2013: St Brendan's Mental Hospital

Scroll down to see a selection of images from the archive

Belfast Memories

In February 2013 I attended a public talk on the forthcoming development of a new university campus on the site of Saint Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Grangegorman. The hospital was still in use at this time. During this talk a timeline was presented, according to this timeline many of the existing buildings of the hospital would be demolished by august and work would begin to refurbish the remaining building for use as a third level educational Institution.

I decided to ask for permission to photograph these buildings before they disappeared. I felt that the spatial and physical reality of the hospital should be documented. I requested permission from the Dublin Institute and from the Grangegorman Development Authority. This permission was granted however as the hospital was still in use I could only photograph the external building structures and the grounds. I began this work at the end of March 2013.

In May 2013 the final patient and resident of Saint Brendan’s Hospital was transferred to Phoenix House, the new facility that is located off the North Circular Road. I requested permission to photograph the interiors of the hospital buildings. This permission was granted for some of the hospital buildings and I began this work in June. Some of the buildings, one being the building then called ‘The Male Ward’ I never got permission to photograph. Over the next two months I visited the site and the buildings on numerous occasions and built up an archive of images of the hospital.

Some Notes:

Saint Brendan’s Hospital was a fragment as to what it was when it was in use during the 1950s and early 1960s. At this time there were up to five thousand patients resident in Saint Brendan’s Hospital. From the late 1970s onwards policies were put into place to reduce patient numbers and by 2013 there were less than one hundred patients remaining in Saint Brendan’s. During the 1960’s and 1980’s large sections of the hospital were demolished. I felt there was very little photographic documentation of the physical and spatial reality of the hospital and the grounds. I decided that though the hospital in 2013 was small compared to the hospital of the 1950s and 1960s I should still document it as I knew of no other photographer who was doing this. This window of opportunity to document the hospital and the grounds around it closed during August 2013 when the grounds were completely secured as a construction site.

My intention in making these images was to document the spatial and physical reality of the hospital. Though not a single person appears in any of these images I feel they give some sense of the people who stayed here. I have included a selection of the photographs from this body of work here. Over time I will make images of Saint Brendan’s Hospital available to the archive of the central library of the Dublin Institute of Technology.

Chris Reid 1.10.2014



*Copyright of all the following images is owned by Chris Reid. Permission must be requested from Chris Reid to use any of these images in any medium.

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