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1982: Asylum history on display

Mid Sussex Times: October 8th 1982

Pot-pourri of hospital history

The changes in social attitudes and medical care that transformed the Sussex County lunatic asylum into Saint Francis Hospital are captured in an exhibition at the Cuckfield Museum.

The exhibition traces the development of the hospital from its beginnings in 1857 as a self-sufficient, isolated institution to the drastically improved facilities of today with its emphasis on expanding outpatient clinics, day hospitals and community contact. Medical material, detailed records and objects, which a sign correctly states “speak louder than words”, show just how the treatment of mental illness has progressed. Mrs Nickola Smith, honorary curator of the museum, thinks the display is an important record of social history and hopes it will help to improve peoples understanding of mental health treatment.

Cyril Pike, a Cuckfield museum trustee, holding up an unbreakable chamber pot, one of the many fascinating objects on show

She said that when the hospital was built it was “Hidden away from public gaze and public conscience. Today all the staff of the hospital work for a greater integration of patients with the community at large. With the alarming statistics that one in four of the population will need some psychiatric help sometime in his or her lifetime, it behoves us all to see the stigma still attached to mental illness is finally erased”.

Mrs Sally McEwan, honorary archivist for Saint Francis has saved and collected most of the objects on show with the permission of Mr Jim Mable the hospital administrator. She is delighted with the exhibition and agrees that it may increase interest in understanding. By looking at the past people became interested in the present.

The exhibition runs until the end of November and the museum is open on Tuesdays 10 am to 12:30 pm, Wednesdays 230 to 4:30 pm and Saturdays, 10 am to 12:30 pm.


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