Are dark secrets lurking in wings at Devizes?

This Is Wiltshire: Residents of The Mews, at the former Roundway Hospital, are seeking information about the building Residents of The Mews, at the former Roundway Hospital, are seeking information about the building

Residents of The Mews, a part of the former Roundway Hospital, Wiltshire’s mental asylum, are appealing for information about the history of the listed building that is now their home.

Although the Bath stone buildings, which are now part of the Drews Park housing estate, are well documented, less information is available about The Mews, which was built in 1851.

Resident Dr Harriet Dunbar-Morris said: “With the help of the museum and some determined residents, we have found some information in a centennial pamphlet, but sadly we know very little about our building.”

Dr Dunbar-Morris’s husband, Oxford academic Peter Morris, has discovered a photograph of the upstairs floor of their home, set out with beds and subtitled ‘Insulin Treatment Centre’.

At first Mr Morris thought it must refer to treatment for diabetes, but an internet search reveals a rather darker purpose.

Insulin shock therapy was introduced in the 1930s and was in common use in mental hospitals throughout the 1940s and 1950s, mainly to treat schizophrenia. It involved inducing coma in patients by using massive doses of insulin.

Philip Steele’s 2000 book, Down Pans Lane, does not mention insulin shock therapy but does say electro- convulsive therapy was introduced in 1942.

It is known that the ground floor of The Mews was used as a male admission ward but little else has come to light.

The residents are sure there are many more hidden secrets about what went on in The Mews before the hospital closed in 1995 and are concerned the stories may be lost as staff members pass on.

If you have any information about The Mews, the residents would like to hear from you.

Mr Morris said: “If you are unsure of which building we mean, please see the images on the Mews website at www.the-mews.co.uk “Any information received will be documented and recorded on the website for future preservation. Did you have any connection with the hospital? Do you have any old photos or plans of The Mews?”

For more information, call Mr Morris or Dr Dunbar-Morris on (01380) 829567.

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