Main building at St John's Hospital


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Main building at St John's Hospital, Canwick Avenue


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Statutory Address:
Main building at St John's Hospital, Canwick Avenue

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Kesteven (District Authority)
Bracebridge Heath
National Grid Reference:
SK 98228 67785


The former Lincolnshire Pauper lunatic asylum was designed by Hamilton and Medland of Gloucester in 1848, and built in 1850-2 with additions and alterations in 1857-8, 1869, 1880-2, 1902, 1914-16, 1928-32 and 1939.

Reasons for Designation

The former Lincolnshire Asylum, Bracebridge Heath, erected in 1850-2, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: as an important survival and example of the evolution and development of asylum design following the Lunacy Act of 1845 and into C20; * Innovation: the building was designed with innovative features such as the corridor of communication, recreation hall and the honeycomb fireproof vaulting, and continued at the forefront of asylum design into the C20; * Architectural interest: the high quality classical detailing of the external elevations are designed to be cheerful rather than imposing. The central cupola and two flanking campanile-like turrets, give it a distinctive skyline.


The Lincolnshire County Pauper Lunatic Asylum was designed by Hamilton and Medland of Gloucester in 1848, and built in 1850-2. The architectural practice of John R. Hamilton and James Medland (later in partnership with Alfred William Maberley) was founded in partnership with Samuel Daukes probably around 1837. The layout of the asylum was significantly amended following discussions with the medical superintendent Dr Palmer; he was to become one of the most influential and well-paid medical superintendents of his generation. The Kesteven County Surveyor Thomas Parry had been called in to work on revisions of the design for the new asylum by November 1849. In February 1850 Hamilton resigned and Parry agreed to carry out the agreed plans. In the same month a tender was accepted from George Myers of Lambeth to build the asylum.

The asylum held 250 patients; females were assigned to the wings on the east and males to the wings on the west with Dr Palmer’s accommodation in the centre. The original layout of the gardens with paths radiating from oval centre pieces, was fitting for the Italianate style of the building, and provided extensive routes for exercise. This design can be seen on the plans of c1852, but the Ordinance Survey (OS) map of 1886 suggests that some tree planting had already taken place, creating a more naturalistic feel. No vestiges of the original garden layout, or the surrounding ha-ha, can be seen today, but the original walls defining the central medical superintendent’s garden do survive, as do the exercise areas on either side.

Behind the medical superintendent’s house, to either side of a central kitchen, were the laundry, workshops, dead house and engineer’s residence, but these have been demolished, as have the farm house and gas works. A single-storey pedimented lodge of the original phase, still stands to the north and is listed at Grade II.

Asylum populations grew enormously in the C19 and before long the Lincolnshire Asylum had to be extended. In 1857 Thomas Parry prepared drawings for new accommodation and the building contract was awarded to Young of Burslem. This involved raising the single-storey rear wings by one storey and adding new two-storey blocks at their ends.

The next major addition to the site was the detached chapel; a neo-Norman building which could hold 450. The chapel is separately listed at Grade II.

By 1872 the asylum housed nearly 600 patients and had a cemetery of 1 acre and a mortuary chapel, located c340m south of the hospital. Buried remains may survive in the field west of the recreation ground.

In 1880-2 two large new wings were added at either end of the asylum, to designs by F.H. Goddard of Lincoln; these ranges survive. The builder was W. Pattison and this brought the capacity of the asylum to 680. The late 1880s and early 1890s were a time of change. Dr Palmer retired in 1887, and the Local Government Act of the following year precipitated a reorganisation which saw Kesteven and Grantham Council build a new asylum (South Raunceby, 1897-1902 by G. T Hine) and withdraw their patients from Bracebridge Heath.

The next additions, involving six 'spur' sanitary annexes, were made in 1897 by the architect F.H. Goddard of Lincoln. A quarry was opened on asylum land to provide the necessary stone. Four of the sanitary annexes can be identified: two on the inner faces of the rear wings, and two at the junction of the original south ranges and the additions of the 1880s. The remaining pair has not been identified.

In 1900 the asylum still appears to be licensed for 680, but it held 757 patients. A substantial rebuilding and expansion programme was designed in 1901 by the architect Albert Edward Gough of Strand, London, and executed by William Brown and Son of Salford. Gough’s work included the complete demolition of the rear kitchen wing, and flanking workshop range. In its place was constructed a huge central dining and recreation hall, with a new kitchen and administration block, the latter forming a new north entrance to the hospital. A new workshop yard was constructed south of the chapel. At the same time, the medical superintendant’s house in the centre of the south front was taken over for administrative purposes, and a detached medical superintendant’s house (The Homestead, converted for use as a public house in C20) was erected in the north-west corner of the site; this is listed at Grade II. The detached houses later known as Crondall House and Norfolk House may have been built at the same time and are both listed at Grade II. Patient accommodation was expanded by the erection of two new L-shaped or echelon-type wings, added to the north ends of the 1880-2 wings. Finally, following recommendations by the Commissioners in Lunacy in 1872, the long awaited isolation hospital was erected to the east of the main complex. Of the work of 1902, the administration block and flanking patient’s accommodation survive, together with the recreation hall. A mere fragment of the kitchen, possibly a scullery area, survives, together with the servery on the north side of the recreation hall. Only the centre of the north range of the workshop yard, recently refurbished and retaining its cast-iron windows, still stands. The isolation hospital has been demolished.

According to archive documents, two houses were built in 1907: this must have referred to the pair of houses now known as Oakleigh, that were not shown on the map of 1904 .

Just before the First World War, the architect Frederick Parker of Boston drew up plans for new male and female wings, to be added to the south-west and south-east of the existing wings. In 1915 it was decided to complete the female block and abandon the male block. The female block had a half butterfly plan, as shown on the OS map of 1932, but has since been demolished.

Further expansion took place in 1928, when Harold S. Hall prepared an ambitious new scheme; two 'chronic blocks' were erected in the grounds to the south of the hospital in 1929. In 1931 A. Richmond and Sons of Retford built an admissions hospital, a gate lodge, workshops, an engine room and a boiler house, but all these structures have been demolished. All that survives from the 1930s is the nurses’ home, built in 1937-8 to designs by H.S Hall, this neo-Georgian building has been converted into housing.

The concrete water tower was built in 1924-5 to serve the laundry, the latter of which was much enlarged in the C20 and has since been demolished.

The institution underwent several name changes in the course of its existence. Around 1919 it dropped the name asylum and was known as Bracebridge Mental Hospital. In 1939 it became Bracebridge Heath Hospital, and from 1961 St John’s Hospital. It closed in 1989 and was subsequently sold for housing; some outlying buildings were then demolished.


The former Lincolnshire Pauper lunatic asylum, later St John’s Hospital, was built 1850-2 with additions and alterations in 1857-58, 1869, 1880-2, 1902, 1914-16, 1928-32 and 1939. It sits on an elevated position two miles from Lincoln.

MATERIALS: the building is of an Italianate design in local 'blue' stone, with dressings of Mansfield stone, and slate, hipped roofs and many stone stacks, some of which have been reduced. The various additions made to the original asylum in 1857-8, 1880-2 and 1902 are in keeping with the style of the original building.

PLAN: this vast hospital complex is dominated by the original three-storey superintendant’s house in the main central block of the southern wing and the 1900 administration block which currently (2013) forms the north entrance to the former hospital. The latter is also three-storey, but both main blocks are flanked by two-storey links with extensive H-plan wings to either side.

EXTERIOR: the main southern façade is dominated by the former superintendant’s house with its broad central projecting gable and projecting side wings, each topped by a pediment. The central doorway has a projecting Doric porch with half-columns, entablature and balustrade. Either side are single, round-headed glazing bar sashes, flanked by 2 similar sashes, and flanked again by three more. On the first floor a central tripartite glazing bar sash sits above the porch and is flanked by single sashes all with bracketed hoods. These are flanked by two similar windows and then again by a further three, all with hoods. The third floor displays similar fenestration but with smaller glazing bar sashes. The central upper floors of the three main projecting bays have tall Doric pilasters. Central to the main projecting gable is an octagonal ashlar cupola with round arches topped by a dome and finial. The two-storey wings extending east and west have round-headed glazing bar sashes with keystones, and above are plain glazing bar sashes all with plain ashlar surrounds. The junctions between the east to west wings, and the north to south aligned wings, are marked by tall, square ventilator towers with roll-moulded bases, three round headed arches to each face, topped by a pyramidal roof and finial. The east and west wings have square pavilions at the corners and round-ended central pavilions. There is some C20 alteration to the side wings but the facades survive very largely intact.

The north entrance front is also three-storeys with a slightly projecting centre and projecting side wings. The projecting single-storey entrance porch, with balustrade, has a central doorway with Doric columns and pediment, and either side are pairs of plain sashes, flanked by single, stone, cantered bay windows with balustrades and three plain sashes. On the first floor a central pair of sashes is flanked by pairs of sashes and again by another pair. Above is similar fenestration but with smaller sashes. The central projecting bay is topped by a pediment with integral clock, behind which is an octagonal cupola with a bell-canted lead roof.

INTERIOR: behind the main entrance of the south wing, the original cantilevered, stone staircase survives, but most of the cast-iron balustrade has been removed, leaving only the bottom newels in place. The stairwell is enriched by niches with shell canopies. The principle rooms, including the medical superintendant’s office, retain features such as shutters and skirting boards, and occasionally glazing, but have lost all of their fireplaces.

Originally the patient accommodation conformed to the standard corridor or gallery plan of the day; with a row of single cells, day/dining rooms, and small dormitories accommodating between 3 and 10 patients opening off a gallery or day room. This plan was generally adopted for the 17 new asylums that opened in the eight years following the Lunacy Act of 1845. The original layout of the asylum is still very clear; with the pattern of cells, dormitories, galleries and dayrooms surviving, although much of the glazing has been replaced. An interesting and innovative feature of this phase is the honeycomb fireproof vaulting which survives in most areas of the building.

The later 1852-1900 phase survives intact, and seems to have comprised dormitories rather than cells; probably to assist supervision of patients such as epileptics or suicide cases. The original building had not provided dormitories of this size. Some original cast-iron glazing survives in blocked windows on each end block; elsewhere they have been replaced by plate-glass sashes. Again internal features rarely survive. The 1882 ranges survive, and have the same type of fireproof vaults as the original building.

The building incorporates several interesting features including a corridor of communication which ran along the back of the main south wing, enabling staff to pass from one end of the Asylum to the other without having to enter the patient’s galleries. The original corridor has been partly demolished and what survives is thought to have been partially rebuilt, but the eastern end of the corridor displays an arch-braced, shallow-pitched, cast-iron roof. Decorative, painted coats of arms enhance the apex of each roof truss. The rafter and ridge purlins are of timber and would have supported a glazed ridge. The western end of the corridor is believed to be the later, rebuilt element with different, more functional and less decorative, steel roof trusses. The Lincolnshire asylum is also one of the first (along with Colney Hatch and Derby) to have a 'recreation' hall. The original was superseded by a larger hall in 1902; this comprises seven bays in addition to the stage at its west end. It is open to the roof which has timber, hammer-beam trusses, and retains a number of ventilation cowls on the ridge. It could be entered through four doorways in the north and south walls, and one pair of double doors in the east end. The proscenium arch has a segmental head, and the back of the stage is lit by a tripartite window containing art nouveau glazing. A C20 brick-built projection room has been added on the eastern end of the hall, but retains none of the projection equipment. A fragment of the kitchen, possibly a scullery area, survives, together with the servery on the north side of the recreation hall.

Most of the 1920s and 1930s additions have been demolished, except for the water tower, and the refurbished nurses' home.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Morrison, Kathryn, The Former St John's Hospital Site (Originally Lincolnshire Pauper Lunatic Asylum) Canwick Avenue, Bracebridge Heath, Lincoln., Nov 2005,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 10 Sep 2006
Reference: IOE01/14597/26
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr David Brown. Source Historic England Archive
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