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Talgarth Mental Hospital mid-Wales, exterior
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan

Investigating Talgarth Mental Hospital

The former Mid-Wales Mental Hospital in Powys is now largely in ruins.

Lockdown restrictions in mid-Wales in 2020 meant that I could travel only 5 miles from my house. The nearby Elan Valley, which houses six reservoirs, was closed entirely.

From a photographic point of view I had to use my photo data bank or new images from my garden. My local camera club could not meet because of the restrictions. Membership is very small with an ageing membership that felt unable to use Zoom. They will not meet for the foreseeable future.

Talgarth Mental Hospital mid-Wales, exterior
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan
Grille gate, Talgarth Mental Hospital
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan

I needed to pursue new areas. The Royal Photographic Society appeared to offer new opportunities including competitions, useful information and ways to gain qualifications including LRPS, but this would have proved a challenge for me at this stage. A suggestion was to undertake an Open University course in Digital Photography to gain the necessary grounding in preparation for gaining the LRPS.

Several different genres were offered ranging from architecture through to landscapes. I opted for architecture which needed to include an SOI (Statement of Interest) and supporting photo images.

A ruined interior, Talgarth Mental Hospital
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan
A ruined interior, Talgarth Mental Hospital
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan

During a break in the virus restrictions I was able to travel to Talgarth Mental Hospital in the remote Powys countryside to do a photoshoot. Due to the site being a dangerous area because of asbestos, it’s surrounded by fencing and security guards, but after talking to the guards they did allow me access to the outside of the buildings only.   

A ruined interior, Talgarth Mental Hospital
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan
Ruined exterior, Talgarth Mental Hospital
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan

The hospital opened in 1903, and finally closed in 1997. It was totally self-sufficient with inmates doing catering and gardening. It had its own church on site and area for burials.

12 wards accommodated 352 patients with mental illness, away from the community.There were individually padded cells for more troubled individuals.

During the 1920’s radical new therapies were introduced which ranged from lobotomies, and the use of barbiturates to induce coma.

During the Second World War returning forces came here to receive help with PTSD.

Exterior, Talgarth Mental Hospital
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan
Clock tower and chimney, Talgarth Mental Hospital
CREDIT: Mick Pleszkan

The NHS took over the hospital in 1948. In 1955, it had 496 more patients than were allowed, which resulted in a rapid growth in new wards. Care in the community became a watchword following a speech by Enoch Powell, then Minister of Health, in 1961. Patients were gradually moved out into the community. Change was slow governed by cost constraints.

After its closure in 1997, Talgarth fell into a ruinous state, with vandalism, theft, break-ins at night to try and record spooky apparitions on mobiles. There is also the constant danger of asbestos, rotting ceilings and floors.

I had an excellent photo session and had to be creative in taking images while not entering the buildings. Now it’s time to edit the photos and provide all the necessary words for my assignment. This project has helped me to be occupied and creative during the pandemic.

 

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