Dunston Lodge Asylum
5 Jun 2020
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Current status is
Designer (if known):
Site now occupied by housing and a petrol station.
'Situated on the now Dunston Road, (where the petrol station stands) A Mr. J.E. Wilkinson established the asylum in 1830 and Cornelius Garbutt took over in 1852. In 1856 his son William took control and remained at the helm until its closure in 1900. Dunston Asylum was considered to be one of the best in the country and had several influential inmates, Its recovery rate was well above average and its peaceful and attractive setting must have been a great factor in its success,
“The flower gardens on the west side of the house are large and laid out with great tatse and judgement, the building set apart for the patients contains bedrooms, dinning rooms and sitting-rooms, there are also a billiard room and a bowling green for the use of those capable of enjoying the game.
The institution is the last survivor of several in the district, since 1852 the private asylums at Wrekenton, Bensham, the Fell and Spittal Tongues have disappeared, the fact that Dunston Lodge remains is eloquent testimony to its management…
In a report published in 1884, the following exract is taken… “there is however another and more specific proof of the care and zeal of Garbutt and his staff, of 237 patients admitted during the ten years ending in 1883, not fewer than 145 (over 60 percent) were “discharged recovered” Dunston Lodge contains at the present time 18 male and 17 female patients, one of the sitting-rooms of the Lodge contains some handsome pieces of furniture made of oak dredged out the river Tyne at a depth of twenty-feet below the water-mark, inside of the front entrance may also be seen a bugle found on the field where the famous battle of Waterloo was fought and won.
In 1841 there were 84 persons housed there, increasing to 157 ten years later, the asylum gradually declined as public hospitals took over health care and the Lodge was eventually demolished in the late 1920s
On the 5th April 1853 the lunatic inspectors report on Dunston Asylum was presented to magistrates.The report made for shocking reading and recommended that the proprietor J. E. Wilkinson who had run the place since it opened should not retain his licence because of his mistreatment of the inmates. According to the report one charge against Mr. W. was that of having horsewhipped a lunatic this inmate - a Mr. Gibson - did not stop there, he not only ordered "some of his teeth to be extracted but stood by and watched while his punishment was enacted" The report acknowledges that Wilkinson claimed that the horsewhipping was in self defence against a violent man and that the extraction of his incisors was to prevent biting. One witness, however, testified that Wilkinson only sent for the horse whip once Gibson had already been overpowered.
The magistrates agreed that Wilkinson had acted with "undue severity" and "flagrant cruelty" and the asylum passed into the control of Cornelius Garbutt. But Wilkinson must have still been on the scene - his daughter married Garbutt's son who was also the next proprietor of Dunston Asylum!.
In Bourn’s history of Whickham Parish, published in 1893 is an entry :- “Dunston lodge was formerly held by the Marley Family, it is an old mansion, containing a great number of room and is pleasantly situated on Dunston Road”.
On October 24th 1900 fire engulfed the Dunston Lodge Lunatic Asylum almost gutting the brick building collapsing the roof and some sections of walls. The asylum had just closed a few months before and so no lives were lost in the blaze. A crowd of onlookers watched room after room catch fire but the Gateshead fire brigade soon arrived and were gradually able to bring the blaze under control. Ironically , a fire station was later built on the same site, and used until the 1960's.
By early 1920 the estate was run as a market garden by the Kennedy family only a small part of the house remained suitable for habitation. An illustrated letter heading advertising the Asylum as “For the recovery of the insane” which dates from Wilkinson’s time or before 1852 show the lodge as greatly different from the picture below, the house was impressive with a frontage of six bays and quite a statley door surround.
Together with Dunston Hill, Redheugh Hall and Farnacres it must of been one of the grand houses of this part of our area.
The site of Dunston Lodge is today covered by the petrol station on Dunston Road which replaced the fire station (pictured below) and the present lodge which contains the name and tradition of one of our old buildings, so few of which remains.'
- History of Dunston
An interesting read is this document from a physician residing at the lodge, discussing the conditions and status of the site - https://zenodo.org/record/1664381#.XtoShzpKiiM
Listing Description (if available)
The maps above illustrate Dunston Lodge in the second half of the 19th century. At this point the Asylum was isolated away from the village on the main thoroughfare to Dunston Hill then Whickham and Gateshead. The site was pleasant and grand, likely as a soothing and rural environment for the occupiers of the hospital.
By the turn of the century the site was demolished partly due to a huge fire. A market garden took its place which is what can be seen on the 1944 edition. The site was at this point part of the Gateshead sprawl, adjacent to the Derwenthaugh branch of the NER and terraced housing to the east.
Photograph of Dunston Lodge, undated. As a guess the photo is taken at the end of the 19th century due to its semi suburban nature and the developments around it.
The site is lush and grandeur, almost looking like a country estate. A well suited man can be seen staring into the camera, while a horse and carriage can be seen in the background.
Retrieved from https://historyofdunston.weebly.com/lunatic-asylum.html