The first building on this site, the Cork District Lunatic Asylum, the second asylum in Ireland, opened in 1789. It was run by the physician William Saunders Hallaran (1765-1825), author of the first book on psychiatry in Ireland, Practical Observations on the Causes and Cures of Insanity (1818). He was also notable as the inventor of the “Hallaran chair”, described by Haunted Hovel as “a chair where the patient would be strapped to tightly, and then it would rotate at the speed of 100 rotations a minute, which apparently seemed like a cure for something at the time.”
In 1845 the Irish Lunatics Asylum Act called for additional capacity, and a new asylum was constructed at Dundrum, and a new building to replace the Cork District Lunatic Asylum was designed by William Atkins. This new building was named after Lord Eglington, and constructed between 1847 and 1852 at a cost of £79,827. 1/5d including land. This is the building that remains today, one of the largest 19th century institutional buildings in Ireland, with the longest facade.
Swearing, masturbation, and adultery were among the reasons one might be sent to the asylum. Unwed mothers were reportedly sent here to “wash away” their sins via completing laundry duties for up to 12 hours a day.
The asylum operated until the early 1900s, when it was renovated and renamed Our Lady’s Hospital. After the hospital’s final closure in the 1960s, it then stood empty for decades.
In recent years, Eglington Asylum has been renamed ‘Atkins Hall’ after its architect and repurposed. Half of the existing building has been converted into apartments, while the other half remains abandoned. Atkins Hall has been damaged by fire, and is in very poor condition.
Some claim, given the building’s disturbing past, that it is haunted. As Haunted Hovel outlines, “The lack of understanding about mental health caused so much unnecessary suffering and death”.
I don’t believe in ghosts – nor did we experience any paranormal activity during our stay in the apartments – but our taxi driver yelled ‘better ye than me!’ out his window as he drove away. I hope that the souls who inhabited Eglington Asylum have finally found peace.