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Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dorset: Charlton Down (formerly Herrison Mental Hospital/ County 'Lunatic Asylum'); Herrison Hall, Charlton Down Village Hall



"Dorset County Lunatic Asylum, founded in 1832 in Herrison. In 1920 it became the Dorset County Mental Hospital, and in 1940 was renamed Herrison Hospital" Dorset Asylums

A survey (Pdf) of the conservation area available here (Dorset For You)


"Herrison Hall/Ballroom – built in 1894/5 to the design of G T Hine, an architect who along with the design of asylum buildings (see Greenwood House and Herrison House above) acquired a reputation for large and ornate recreation halls. In 2004, the hall was handed to the residents of Charlton Down to become their village hall and ballroom. At the northern end of the building, as part of the refurbishment, a new entrance, meeting rooms and other facilities were built, allowing full view of the hall from the new square and Sherren Avenue.

On plan, the red brick hall/ballroom is rectangular with a double pitched slate roof finished with decorative roof tiles that at either end have stone coped gables with stone kneelers and apex finials. The hall’s new red brick, north gable with its decorative panel overlooks the square, rising above the equally new red brick and slate lean-to front with its central gabled entrance and gabled slate and brick end wings that return alongside the hall itself. This still leaves both sides of the hall visible (stone weathered brick plinth, brick and stone weathered buttresses defining six window bays, tall round brick arched windows [some modified to provide side entrances] with timber frames and
stone cill banding, single brick banding above arches and above that, a moulded and dentilled brick eaves cornice).

The hall’s south gable end has three buttressed bays. The outer bays have a similar window arrangement to the sides. The central bay is defined by two taller brick buttresses with stone weathering that become piers supporting stone scrolls that abut either side of a raised brick panel with a brick pediment weathered with stone. Below the panel are two bands of moulded brick (stretching the full width of the gable) and a round headed, tall central window with its two tiers of uncusped tracery. Like the adjacent windows, the central window has moulded brick banding at the spring line of the arch and stone cill banding. Stained glass fills the top tier of the central window, whereas all other ballroom windows have a stained glass fanlight.

Inside the ballroom at the north end is the stage (basement underneath) with a moulded proscenium arch. Looking south from the stage, the window bays and piers are wrapped by a wainscot that meets a wooden floor.

Corresponding with the piers are eight timber trusses. Each pier has a moulded impost supporting curved braces to the lower of two collars. Between the two collars are seven turned struts and between the brace and principal rafter behind it, further timber uprights. A ceiling follows the line of the principal rafters and upper collar, thereby hiding king posts above. All the internal elements – roof trusses, form and rhythm of the windows, stained glass, wainscot, wooden floor, proscenium arch - come together to create an impressive communal space.

The Recreation Hall/Ballroom had an important recreational and convalescence role in the life of the hospital and today has significant communal use. It was designed by Hine, an architect renowned for asylum buildings, including halls, and has considerable historic and architectural interest as well as group value."

More information about the Asylum

BBC report

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