ID407/C/687 Photograph of the interior of Boxted ward decorated for Christmas c 1910

The site and buildings of St Audry’s Hospital in Melton were formerly those of the House of Industry for the Loes and Wilford Hundred Incorporation formed in 1765.  In 1827 the building became the Suffolk County Asylum and received patients from across the whole of the county, including the West and North-East.  In 1907 it was named the Suffolk District Asylum and, from 1916 it was known as St Audry’s Hospital for Mental Diseases.

ID407/C/506 Photograph of Dr Kirkman, Medical Superintendent 1832-1876

The St Audry’s Hospital collection (ID407) is held at the Ipswich Record Office and spans over 140 years from 1841 to 1985. One of the main series of records is the case books. These record personal information on each patient, occasionally with a photograph. Miscellaneous items in the collection paint a picture of how daily life in the institution must have been, including concert programmes and cricket score books. The patient records also include admission, discharge and transfer registers, registers of death, registers of patients, case files, day books and medical registers. These are closed for 100 years after the last date in the file as they contain sensitive personal information. For details on how to access patient records please consult our leaflet.

These records were used extensively for a Comic Relief funded project called ‘Tell it like it is’ which partly involved people experiencing mental health issues using the collection to explore how attitudes to mental health have changed. The comparable collection of the Ipswich Asylum, St Clements was used as a source for writers of ‘Different Buttons’ a theatre piece produced by the Red Rose Chain Company which again explored the issues of mental health treatment. Displays of artefacts from the Hospital can be seen at the Museum of East Anglian Life and Felixstowe Museum.

The 850 or so photographs are the most valuable source of information for the daily life of the hospital from the early 1900s onwards. Some of the more interesting ones include ward interiors from the turn of the century, patients’ sports days, cricket matches, nurses and attendants from the early 1900s, Christmas festivities, Dr Whitwell and the famous Dr Kirkman both pioneers in the treatment of the mentally ill, the hospital fire pump, the football team, occupational and industrial therapy activities and royal visits.