LEARN more about the history of the Herrison Hospital at Charlton Down and meet some of the people who were involved with the hospital.

A Herrison Hospital History Open Day is being held at Herrison Hall in Charlton Down, near Dorchester, on Sunday, April 7 from 11am to 4pm.

All are welcome to attend, especially people who worked at Herrison Hospital in whatever capacity. Former staff from the hospital, who kept documents and archives when the hospital closed, are being urged to bring them along so they can be used by Dorset History Centre staff, who are archiving Herrison documents.

Dorchester radio station Keep 106FM will be broadcasting from the open day. Some of its DJs ran the Herrison radio station during its existence.

There will also be a chance at the open day to show support for another print run of a book on the Herrison Hospital.

Herrison started life as Dorset County Asylum, which was originally founded in 1832 and was based at Forston House in Charminster.

By the 1860s, this facility was too small, and the new asylum at the Herrison site was opened in 1863. Herrison House itself was opened in 1904, and in 1940 the institution became known as Herrison Hospital. The hospital closed its doors in 1992.

The open day is being organised by Dom White, who now lives in Dorchester, but recalls the days when he lived in one of the staff cottages at 3 Herrison Cottages with his parents and his brother Kev.

His father Graham trained as a nurse and having completed his training in 1969 subsequently spent 30 years at Herrison and later, Forston.

Graham proposed to his wife-to-be in the old cricket pavilion.

The Dorset History Centre in Dorchester will also be represented at the open day, having recently received a grant of £56k from the Wellcome Foundation to enable the completion of the archiving of Herrrison documents in their possession.

It is well known that when Herrison Hospital closed, many of the staff, being unsure how the artefacts at Herrison were going to be saved for future interest, took a quantity of material from the hospital.

History centre staff are interested to see and record any documents and artefacts still in the possession of former staff, purely for recording purposes.

Herrison was made possible by Francis John Brown of Frampton, who donated his mansion and seven acres of land, together with the sum of £4,000 for the endowment of the asylum.

Having outgrown itself, a parcel of 55 acres of land was acquired at Herrison and a new asylum erected there, opening in 1863. Further expansion followed with the acquisition of a 200 acre farm and, in 1895, the opening of a new female wing. A private hospital, Herrison House, opened in 1904.

At one stage in its life Herrison Hospital was virtually self-sustaining, the produce from its farm and horticultural activities providing almost all requirements. Patients were employed as farm hands, gardeners, laundry workers, shoe maker and repairer, bakers and a number of other activities which were suited to their abilities.

Following its closure, the site lay empty for a number of years until being acquired for development by the building company Bellway.

Bellway concentrated on new building, selling the original patient’s quarters to a private company for development into apartments.

David Smith, one of the open day organisers, would love to see as many people as possible at the open day.

He said: "As the hospital closed its doors in 1992, there will be many local residents who probably do not realise its existence so this should be a good opportunity to learn a little more about local history, as well as meeting some interesting people."

It is hoped that the book In the Course of Time – A History of Herrison Hospital and of Mental Health Care in Dorset, published by West Dorset Mental Health NHS Trust, will get another print run with renewed interest in the hospital.

There will be an opportunity at the open day to register interest in obtaining a copy. Should anyone be interested in obtaining a copy, email David Smith at dsmith481@btinternet.com. The cost of the book is not yet finalised but should be in the region of £8 to £10.

*Herrison Hospital History Open Day, Herrison Hall, Charlton Down, near Dorchester, 11am to 4pm, Sunday, April 7.