New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

The Friday Photo: Highcroft Hall

Posted April 18th, 2014 by Birmingham Conservation Trust with 13 Comments

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Highcroft Hall is situated in Erdington and has now been converted into luxury apartments, however its history is far from glamorous. Built between 1869-1871, the hall was originally called Aston Union Workhouse and was sanctioned by the Poor Law Board for housing ‘paupers, idiots, tramps, seniles, imbeciles and lunatics’ such was the terminology used in the Victorian era. Eventually the hall became a psychiatric hospital known as Highcroft Hall Hospital and then just Highcroft Hospital. There was always a huge local stigma associated with being treated there, it was seen as a ‘lunatic asylum’. The hospital eventually closed in 1996. The mental health facility was moved to more modern buildings and the hospital was no longer fit for purpose. It lay derelict for eight years and was then bought by property developers. I’m glad that they saved it, it’s such a beautiful and imposing piece of architecture that always makes you shudder just a little at its unfortunate history.

13 Responses to “The Friday Photo: Highcroft Hall”

  1. Alfred White July 7, 2019

    I have just unearthed a copy of my Aunts Death Certificate which indicates she died at 18 Highcroft Road Erdington Birmingham on 27th March 1967 she was aged 71 and had severe mental subnormality, would this be Highcroft Hall? her Birth Certificate also states she was Incapacitated, your photo of the place is great and certainly gives a good impression of what the place was like inside
    Thank you

    Reply

    • Vicki Cox July 9, 2019

      Yes, that was Highcroft. It seems to often be given as that on death certificates; probably to make the location less obvious as even then there was still a stigma attached to mental health issues.

      Reply

  2. Lynn June 24, 2019

    I first visited Highcroft Hall in 1971 when I was 14 years old. I was a pupil at Dulwich Road Girls School and volunteered to help look after some older women there as part of out social studies course. I and three other girls went there every Friday for around ten months. We would help feed and change their stockings, talk and most of all listern to their stories. The nurses were really nice to us especially nurse Clancy. Little did I know then that I would a regular visitor there when in 1981 my father was admitted suffering from dementia and remained there for four years until his death in 1985. If only I knew then how awful the ETC was I’d never have allowed him to have it.

    Reply

  3. Brian February 11, 2019

    Hello Julian. I am sending this from Canada having been redirected from Birmingham History Forum upon my enquire reference ‘Highcroft Hall’. I would like to obtain a copy of Your Illustrated History ASAP. I an in the
    Continuous process (4th year) of writing my Autobiography.
    I can stil remember ‘The Hall’ from whenI was five to nine years old. My parents were fairly High Up in clinical administration from 1935 to 1949. Please reply on how I can get a copy. Thanks Feb 11 2019.

    Reply

  4. Tina November 24, 2018

    My mother was a patient there for several weeks in 1959. I was only 11 at the time and found myself doing the cleaning, bed changing etc and being farmed out to neighbours after school till Dad came home from work at about 9pm. Mum hated it. She had electric shock treatment and said how horrible it was to be locked in a ward at night with people suffering from delirium tremens. She said my father had her put away and never forgave him for it. I’ve recently discovered that, in those days, all a husband had to do was convince a psychiatrist and his wife would have no say in the matter. Mum said Dad moved things round the house and hid her stockings to make her think she was going mad: she mentioned “Fanny by Gaslight”. One of my parents was mentally ill but I can’t be sure which one it was.

    Reply

  5. Geoff Cox September 30, 2018

    My birth certificate says that I was born there on July 17th 1946. Does anyone know whether there was a maternity wing there at the time? I am sure my mother never was a patient there.

    Reply

  6. Violet Wood nee Cooke August 19, 2018

    My father Bill Cooke worked there for 40 years before his death in 1973
    He was part of the maintenance team but I remember well some of the things
    He told us about the place, always felt it was full of bad vibes

    Reply

  7. shirley usher May 27, 2018

    my grandad jim wyatt from mere green was admitted in 70s for nervous breakdown when he was there he said his brother was over the rd apparantley he went to join coldstream gaurds and wen he got his birth certificate it had bastard written over it which sent him in a padded cell in highcroft for yrs we tried enquiring about him as my grandad would never talk about his family weird i know lolbut highcroft denied it all couldnt get them to meet us or anything

    Reply

  8. Linda Taylor February 24, 2017

    I was admitted to Highcroft Hall in 1973 at the age of 18 after suffering a nervous breakdown due to many years of sexual abuse as a child. I was admitted to Margaret ward, a building that stood on its own away from the main hospital. The other patients were all much older and their mental illness was very different, many of them were violent, I was attacked twice. I was in there for nearly 9 months and still can’t forget how awful it was, especially the ECT (electric shock treatment).

    Reply

  9. Lilly Mason January 5, 2017

    Great photo of an old, and somewhat grim building. As a workhouse and a so-called “mental hospital” the place probably represents some very dark days for many people. It certainly does for me. My mother was admitted to Highcroft Hall psychiatrict hospital when she was diagnosed with depression. It was there that she received “shock treatment” in which an electric current is passed through the brain. It was a dreadfully frightening experience for her, and even though I was just a child I instinctively knew this treatment was incredibly barbaric. The treatment left my mother confused and even more depressed, and looking back I believe the psychriatrist talked her into this form of experimental treatment when in reality she was suffering with an unhappy marriage. After my father died and my mother remarried a much kinder, gentler man she recovered her “former self” without the use of medication or therapy. I remember the place had a terribly reputation, and people called it the “Looney Bin.” .

    Reply

  10. Julian Cleaver April 29, 2014

    Interesting and lovely photo! Just a reminder that I am still selling the book HIGHCROFT FROM WORKHOUSE TO MODERN MENTAL HEALTH SERVICE an illustrated history of the site from its initial role as the replacement Children’s Workhouse. We wrote & published it in 2002 as the new hospital buildings opened; it has 72 pages and photos, in A4 format. £8.99, I will forward all proceeds of copies bought via BCT to BCT funds. Also available on Amazon ( me again!) Julian C . BCT volunteer

    Reply

    • Suzanne Carter April 30, 2014

      Hi Julian

      Didn’t realise you had authored a book! Thank you for your offer to give proceeds of sales bought via BCT to support our work. Superstar! So, who wants one?? Suzanne

      Reply

    • Terry Walsh March 29, 2018

      Hello, Julian.

      I wonder if you can tell me the actual year when Highcroft actually became a psychiatric hospital?

      Reply

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