The Setting

This section provides an overview of the history of the Devon County Lunatic Asylum. Constructed during the early 1840s according to the latest knowledge, the hospital developed into a model institution under the leadership of its first Medical Superintendent, John Charles Bucknill. Conditions, however, deteriorated soon owing to overcrowding and staff shortages, depriving patients of individual attention and paving the way to a long-lasting crisis exacerbated by the effects of two world wars. The final decades of the hospital were characterised by its efforts to comply with the government’s de-institutionalisation strategy.