MENTAL Health Awareness Week began yesterday and in honour of this, the Dorset History Centre in Dorchester has been examining the archive of the Dorset County Lunatic Asylum, which was once at Charlton Down.

The history centre has an archive running from 1829 to 1989.

It contains patient records, committee minutes, accounts books and plans of the hospital, amongst numerous other documents.

Patient records are protected from public view for 100 years.

Dorset's first County Asylum was housed at Forston House, which had been donated by local MP Frances John Brown.

When the asylum opened in 1832 it was able to house 60 patients, but despite considerable extensions over the years, proved too small.

Consequently 55 acres of land were purchased at Herrison in 1860, for £5,710.

The new County Asylum opened on the site in 1863 with 300 beds available for patients.

The Herrison Hospital finally closed its doors on January 10th 1992, after nearly 130 years of use.

The Inspectors’ Reports for the Asylum which were produced during the Great War, and a Medical Superintendent’s Report, reveal how the Great War affected life at the Asylum. We'll be taking a look at some of these reports in coming weeks at Looking Back.

A more detailed account of these reports is to be found on the Dorset History Centre website

Charlton Down Local history Group is currently aiming to collect memories from people who lived, worked or were treated at Herrison.

If you feel that you may be able to contribute to this project, please contact Maria Gayton, Community Engagement Officer at the Dorset History Centre, on 01305 228947, or at