Clitheroe exhibition shows what life was like in a Victorian asylum

A special exhibition in Clitheroe will show people what life was like at a Preston-based asylum.

Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 11:32 am
Updated Wednesday, 20th March 2019, 11:38 am
Photograph of artwork featured in the exhibition.

The "Hidden Histories – Alternative Futures" display is being exhibited in the Steward's Gallery at Clitheroe Castle Museum until Monday, April 8th.

The exhibition, in partnership with Lancashire Archives, and Lancashire Museum Service, forms part of a wider two-year arts and heritage project exploring the history and legacy of Whittingham Asylum. Opening in 1873, the asylum was demolished in 2016.

The exhibition combines personal experiences with social, cultural and historical observations. An aim of the exhibition is to highlight the history of the asylum, the purpose-built railway that linked it to Preston, and the emphasis on music therapy as a treatment. Visual art, music, poetry and film all form part of the exhibition.

Artists, writers, musicians, historians, and archivists have worked with the local community to explore what the history of the Victorian asylum means to them today. The experiences and voices of people who have direct knowledge of mental health issues are featured in the work being displayed.

County Coun. Peter Buckley, Lancashire County Council's cabinet member for community and cultural services, said: "The environment created for the patients who lived at Whittingham Asylum, and for the staff who worked there are revealed in the thousands of documents preserved at Lancashire Archives, and through artefacts held by the Lancashire Museum Service. It is great to be able to display some of these in this exhibition.

"Art, music, poetry, film and writing have been created by those with personal knowledge of mental illness, and with the local community, for the exhibition. It is important to remember the county's role in building this institution and in providing care for people with mental ill health before the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948."

The two-year Whittingham Lives arts and heritage project aims to research, explore, celebrate and review the culture and legacy of the asylum, which was open from 1873 to 1995. The event forms part of a series of programmes exploring the 150-year history of the asylum.

Community groups have also joined with the Whittingham Lives Association, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and Lancashire County Council to creatively record, interpret and celebrate the history of the hospital, so that the legacy and heritage of this institution is preserved for future generations.

The project has received nearly £70,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

To get involved with the Whittingham Lives project email [email protected] or visit

More information about the Whittingham Lives project is also available by contacting Shelley Carter-Shipway by email at [email protected] or calling 07972 677172.

Admission to the exhibition in the Steward's Gallery at Clitheroe Castle is free. The Steward's Gallery is open daily from 11am to 4pm.