Shared Histories, Hidden Lives

Whittingham Asylum, Preston


Welcome to the Whittingham Lives website, the legacy of a two-year community heritage and arts project which sought to stimulate debate about mental health and mental health care by looking at the archives and history of Whittingham Asylum in Preston.

We engaged artists, scholars and the public in workshops and a series of events for the creation of artistic outputs, to inspire critical reflections on this important subject matter; reflecting on the past in the present to imagine better futures.

The Whittingham Lives project took place between 2016-2018 and brought together partners from Lancashire Archives, Lancashire County Council’s Museum Service, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) and Unison. Many people including those who have used mental health services, had a family member in receipt of mental health care, or staff working in services, past and present took part in a varied programme to research, explore, celebrate and critically review the culture and legacy of Whittingham Asylum. 

The programme received funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, Unison, UCLan, LSCFT, Friends of Lancashire Archives and Music and the Mind. We were particularly grateful for the input of service users and staff at the Guild Lodge secure unit, located on part of the site where the asylum had stood, and staff and service users engaged in the Lancashire & South Cumbria‘s Recovery College.

The project was structured around five creative strands –

Heritage, Musical, Visual, Literary & Digital

We organised workshops, events, exhibitions, performances and conferences, the content of which is illustrated on this website. Highlights included a new choral commission premiered at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, a play performed around the region, and an exhibition at the Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library which included archive material from the Whittingham collections and artwork by renowned musician and writer Kevin Coyne, who had previously worked at Whittingham Asylum.

Whittingham Lives has shown us how an interest in our shared history can be an incredibly powerful starting point for addressing vital issues concerning how to better shape the response of our communities to mental distress, particularly around the forms of care designed to provide appropriate help and support.

Mick McKeown
Chair, Whittingham Lives Association

Funders & Supporters