fonds NHS/NAB - Naburn Hospital Archive

Identity area

Reference code



Naburn Hospital Archive


  • 1798-1980s (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2.63 cubic metres

132 boxes and 35 rolls

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

Naburn Hospital was opened as the York City Asylum in 1906. Although York Corporation had been responsible for providing accommodation for its pauper lunatics since the Lunacy Act of 1845, it had for sixty years placed the patients for which it was responsible at other asylums, under contract arrangements: thus, from 1845 to 1861 York patients had been housed at the North and East Riding Asylum at Clifton near York [Clifton Hospital], and from 1861 to 1906 they were accommodated at York Lunatic Asylum [Bootham Park Hospital], in the centre of the city. York Lunatic Asylum was a charitable hospital taking fee paying, private patients; to provide for the York pauper lunatics separate pauper wings were built. The Lunacy Commission was not satisfied with the housing of pauper cases in a charitable asylum, and it put pressure on York Corporation to construct or provide its own accommodation. In 1899, therefore, the City bought Acres Farm at Naburn, 3.5 miles outside York, as a site on which to construct its own premises.

The new asylum was built on the echelon plan ie a series of buildings linked by covered ways. As well as the usual range of asylum buildings and facilities, there were six ward blocks: three on the ‘male side’ and three on the ‘female side’, each block containing two wards. A total of 362 patients were to be accommodated. The asylum was, however, large for the City’s needs, and so from the first contracts were made with other local authorities to receive patients from elsewhere: in 1909 there were 344 patients at the Asylum, of which 133 were from places other than York. Only a tiny number of private patients were accommodated - five out of 363 in 1910.

The asylum regime and the type and range of patients taken were typical of other pauper asylums. There was a flourishing farm, and the aim was that patients would work if possible. The First World War led to some overcrowding, as patients were transferred from Newcastle Asylum, which had been taken over by the War Office. Patient numbers were 436 in 1915. Pressure eased when the Newcastle patients left in 1920, although overcrowding once again became a problem in the mid-1930s, which led to the ending of contracts with one or two local authorities. The inter-war years saw developments in facilities and recreation for patients, increased staff training and various attempts to ‘humanise’ the hospital, in the wake of the Mental Treatment Act of 1931 which allowed voluntary and temporary patients (although few of these were actually accommodated). The asylum was renamed the York City Mental Hospital in 1927. Occupational Therapy and new mental illness treatments were introduced, as they were at other hospitals in this period.

During the Second World War, one ward at each side of the hospital was evacuated, for use by the military as part of the Emergency Hospital Scheme. In addition a hutted general military hospital was built in the hospital grounds. The wards were returned to normal use in 1942; however, the hutted hospital continued in use and by 1947 it was being used for prisoners of war. (In the early 1950s, the then empty military premises were taken over by the NHS, and re-opened after refurbishment as the joint Fulford General and Maternity Hospitals.)

York City Mental Hospital became part of the NHS in 1948, under York ‘A’ Group Hospital Management Committee. It was renamed Naburn Hospital. By the 1940s the hospital suffered from a number of problems: staff shortages, an aging patient population, overcrowding, and a legacy of shortages in resources and facilities which hampered patient care and treatment. The hospital needed modernising. The advent of the NHS added more problems: because the new catchment area was larger, admission numbers rose.

In 1952 Naburn and Bootham Park - the other psychiatric hospital within York ‘A’ Group - were amalgamated, under a single Physician Superintendent. The early 1950s saw great changes in mental health care in York, with the setting up of the comprehensive Mental Health Service, which united the hospital, community, domiciliary and after care services managed by York City Council and York ‘A’ Group Hospital Management Committee. Naburn and Bootham Park were an integral part of this service, and the joint hospitals were duly upgraded and extended. Services were rationalised between them and sometimes concentrated on only one site: thus Naburn contained the insulin coma unit while out-patient clinics and nurse training were sited at Bootham Park. As admissions continued to rise in the 1950s and 1960s, both hospitals saw an increase in bed numbers. Beds at Naburn were 393 in 1952, 427 in 1954, and 461 in 1961.

The 1959 Mental Health Act allowed mental hospitals to take patients without legal formality, so hospitals began to be used by larger numbers but for shorter periods of time; this together with the advent of new drugs and therapies, altered the pattern of patient numbers, and there were fewer resident patients from the late 1960s onwards. By 1970 patients at Naburn were down to 410; there were 350 in 1971, 327 in 1973 and 234 in 1985. But an increasing problem was that of long stay elderly patients who became a larger proportion of the resident hospital population.

Between the 1950s and 1980s there was much modernisation, and an increase in services at the hospital. Upgrading and refurbishment of wards was carried out. Admission Wards were created in the late 1950s. Occupational activity was broadened: a new Social Centre was opened in 1960 to extend occupational therapy, and in 1960 ‘Industrial Therapy’ was introduced by which work was taken in for local firms. A day hospital - Red Roofs - was opened in 1970; a mother and baby unit opened in the mid 1970s; Deighton Grove Hospital was used as a hospital annexe between 1971 and 1976.

Further rationalisation of services at Naburn and Bootham Park took place in the 1980s, as Naburn began to run down: most of the long stay patients were concentrated at Naburn, and the by now less viable Industrial Therapy Unit was amalgamated with that at Clifton Hospital. Because of the natural fall in resident patient numbers at the three psychiatric hospitals in York District - Naburn, Bootham Park and Clifton Hospitals - a new mental illness strategy was evolved in the early 1980s. One of the existing hospitals could be closed, and patients transferred to the other two, without any initial expansion in alternative community services (this would proceed later) Because Naburn was in poor structural condition, it was decided that it would be the one to close.

After the transfer of services and patients to Bootham and Clifton Hospitals during the early to mid-1980s, Naburn finally closed in February 1988. The site was subsequently sold, the hospital buildings demolished, and eventually redeveloped as a shopping outlet which opened in 1998.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was deposited at the Borthwick Institute in 1995 as part of the transfer of York Health Archives to the Institute from their temporary home at Clifton Hospital. Naburn Hospital records held by York City Archives were also transferred to the Borthwick Institute in the same year. Further additions were made to the archive in 1996, 1997, 2003, 2005 and 2010.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Administrative records, comprising Visiting Committee minutes, 1899-1938, York A Group House Committee minutes, 1956-1962, minutes of other committees and sub-committees, 1948-1952, annual reports, 1942-1943, rules and regulations, 1906, letter books, 1906-1920, visitor reports, 1906-1974, medical superintendent’s report book, 1906-1954, newspaper cuttings book, 1908-1931, photographs of Naburn Hospital, 1960s-1980s.

Land and building records, comprising plans and drawings, 1901-1980s, and deeds and papers, 1798-1819, 1899-1905.

Financial records, comprising general ledger, 1928-1940, day books, 1924-1940, farm livestock account book, 1930-1934, stores ledger, c.1958-1973, petty cash books, 1913-1973, insurance books, early 20th century, patient and staff social club account books, 1920-1967, patient accounts, 1906-1949, staff salaries and wages books, 1905-1975, and related correspondence and papers, 1936-1949.

Stores and equipment records, comprising correspondence and papers concerning clothing rationing, 1942-1949, artisans’ work book, 1948-1950, visiting committee materials book for the farm and garden, c.1906-1923, coal usage record book and receipt book, 1927-1941, and hospital stock records, 1951-1966.

Establishment records, comprising staff service registers, c.1909-1955, obligation books, 1906-1943, certificate of service books, 1910-1947, staff leave book, 1968-1969, lists of successful candidates for Medico-Psychological Association qualifications, 1913-1936, and related correspondence, c.1946-1956.

Patient records, comprising admission books, 1937-1940, discharges and transfers register, 1907-1946, death register, 1931-1961, case notes, 1906-1911, 1941-1951, indices of patients, 1906-c.1972, continuation certificate register, 1948-1959, discharge books, 1917-1936, absent on trial books, 1912-1931, registers of mechanical restraint and seclusion, 1953-1960, medical journals, 1906-1915, registers of diarrhoea and dysentery, 1908-1959, register of suicidal patients, 1922-1930, interment books, 1907-1927, death notice book, 1941-1945, post mortem records, 1957-1960, ward day reports, 1961-1962; papers and correspondence relating to patients transferred to York City Asylum during the First World War, 1915-1925; records relating to mental deficiency, including City of York register of defectives, 1915-1917, with indices, 1915-1916, and special reports, 1940-1951.


Further accruals are not expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. Many of these records contain sensitive personal and confidential information which is likely to be restricted under data protection legislation and the terms of deposit. For records less than 100 years old, please contact the Borthwick Institute via email or letter. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, to file level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For related material held by the Borthwick Institute, see the archives of York ‘A’ Group Hospital Management Committee and its successors.

Additionally, York Explore hold material for the hospital's pre-1948 history, including minutes of the Asylum /Mental Hospital Visiting Committee, 1899-1948, and papers of the Town Clerk.

Publication note

K. A. Webb, 'From County Hospital to NHS Trust: The history and archives of NHS hospitals, services and management in York, 1740-2000' (York, 2001)

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion



  • English



Accession area