Episode 3: Hilgram Lodge

Shadow of the Wing episode 3 introduces Hilgram Lodge, once mad house, now secure hospital, still holder of dangerous secrets. Today’s secure psychiatric hospitals are modern, generally comfortable environments which operate as small ward communities to some extent. Clearly they are secure environments and individuals do not have the freedoms most of us enjoy.

Hilgram Lodge is a fictional environment but draws upon the history of the three well known secure psychiatric hospitals in England – Ashworth, Rampton and Broadmoor. Broadmoor opened its doors as a ‘criminal lunatic asylum’ in 1863. It rapidly expanded and in 1912 Rampton Hospital opened to house those for whom there was no room at Broadmoor. Ashworth hospital was somewhat of a latecomer to high security service provision having been developed initially as a learning disability unit. It began to take high security patients from Broadmoor in the early 1970’s.

Two of the hospitals are housed in old buildings added to and developed over time. In 2003 Broadmoor was declared unfit by government regulatory watchdogs. Ashworth’s original building was demolished and rebuilt. Rampton had a broad range of patient facilities such as a football pitch, shop, swimming pool and gym. The grounds in which many of the ‘lodges’ sit are accessible to patients to enjoy though the majority must be accompanied.

Unsurprisingly, all the hospitals are in semi-rural environments. Housing has sprung up around each – largely housing hospital staff. At Rampton, the quite lovely village surrounding the hospital was specifically built for the staff and had many facilities such as bowling greens, cricket pitches and tennis courts. Once these houses could only be occupied by staff but many are now owner occupied and do not necessarily house hospital staff. Many of the staff in each of the hospitals report family histories of nursing, medical and support staff working at the hospital going back generations. The hospitals provided work opportunities far more desirable than those offered by, for example, the mining industry that was once the primary place of work in the area around Rampton. Combined with the attraction of the village housing offered, family careers developed. Staff in each of the institutions have experience of being misunderstood and of attack from journalism and broadcast media. In this context, distrust of outsiders might be imagined to be understandable.

Anyone close to the hospitals will be familiar with the weekly alarm test. The old air raid type siren is sounded warn locals of escapes. It is tested at the same time each week. It can be heard for many miles around. Fortunately, it is very rare indeed for the alarm to be sounded to notify of an actual escape. On a misty day, the siren is alarming indeed and one wonders whether the test is reassuring, or still a reminder of the potential danger close by. Are windows locked at night?

Listen to Episode 3:

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