Christmas at the North Wales Hospital

December 13, 2018

From the onset in 1848, the festive season was duly celebrated by both patients and staff at the North Wales Hospital. The senior staff decided to organise a dance during the first festive season, as detailed in the first annual report:-

“At the commencement of this year, we indulged the patients with a dance – seventy of the patients, males and females, assembled, about six o’clock in the evening, in the corridor on the female side of the house, which was decorated for the occasion with evergreens, &c. A piano forte was procured, and dancing was commenced with great spirit and was kept up till nine o’clock. During the evening the males were supplied with a moderate allowance of good ale, and the females with tea and a little negus. It was truly gratifying and affecting to witness the decorum as well as the joyous delight of these poor people. The success of this our first experiment at an assemblage of the sexes was such as to induce us to hope that much good may result from an occasional repetition of a similar indulgence.”

HD/1/1 Annual Report 1852

HD/1/1 Annual Report 1852

In their fourth annual report the medical officers report that ‘the great event of the season, so long talked of, and anticipated with so much delight – the “Ball” as it is called took place. We question whether any assembly in the Principality could boast of more happy faces. About 90 patients, and the attendants assembled in the gallery on the female side, and which they had tastefully decorated with evergreens. The dancing was kept up with great spirit for some hours. Several songs and glees were sung by the patients and attendants. The frugal supper was then served, and all retired heartily delighted with their evening’s amusement. Not a word, or a gesture which could offend the most fastidious beholder, escaped during this happy re-union. All was joy and delight, and even rooted delusion appeared to vanish for the time.’ Evidently these events offered patients the opportunity to exercise self-control, and thereby played an important role in re-socialization.

On December the 8th 1905, a concert was held ‘with a view to inaugurating the formal opening of our New Hall in aid of the Patient’s Recreation Fund’. Also, in the annual report of the same year ‘Xmas festivities were hitherto, the chief social event of the season, including a handsome Xmas Tree, the gift of Mr Burton of Gwaenynog. Over 300 presents were distributed upon the occasion concluding with a dance and supper, which were substituted for the Annual Ball.’

Unlisted plan D block Floor 4 Cell 2 g

During the war years ‘every effort was made to prevent the war affecting the recreation of the patients’ but as the annual report of 1941 states ‘it has been inevitable that it should do so to some extent. Owing to petrol rationing the distance from which entertainers could be drawn has been limited. Christmas, of course, was as cheery as ever and the patients had their Annual Ball on the 14th January’.

The Annual Ball was clearly the high point of the asylum calendar, and evidently remained so for well over a century, for the patients, the staff and the people of Denbigh.

The ‘Unlocking the Asylum’ project team would to thank you all for your support during 2018, and wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Rhian Evans- Project Support Officer

Commemoration of the First World War

November 28, 2018

This month sees the centenary commemorations of the First World War draw to a close with events marking one hundred years since the end of the war. During this four year period the country has honoured and paid gratitude to the hundreds of thousands who made sacrifices during this brutal conflict.

In the immediate aftermath of the war the country was focused on attempting to return to some form of normality as they tried come to terms with the tremendous loss of life. Thoughts were also focused on how to commemorate those that had paid the ultimate sacrifice.

The First World War marks a sea change in the way in which service personnel who were killed during combat were remembered in Britain. This can be attributed to several factors. This was war on a scale previously unexperienced by the country and its population. There was mass participation from those eligible to contribute to the war effort from all classes of society, and all parts of the country. And through modern communication methods, the extreme hardship and suffering experienced by the troops was fully understood by those back home.

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Unveiling of Denbigh War Memorial, Crown Square, 1920. (PPD/24/22)

London, became the focus of national commemoration. The Cenotaph in Whitehall, made from Portland stone and designed by Edwin Lutyens, and the grave of the Unknown Warrior, at the west end of the Nave of Westminster Abbey, were both opened in 1920. In Wales, the unveiling of the Welsh National War Memorial in Cathays Park, Cardiff, followed in 1928.

Throughout Denbighshire, we can still see how they remembered those who did not make it home. Llandegla has a War Memorial Hall, there is the War Memorial Park, in Corwen, and although now closed the Wrexham and East Denbighshire War Memorial Hospital still stands. For the majority of the county’s towns and villages commemoration came in the form of war memorials.

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Ex-First World War soldiers outside new Memorial Hall, Llanfair Talhaiarn, 1923. (PPD/56/34)

These poignant structures, which have since been used to remember those who fell in subsequent wars, such as the Second World War and the Falklands War, have become familiar sights to us. Many of us walk or drive passed them every day, but how much do we really know about them?

Did you know that Denbighshire Archives holds numerous documents which reveal the process which led to their erection during the post-war years. These records can allow us to discover such information as when the memorial was erected, who funded it, why a particular design was chosen, and who is responsible for its maintenance.

To browse the records we hold relating to war memorials please visit our website.