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Explore England's Past

Park Prewett Hospital, Basingstoke

Main frontage of Park Prewett Hospital, converted to apartments in the 1990s

Victorian Asylum to Psychiatric Hospital

Park Prewett Hospital has an interesting history, initially planned as an overspill for the Victorian asylum Knowle Hospital in Fareham. It took several years to get going from its original idea in 1898, and then nearly ground to a halt in 1914 due to war-induced lack of resources, finance and manpower. However, the Army took over and the buildings were in use as a military hospital, with its own railway spur from the town, by 1916.

Between the wars Park Prewett reverted to a mental hospital, enhancing and expanding until it held 1,300 patients in 1939. Its rather elegant, Italianate red brick buildings somewhat belied the grim, institutional interiors.

At the start of WW2, all mental patients were evacuated and the hospital again reverted to war work for the duration. Facilities were established in London hospitals and the famous plastic surgeon, Sir Harold Gillies, moved into Rooksdown House, Basingstoke where he remained until 1952. The hospital was a big clearing-station for the Normandy landings.

The story of Park Prewett then reflects the changes in mental health care, with new drugs and treatments, short-term and outpatient care, and eventually care in the community. By 1996 it had become obsolete, its campus became a conservation area, and it became the core of a new housing development, some of it using the old buildings themselves, including the iconic landmark Water Tower.

A timeline, pictures and references are attached.

Content derived during research for the new VCH Hampshire volume, Basingstoke and its surroundings.