Community project needs your help

29 March 2017

Whittingham Lives will bring together former staff, patients and community groups to record the legacy of the mental health hospital

The 150-year history of a Preston landmark is being recognised with a creative community project and organisers need your help.

Whittingham Lives is a two-year funded venture focussing on the history and legacy of Whittingham Asylum as it is transformed from a Victorian mental health institution to a modern housing estate.

Community groups are joining with the Whittingham Lives Association, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Lancashire County Council to creatively record, interpret and celebrate the history of the hospital so that the legacy and heritage of this institution is preserved for future generations.

Former staff, patients, visitors and local residents are being asked to get in touch with memories and photos of the place while local history fans, arts’ groups, mental health charities and other interested parties are being encouraged to volunteer as part of the research team.

Dr Mick McKeown, reader in democratic mental health at UCLan, said: “Whittingham Asylum was one of the biggest in Europe and was believed to be the biggest in the United Kingdom at one time with more than 500 staff and more than 3,000 patients. It is a place steeped in history and was the centre for mental health care in this area for a very long time.

“This project will enable people of all ages to unite in creative endeavour, learn new skills, forge new knowledge of local history and increase awareness of the heritage of the area. Through this transformative work, the participants will make a significant contribution to the changing of public attitudes towards mental ill-health, through fostering greater understanding of its treatment over generations.”

The researchers are looking to develop material in five strands: digital; historical; literary; musical and visual.

David Keddie, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, commented: “We are delighted to be involved with the Whittingham Lives project. Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust still owns the hospital records so a key role will be to digitise the mental health records so they are more accessible and can help us understand what it was like being a part of that community.”

The launch event, which took place on 27 March, attracted more than 80 people and they were treated to an assortment of talks, poetry readings and musical performances.

Kathryn Newman, Lancashire County Council archivist, added: “We want to accrue archives and artefacts, modern memories and people’s stories so we can give a voice to people who are no longer here with us. It will be fascinating and a project which I’m sure will interest many people.”

The project has received nearly £70,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and The Arts’ Council.

To get involved with the Whittingham Lives project email or visit