Record Details

NHER Number:9693
Type of record:Building
Name:St Andrew's Hospital (Thorpe Asylum)


Construction of St Andew's Hospital began in 1811, and the complex opened in 1814 as the Norfolk County Asylum. In 1920 the hospital became known as the Norfolk Mental Hospital, and in 1923 it changed to St Andew's Hospital until its closure in April 1998.

It is said to be the oldest mental hospital in Britain, and is constructed of yellow brick with a three-storey high seven bay centre block, and two storey wings which connect to side blocks of white brick. The main turnpike road originally ran outside the front of the building, but this was relocated around 1849, and two lodges now sit either side of the entrance. The bridge over the main road to the northern annexe is dated 1856, and is in good condition.

During both World Wars the Hospital served as a war hospital. During World War Two refugees and soldiers were received here after arriving at nearby Thorpe station. The cemetery, which was concecrated in 1815, also contains the graves of those Polish refugees who died in the hospital during World War Two.

The buildings are now been converted for use as residential properties, but during the work a number of interesting features were recorded. These include an extensive mortuary and disection complex, a barrel-vaulted theatre, an original white-ceramic dissection table from 1857, and Art Nouveau glass.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TG 2796 0863
Map Sheet:TG20NE

Full description

South block 1811. Said to be oldest mental hospital in Britain.
Yellow brick buildings, seven bay three storey centre block with central three bays projecting under pediment, with unfluted Doric portico. Dentiled cornice. Two storey wings with round headed windows connect to side blocks in same style but in white brick, perhaps of later date. Two lodges either side of entrance. Tall octagonal chimney with decorated top, of later date. Bridge over main road to northern annexe is dated 1856. Excellent condition.
Visited by E. Rose (NAU), 25 November 1976.

Italianate chapel at rear.
E. Rose (NAU).

Demolition of chimney begun March 1977.
E. Rose (NAU).

The wings are indeed later; the main road originally ran right past the front door, and there was a tollgate about here.
E. Rose (NAU).

For the original form of the building before wings added, see Frontispiece (copy in file) to (S1) - gives date of opening as 1814. Also in this work a detailed room by room description of the building, and its ventilation system.
Compiled by E. Rose (NAU), 15 August 1983.

1992. Building Survey.
Survey by RCHME.
See report (S9), which includes details of whole complex, and other buildings in area that were connected.
E. Rose (NLA), 1 October 1998. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 5 March 2015.

August 1993.
Unconfirmed story, reported on Radio Norfolk, that within the complex is a plot of ground with small wooden pegs which is protected as a burial ground, and said to contain a mass grave of soldiers from World War One. This sounds most improbable but there may be some truth in the statement that it is a burial plot.
Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 17 August 1993.

The truth of the above paragraph is that the original burial ground for patients remains, now a Garden of Remembrance, and also contains the grave of Polish refugees in World War Two, during which time this was a military hospital.
Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 18 Sept. 1995.

However this is not mentioned in the RCHME survey but the hospital was indeed the Norfolk War Hospital in the First World War.

According to [1], [2] states that the building was designed by one Barnes, a bricklayer who worked on Letton Hall and set himself up as an architect by copying Soane's work.
See confidential note.
Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 5 March 1996.

See (S2) for very detailed description of building attributed 1811/4 by Francis Stone; extended 1816/1849 by John Brown; boardroom of 1935. Bridge, also by John Brown and chapel, 1856/9 by same architect, also now listed. Nave of chapel rebuilt 1877 by T. Heslop - very full description given including mortuary and dissecting rooms in basement.
Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 1 December 1997.

September 1998. Interior inspected with Broadland Council conservation staff.
Basic interior plan of original section still fits the description in ref (S1), except at ends where wings added. Some of the cells, 10x6 feet (3m x 1.8m), remain off the groin vaulted corridor, as does the stair, octagonal hall etc. but not the water engine or the ventilation cowls.
Ref (S1) is wrong in saying the portico is Corinthian, it has always been Tuscan as the plate shows. Whole building had good cast iron fireplaces, wrought iron fire escapes etc. The chapel nave is clearly an addition not a rebuilding, the original being polygonal. Listing of chapel and mortuary is correct. Not listed are two flanking towers to north on service buildings, one inscribed 1857 JOHN BROWN COUNTY SURVEYOR; barrel vaulted theatre between hospital and chapel, with Art Nouveau glass, said to be a rebuilding early 20th century; isolation blocks in knapped and squared flint.
Burial ground mentioned is across road to north.
For full details of whole complex, and other buildings in the area that were connected, see RCHM report in file (S2).
Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 30 September 1998. Amended by E. Rose, 1 October 1998.

For a parallel to the barrel-vaulted theatre, see photograph of recreation hall of 1889-93 at Claybury Asylum, Essex by G. T. Hine in reference (S3).

Copy of (S1), newspaper cuttings, 1998 conversion plans in file.

December 1999 .
Demolition of late additions complete; date plaque is supposed to have been saved from the water tower, also the stained glass from the assembly hall.
Two of the original cells in the western section were demollished contrary to instructions but will be reconstructed. Those to the east are intact, and can now be seen to have brick vaulting infilled with rubbish below the first floor joists. Traces of the original ventilation system were found and photographed. Also, beneath the western corridor floor was found a brick duct about 1 foot (3ocm) high, presumably part of the steam heating system described in sources. The brick vaulted cellars as described by RCHM are paired by others to the north of what was an open area in front of the building, now covered over, with ducts leading north. One cellar has been converted into an air raid shelter with blast walls and formerly an entrance from the front lawn - this looks more like World War Two than World War One work. Water tank of brick, later reduced, found beneath laundry area. In the later east wing, window panes in the east wall have incised designs on both floors - the ground floor apprently made from outside - depicting portraits of flowers, one an accurate fuschia.
Compiled by E. Rose (NLA), 20 December 1999.

For an unusual oven discovered, see note in file.
Comp. E. Rose (NLA), 9 February 2000.

February/March 2000. Watching Brief. Contexts 2 - 17 used.
Monitoring of foundation trench for new housing. Recorded burials, probably part of a cemetery for the hospital, and thus post 1811 in date.
See short report (S10) for further details.
D. Gurney (NLA), 13 February 2001.

May 2004. Building Recording. From Context 100.
A detailed building survey of the mortuary was carried out, prior to its conversion for residential use. Features and fittings were recorded, and a detailed floor plan was produced. Within the southeast room is a white glazed ceramic dissection slab, which was recorded in detail. This is thought to be 19th century, and therefore installed in the building when it was erected in 1857.
See report (S4) for further details. The results of this work are also summarised in (S5).
The associated archive has been deposited with the Norwich Castle Museum (NWHCM : 2007.188).
A. Cattermole (NLA), 14 April 2007. Amended by P. Watkins (HES), 5 May 2019.

June 2005.
The plaque from the water tower has now been set in front of the main gates, most misleadingly.
[3] states that the nave of the chapel is by R.M. Phipson rather than Heslop, as shown by plans now donated to NRO.
E. Rose (NLA), 14 June 2005.

April 2008.
Proposal to lower the wall to the west side of The Nave to allow access via the original steps.
See (S6) for further information
H White (NLA) 19 November 2008

16 January 2012. Planning Application.
Internal alterations including relocation of kitchen/dining area and lounge.
See (S7) for further details.
Z. Dack (HES), 20 December 2012.

During the demolition of parts of the former St Andrew’s Hospital, bricks that have inscriptions carved in them from the First and Second World War have been recovered and preserved.
See (S8) for further information and pictures.
M. Langham-Lopez (HES), 11 March 2013.

Monument Types

  • (Former Type) HOSPITAL (19th Century to Late 20th Century - 1811 AD to 1998 AD)
  • (Former Type) PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL (19th Century to Late 20th Century - 1811 AD to 1998 AD)
  • CEMETERY (19th Century to Late 20th Century - 1815 AD to 1998 AD?)
  • (Former Type) CHAPEL (19th Century to Late 20th Century - 1859 AD to 1998 AD)
  • (Former Type) MORTUARY (19th Century to Late 20th Century - 1859 AD to 1998 AD)
  • AIR RAID SHELTER (World War Two - 1939 AD to 1945 AD)

Associated Finds - none

Protected Status

  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building
  • Listed Building

Sources and further reading

---Unpublished Document: 2011. Planning Application.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N. and Wilson, B. 1997. Norfolk 1: Norwich and North-East. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. pp 691-692.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Post-Medieval. Thorpe St Andrew.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1977. [Articles on the dismantling of the chimney at St Andrew's Hospital].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1995. Memorial at last for hospital cemetery. 18 September.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. [Articles on the sale of St Andrew's Hospital].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1997. Hospital features get some protection. 15 November.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. When patients were chained to the floor. 16 March.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998. End of an era in care of mentally ill patients. 30 June.
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 1998-2000. [Articles on the purchase and redevelopment of St Andrew's Hospital].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2000-2002. [Articles on the purchase and redevelopment of St Andrew's Hospital Chapel].
---Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2002. [Article on the renting of one of the properties at St Andrew's Hospital]. 15 May.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Listing Notification. Notification. DNF1874.
<S1>Serial: 1826. Supplement to Excursions through Norfolk.
<S2>Designation: English Heritage. National Heritage List for England. List Entry 1372707.
<S3>Publication: Richardson, H.. 1998. English Hospitals 1600-1948. p 175.
<S4>Unpublished Contractor Report: Taylor, G. 2004. Survey of the Building and Fittings, The Mortuary, The Chapel, Former St Andrew's Hospital, Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk. Archaeological Project Services. 170/04.
<S5>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. and Penn, K. 2005. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk in 2004. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLIV Pt IV pp 751-763. p 761.
<S6>Unpublished Document: Watts, A. 2008. Design and Access Statement, The Nave, St Andrews Park, Thorpe St Andrew.
<S8>Newspaper Article: Eastern Daily Press. 2013. The writing is on the wall at old hospital, but what does it mean?. 6 March.
<S9>Unpublished Contractor Report: Taylor, R. 1992. St Andrew's Hospital. Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.
<S10>Unpublished Contractor Report: Tremlett, S. 2000. Notes on a watching brief at the former St Andrew's Hospital, Thorpe St Andrew. Norfolk Archaeological Unit.

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