The New Asylum Building - completed in 1858

The New Asylum

In 1858, Dr. James Howden was appointed Superintendent and was to remain in this post for the next 40 years. The first patients were received in the new Asylum during that year, and within two years, "the greater part of the patients were moved" to it. Inevitably, with the increased availability of accommodation, the stringent requirements for admission exercised at the old Asylum were relaxed, and in a single year (1860) the numbers rose by 30% to 373.

 The new Asylum, however, although offering much better facilities, particularly for recreation and employment, brought new problems. One of these, which much exercised the Managers, arose from the scarcity of houses in Hillside, which, together with the distance from the town made it difficult to attract married staff (single staff, of course, had to live in). As a result, cottages for married staff had to be built. Also, the thirty acres originally purchased were regarded as insufficient to provide both an adequate food supply and occupation for patients. It was noted that "the extent of ground suitable for a well regulated Asylum is in the ratio of one acre for every four patients".

In consequence, negotiations were started with Mr. Duncan of Sunnyside for the lease or purchase of an additional 50 acres, and in 1862 the farm of Hillhead was duly acquired.    -The increased accommodation also brought increasing pressure for admissions from a wide area of Scotland, to the extent that in 1862, patients were admitted from no less than 21 counties. This led in particular to a long-running dispute with the Dundee Asylum (established in 1820), which was also in the county of Forfar, regarding appropriate catchment boundaries, a dispute which, some would say, is even now not entirely resolved!

 View from the front of the Asylum in the 1800's
It also led to the gradual transfer of a sizeable number of patients to Perth, Inverness, Banff and Fife, as services in these counties improved.The old Asylum was finally closed in 1866, and leased to the Montrose Harbour Commissioners.Inevitably, perhaps, the new Asylum had difficulty coping alone and this necessitated the lease of the house and lands of Gayfield for "a higher class of females". The next major preoccupation of the Managers was the realisation that the Hospital "sick wards" were too small and a "detached Infirmary for 60 patients" was discussed. In 1886 the decision was taken to build this Infirmary, and the costs were no doubt defrayed by the sale of the old Asylum for £5,000 to the War Office, who had been using it as a barracks for some time.The Hospital was finally inaugurated in 1891, complete with the "new electric light".Financial constraints compelled the Managers to sell Gayfield House in 1888, and as a substitute, they arranged to lease the house of Ravenswood for 5 years.