Records of Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Counties and Wenlock Borough Lunatic Asylum at Bicton Heath (Later Shelton Hospital)

This record is held by Shropshire Archives

Details of Records of Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Counties and Wenlock Borough Lunatic Asylum at Bicton Heath (Later Shelton Hospital)
Title: Records of Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Counties and Wenlock Borough Lunatic Asylum at Bicton Heath (Later Shelton Hospital)
Reference: 6175
Date: 1845-1984
Held by: Shropshire Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Custodial history:

Catalogue created in Heritage Lottery Funded project

Administrative History:

Brief General History of Public Lunatic Asylums:


By an Act of 14 Geo. III, c. 49 (1774) private lunatic asylums had to be licensed by Quarter Sessions, and two justices and a physician appointed to inspect them. In 1808 (48 Geo. III, c.96) the justices themselves were empowered to set asylums. In 1828 an Act was passed for the erection of County Lunatic Asylums at the expence of the rates and for enabling two or more authorities to combine for the purpose. Two more Acts were then passed, in 1845 and 1853; and public asylums were generally established in consequence by the various local authorities throughout England


Bicton and Montgomeryshire Counties and Wenlock Borough Lunatic Asylum / Shelton Hospital:


The Origins:


Sir Baldwin Leighton was extremely influential in the conception and provision of care for the mentally ill people of Shropshire. He was a magistrate for the counties of Shropshire and Montgomery and was also a humanitarian who regularly pursued the improvement of provision for pauper lunatics. In January 1841 a quarter-session committee was formed to which Leighton was assigned; its aim was the provision of a pauper lunatic asylum. One of the key objectives of the Committee was to select a site for such a county institution and Leighton was very influential in selecting the site at Bicton Heath. During August and September Leighton devoted himself to travelling the country visiting various lunatic asylums inspecting their location and the conditions of care of the pauper patients. In July 1842 he proposed to the Shrewsbury Quarter Sessions the benefits of Shropshire and Montgomeryshire sharing the costs of the New Asylum. Initially the motion failed because of language difficulties between English speaking and Welsh speaking patients. Another influential character was local physician Henry Johnson. Also a humanitarian. He was appointed general physician to the Royal Salop Infirmary (St. Mary's Place, Shrewsbury) in 1835 and accompanied the county magistrates as medical visitor on their inspection of the House if Industry at Kingsland, to which in 1833 had been added a provincial licensed house recieving private patients and paupers. Johnson became medical visitor to the New Shropshire Lunatic Asylum, and was also physician to the County gaol.


The New Shropshire Lunatic Asylum was built between 1843-1845 on 15 acres of land belonging to the Parish of St. Julian.


Development of the Asylum:


The Asylum at Bicton Heath established in 1843 was originally for Shropshire alone.


In 1844 the Borough of Wenlock was united by agreement (See Related Material Field).


It was officially opened on 28th March 1945.


In January 1846 overtures were made by Montgomeryshire proposing to join forces for asylum purposes, and in April of that year an agreement was entered into with that County. Henceforth the asylum was known as the Lunatic Asylum for the Counties of Salop and Montgomery, and for the Borough of Wenlock.


From 1851-1863 the addition of Shrewsbury and Oswestry was made to the asylums title. In Shropshire, the county asylum, was a joint institution of which the Counties of Shropshire and Montgomeryshire and the Borough of Wenlock were owners and formed the management committee, while Shrewsbury and Oswestry had the use of it on payment of a capitation rent.


In 1864 the asylums title reverts back to the Lunatic Asylum, for the Counties of Salop and Montgomery, and for the Borough of Much Wenlock.


In 1888 the duty of providing an Asylum was transferred to the County Council.


In 1911 the agreement with Montgomery was dissolved (Montgomeryshires interest in the institution was bought out) and the asylum returned to being the Asylum for Shropshire and the Borough of Wenlock alone.


In 1921 the asylum changed its title yet again to Salop Mental Hospital.


In 1940 a tempory title for the emergency part of Salop Mental Hospital from 1940-1941 was the 'The Copthorne and Shelton Emergency Hospital' (Huts were built to care for up to 400 war casulaties).


In 1948 the duty of providing an Asylum was transferred to the Regional Hospital Board.


Around the summer of 1948 the title of Salop Mental Hospital changes to Shelton Hospital.




The provision of a Chapel was seen as essential as a means of recreation as well as a place of worship. Built in 1854-6


Farm and Gardens:


In 1856 14 acres of land were bought, and the Asylum Farm began. In 1883 piggeries were built at a cost of £1,600. The following year 300 pigs were purchased. On Friday 15th October 1971 the Farm was sold after 125 years on the instructions of the Hospital Management Committee. This was a direct result of the Government intervention due to the national 'Foot and Mouth' epidemic of 1967.




Introduced in 1878 and placed under the charge of the Chaplain (for the use of attendants and more intelligent patients).


Cricket Ground:


In 1884 a large piece of ground was purchased (from Mr. Sproston) and levelled, several hedges removed


Shelton Canteen: Opened in 1957


For futher details see: C21.5 v.f.: Shelton Past and Present, by Rosie Morris

Creator Names:
  • Lunatic Asylum for the Counties of Salop and Montgomery and for the Borough of Wenlock, Bicton Heath, Shropshire
  • Shelton Hospital, Bicton Heath, Shropshire
  • Asylum for Shropshire and the Borough of Wenlock, Bicton Heath, Shropshire
  • Salop Mental Hospital, Bicton Heath, Shropshire
Immediate Source Of Acquisition:
  • 06573

Related Material:
  • The Shropshire Quarter Sessions records contain extensive material concerning lunacy and the Asylum, in particular:


    QA/7 Asylum Visiting Justices' Committee records


    QF/5 Asylum accounts


    See also Wenlock Borough Records: Draft notice that Wenlock Borough Council intend to be responsible for lunatic asylum provision, including Home Office reply (1852): Q1/15/3


    See also: Agreement between the County of Salop and Wenlock Borough to unite for the purposes of lunatic asylum provision and, more specifically, a new institution at Shelton. Also contains a note of approval from Salop and Wenlock Quarter Sessions (1844): Q1/15/1


    See also: Minutes of meeting of the Visitors of the Asylum and of the Committee of Justices of the County of Montgomery and details of proposals to unite Montgomery with Salop and Wenlock the provision of Lunatic Asylums (1 copy) (1846): Q1/15/2


    See also: Correspondence between Wenlock Borough and the Home Office re whether the Borough Justices or the Council have responsibility for lunatic asylum provision in the light of recent legislation (1885): Q1/15/4


    See also: Quarter Sessions Files concerning lunacy (1914-1946): Q1/15/7


    See also: References to Bicton Heath Asylum: QR480 159/01, QR484 344/01, QR485 138/01 140/01


    See also: Montgomeryshire Quarter Session Records (Held at Powys Record Office):


    Agreement for uniting the counties of Salop and Montgomery and the borough of Wenlock for the puposes of a joint lunatic asylum (i.e. for the pauper lunatics) at the Shelton, Salop under the act of 8 and 9 Vict. C. 126., 1845. A draft approved and signed by the home secretary (1846): MQ/AL/1


    Copies of agreements relating to the Salop and Montgomeryshire Lunatic Asylum (The copies are mostly made post 1889 and are strictly speaking County Council records). Agreements include the 1846 union and later ones with mayor and alderman of Shrewsbury, of Oswestry, of Bridgenorth and with the justices of Ludlow (1846-1878) MQ/AL/2


    Two Mortgages from the public works Loan Commissioners to secure £6640, the Montgomeryshire Lunatic Asylum 1847. Marks of cancellation (Nd) MQ/AL/3


    Annual return of the lunatic paupers in the Dolgelley Union within the county of Montgomery. (Returns were made to the Clerk of the Peace by the Clerks to Guardians) (1866) MQ/AL/4


    Correspondence mainly realting to the possible dissolution of the Salop-Montgomeryshire Union, proposed by Salop and eventually rejected by the Home Office Secretary (1873-1878) MQ/AL/5


    Mortgages on county rates towards additions to the Salop and Montgomeryshire Lunatic Asylum (1822-1885) MQ/AL/6


    Draft of a letter from the Clerk of the peace to Justice's Clerks requiring return from overseers of all lunatics in their parishes (1815) MQ/AL/7


    46th-56th annual reports (printed) of the Lunatic Asylum for Counties Salop and Montgomery 1891-1900 (1 volume) [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/X1


    Asylum papers 1889-91 regarding cahnges of Local Government Act 1889 including resolutions of Montgomeryshire Quarter Sessions 1846-73, report on Borough Agreements 1889, paper in Queen's Bench in matter of Local Government Act 1888 and in matter of County Council of Salop, legal opinions, agreements, correspondence [Acc No. 569 C/CAs] MC/CAS/X2


    Bundle of Local Government Board orders regarding asylum 1889-90 [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/X3


    Bundle of papers 1900-10 regarding possible dissolution of joint asylum, proposed enlargement of asylum at Bicton, minutes, reports [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/X4


    Copy of declaration of trust 1890 [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/X5


    Acknowledgement 1892 of advance of £1,500 for purposes of Bicton Asylum [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/X6


    Five asylum deeds 1907-9 [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/X7


    Draft agreement 1912 for sale of freehold hereditaments in parish of Forden, part of Lower Munlyn Farm; copy of minutes 12 November 1912; covering letter [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/X8


    Returns of pauper lunatics 1908, 1911 [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/R1-2]


    Patients ledger 1911-21: quarterly maintenance and rates expenses of pauper lunatics at asylums used by County (Powick, Cadiff, Bicton, Cotford). Names of patients by union and asylum [Acc No. 569. C/CAs] MC/CAS/R3


    These records are subject to closure periods of 30, 75 and 100 years

Sharing will require cookies. Show details

Found an error?

If you find an error with this record description let us know

Fields marked with * are mandatory.

Your details

If you provide your details, we will contact you within 10 working days if we cannot act on your suggestion