Barker but the Doctor I dealt with mostly was Dr Joanna Eckert. I did art therapy with Roy Thornton and during a spell of hypomania I covered the walls off the Art Room with paintings I had Tricyclics by the handful which messed up my bladder and ECT which was not helpful. I was put on lithium eventually and began a slow recovery and stayed on this treatment for nearlym 5 years. Happily I never relapsed

    • katrina stone says:

      I was a nurse at Barrow hospital in the 70s and worked on all the wards leaving after doing my training. Returning in the 80s on Ashdon ward , the acute unit . I have so many memories of Barrow , of the patients and the staff that I worked with .I remember John carey house well . The sister Hamlyn who had a husband who was called Roger and worked on Blagdon villa . I remember Roy Thornton and the art room. and Doctor Barker the consultant . Do I know you I wonder.

      • Mike Rose says:

        I worked as a student in 1972 to. 1974 but left a few months before qualifying. I remember names as follows, Sister Ryan, Sister Hamlyn, Janet Wise who was a SEN, my mother Valerie Rose was a SEN, night superintendent Mr Thacker, Staff Nurse Roger Aveyard, an Irish charge nurse on geriatric ward, Staff Nurse Cantle, Dr Winter, Dr Cosgrove to name but a few, I enjoyed my time at Barrow, lived in the nurses home for a while.
        Worked on Centre Ward A and B, Blagdon, John Carey House, but not on mother and baby.

      • tessa king says:

        about the time i was there

      • stephen yandell says:

        Hi i spent quite a few long spells on john carey and later blagdon.i was helped by most of the names you mention.please feel free to contact me.

      • Tessa says:

        Thanks for the reply. I also remember nurses Tom Cantle and Geoff Crisp. Do you know what happened to Sister Hamlyn?
        Maybe we should start a Friends Reunited page! 🙂
        Its sad to see the hospital in such a derelict place. Todays hospilisation can be very harrowing nothing like back then
        Take care

      • i was a patient several times in john carey and blagdon and was treated by most of the peole you mention.Please feel free to contact me

      • Nicholas says:

        I am looking for former colleagues of my brother, Jonathan Jelf, who worked at the hospital (I believe on the geriatric ward) somewhere around 1972/73. My understanding is that he was a porter or nursing assistant. Katrina, did you know him by any chance?

    • Rachel Duncan says:

      Hi Ian,

      My name is Rachel Duncan and I am currently a second year Television Production student, creating a documentary based around this hospital. I am looking for a patient that was in the hospital during the 1970’s to interview, would this be of any interest to you? It would be a great help. The documentary is based around whether the negative representation of hospitals has come from the media, and whether patients were mistreated. It also focuses around the use of ECT and Lobotomy.

      Thank you very much,

      My email address is rachel.duncan1@live.co.uk, number is 07812910393 or feel free to contact me through this website.

      Rachel Duncan

  18. janet reid says:

    my sister lived in the lodge house for 3 years after it was closed we had some really lovely times wandering through the buildings. we had loads of apples from the orchard, herbs from the herb garden and saw lots of wildlife.
    wonderful times before they started demolishing.

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  20. paul mcnab says:

    I trained at Barrow 1979-1981…very mixed memories of clinical areas,although did enjoy working on Blagdon and Dundry Villas…got in a little trouble taking patients to socialise in local pub and not being able to persuade a couple of alcoholics to return to the hospital! Many,some hazy,memories of the staff social club!

  21. christine says:

    When I left the area I gave Barrow Gurney Parish Council a book about the history of the hospital. I hope they still have it or know where it is kept. I can’t remember who wrote it but it was to commemorate an anniversery.

  22. Trevor Dallimore-Wright says:

    Both my parents (Trevor Wright Snr and Peggy Wright) worked at Barrow from 1949 until my dad’s reirement in approx 1983. Dad was a Charge Nurse on West Villa and Blagdon Villa but did a long stint as Principal Counsellor for the Bristol, then Avon, Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse working with Travers Cousins before returning, as a Charge Nurge, back in charge of Blagdon Villa. Mum was a night nurse working on B ward (I think) but oftern working opposite my dad at Blagdon. Memories, as a young toddler, of sitting drinking orange sqaush or otherwise being entertained by a patient whilst my parent’s handed over a shift!

    We lived at the the then Staff Cottages (now Orchard Drive) which, although isolated from Bristol was a wonderful place to grow up in. Hundreds upon hundreds of acres of primieval and untouched woodland to wander through and play in.

    Its a pity that the ethos of peace and quiet as part of therapy for those with enduring mental health problems was sacrificed on the altar of PFI. Barrow, unlike the old Victorian Asylums and if properly refurbished, would possibly have cost less then the new hospital and have retained the old concept of allowing patients to gently exercise around beautifully kept grounds.

    My treatment, as someone with bi-polar, was centred at the former Susan Britten Wills Unit (BGH) but have lived in London for a long time.

    Finally. For those who would like to go the Glenside Museum has lots of artifacts from Genside and Barrow. It fgives an insight to how treatment was given and how things were. Mental Health History is not the sexiet of subjects but its important that its history is not forgotten. In Bristol its history began with Dr John Carey in the late 17th Century and the first wards for the insane at what was to become St Peter’s Hospital, the for runner of the Bristol Ayslum, Glenside Hospital and Barrow Hospital. Please visit the site at

    http://www.glensidemuseum.org.uk/

    Best wishes

    Trevor

  23. Miss Chapman says:

    My partner, now sadly deceased was in Barrow Guernay Hospital in 2006 not long before it closed. He was severly depressed and we hoped for him to receive treatment there. Unfortunately they gave him so many drugs he couldn’t even hold his head up and just dribbled onto the table. They did not bother to even try and treat him. The ward was disgusting and the food they dished out looked over a week old. I was so disgusted with it that I got him discharged and took him home. He was 34 yrs old at the time.

  24. Miss K says:

    Hi…been reading through the comments on here and have something to add as well….My late father did his training at Barrow Gurney in the late 1960’s before moving to work at Glenside in the 70’s…I don’t know much about his time spent working there though but I just thought I would leave a comment anyways…

  25. michael says:

    I wonder if this place is up for sale?

  26. DARREN says:

    i was in barrow in 1991 in the old ashton unit which was the scariest time of my life . totally old school, open bathrooms so no privacy and no one showered cause of it . but the nursing staff were really good .Then went in to blagdon in 1992, 1999 and 2000 and the buildings were the worse for ware , but the whole place as a place to recover was amazing i walked around the mile block atleast 100 times , walked through the woods even once ending up in the middle of a golf course (perhaps we shouldnt have gone over so many fences) it was a really good place to go to sort your self out , the grounds and settings were perfect for relaxing and getting yourself sorted and the staff on blagdon and john carey which are the only wards i went on were amazing and could not have made things better . its such a shame they couldnt have rebuilt as the new hospital at callington rd leaves you with very little to do but sit on the ward , there is no escape like in barrow when you could walk in the country and feel like you were away from everything.

  27. tessa king says:

    I was in John Carey ward for 6 months in the early 70s. The ward sister was Anne Hamlin and i heard later that she came to a rather tragic end. I would be interested to know more about this. Consultants were Barker and registrar Winter.
    I received ECT which gives me nightmares now (barbaric)

  28. Audrey Gilbert says:

    I have been writing a family history and came across this website. I am 87 and my aunt married a Mervyn Ottery in 1930. He worked for Bristol Waterworks as did his father and brother and his parents lived in the house on the land owned by the company at Barrow Gurney. After the marriage they and went to live with the senior Otterys.In 1938 they moved into two newly built houses inHobbs Lane opposite Winford Lane which led down into the village. They were the first houses built in the village I had ever known but the Gibbs Family of Barrow Court Estate gave them permission to choose any land they wanted for their homes after Mr. Ottrery Senior retired/ During the war when I was 17 I started going to dances that were held in the Women’s Institute Hut in Barrow Street nest to the public House Ich Dien. At that time Barrow Hospital was occupied , as far as I recall. by wounded or sick servicemen, because many of them used to come to the dances. Afterwards I believe it reverted to its original use. I don’t know if this is of any interest.

    • Bonny Cother says:

      Very interesting, the navy took over the hospital for a time during WWII to use as a mental hospital. My father’s records show he was placed there a couple of times. He was on Corvettes as convoy escort in the Atlantic Ocean, and the beeps from the Asdic nearly sent him crazy…….. No doubt if there was transport he would have gone to the dances, he enjoyed dancing and the company of females.
      In 1956 he was the Master of Errol Flynn’s Yacht Zaca………… you can find the book on Amazon.com. My father was not a good family man after WWII, I think it was all too much for him.

  29. Jazzino says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I did my mental health nurse training at UWE (GLENSIDE) and all my hospital placements were at Barrow Hospital from 2000 – 2003. At the age of 18 and only 6 weeks in the course my first 3 months placement was at Brockley House Secure unit. My best ward was East Villa very clean , I remember the ward manager Doug , a weird Charge Nurse called Laurence. If you want to speak to ex service users regarding their experience either at Glenside (now blackberry hill) or Barrow Hospital .. I strongly suggest you contact the crew at Glenside Hospital museum as it is all run by ex service users .. Mind Bristol is another organisation to contact as they could put you in contact with service users who were treated at Barrow , Glenside , Ham Green hospitals.

    My mum was admitted to the mother and baby unit in 1983 with my sister – I have pictures and video recordings of her being there which could you assist with your documentary.

    If you are a UWE student – Contact the Mental Health nurse lecturers at Glenside either Victoria Lavendar or Tony Fraher who were both ex senior nurses at Barrow, they have tons of contact of service users.

  30. Sabita sarah gurney branford says:

    My anceSter built the gurney drag a steam carrage which rAn from london to bristol it won the contract for delivering mail but Was put out of action by invested intrests sEe thje suppREsion of the automobilE book it is said any one attempting to make replica would be institulised no coincedent the number 318 is on my birthcertificate the maiN road is the m1138
    Hope this helps

  31. Jim says:

    Barrow Hospital really was as close as you could get in the UK to an old style Soviet psychiatric unit/prison camp. Its reputation for being dirty and run-down was well-deserved. I heard of one patient there who told one of the staff he was feeling suicidal, and the reply was, I quote, ‘Make sure you use the Suspension Bridge’. It was frankly an apology for a hospital which should have been closed a lot sooner than it was. I was part of the BBC team that investigated this terrible place a couple of years before the closure. The barbaric and inhuman nature of the conditions have in no way been exaggerated. It really was a place of infamy, and a public apology at the very least is owed by the North Somerset NHS to the poor benighted souls who were treated/mistreated there.

    • Rachel Duncan says:

      Hi Jim,

      I am creating a documentary to show what psychiatric hospitals were like before they were closed down. I was just wondering whether you would be interested in talking to me further about your experiences.

      My email address is rachel.duncan1@live.co.uk and mobile number is 07812910393.

      Thank you very much,

      Rachel Duncan

    • tessa king says:

      what I found upsetting was a friend of mine was doing some work on the woods a few years ago. He came across an old barn like building, unsecured and inside were piles and piles of old records. They later went up in flames. I tried to get my old files but was told they had been lost probably burnt

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