Exminster Lunatic Asylum

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The History of the Hospital

In 1845, the County Asylums Act was passed, enforcing the building of asylums for the care of paupers suffering from mental illness. As a result of this act, The Devon County Asylum for Pauper Lunatics was opened in Exminster in July 1845. Before this date, paupers who had learning difficulties or who had mental health problems were kept at home, in workhouses or in private asylums and maintained from the poor rates.

White's Devonshire Directory of 1850 describes the asylum thus: " Devon County Pauper Lunatic Asylum is an extensive and handsome building in this parish ..."


Brought about by the introduction of the Health Service "Care in the Community" policy, the hospital closed in 1985, having served the community of Devon for 140 years. It lay derelict for a number of years before the site was redeveloped as apartments, retaining much of the previous character and style of the original buildings. The redevelopment was completed in 1994.

Amongst many thousands of others, Elizabeth Sarah Ann Dunham (nee Stokes) was admitted to the asylum on 26 March 1900 and remained there until 16 Jun 1908. The reason for her admittance is not known at this time. However, she must have been re-admitted at some later date as her death is recorded at the hospital on 29 June 1919.