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Cockermouth Post Article March 2011

We were contacted recently by Maureen Fisher of Lamplugh & District Heritage Society. Maureen is one of a group of former nurses who used to work at Dovenby Hall Hospital, which closed in 1997 as a hospital for the mentally handicapped. Maureen and her colleagues are writing a history of the hospital, which will focus on the people who worked and lived there. As someone who has worked there myself in the past, I can vouch for the unique place that it was, the closure of which was keenly felt by many. A moving, candle-lit Service of Thanksgiving was held outside the Main Hall on Saturday, 1st February 1997 Ė one candle for each of the sixty-five years of the Hospitalís existence. Dovenby Hall subsequently took on a new lease of life as the headquarters for Malcolm Wilsonís M-Sport organization. Part of the Hallís interior was converted to office accommodation, and a new 5,500 sq. metre car workshop was created, plus a new access road and lake. Prince Charles attended the official opening in 2001.

Prior to its hospital days, Dovenby Hall was once the principal residence of Dovenby village, situated in an estate of 115 acres (mainly woodland and parkland). The site passed down from the Dolphin family in the 12th century, via the Lucys and the Lamplughs, to the Ballantine Dykes family, who took over in 1791.

The Hall itself dates from 1154 and was built in three stages. The Norman pele tower, with its four feet thick walls, is the oldest part and is said to have been built with stones taken from the Roman road, which ran from Maryport to Papcastle through Dovenby village. In the 16th century a north and south lodge were added, and then in the 17th century further extensions were made to the rear of the hall, including the creation of a kitchen, staff quarters and additional living rooms for the owners. The estate even had its own railway station, which was used for transporting coal from the nearby Alice Pit to Maryport and Workington. The Hall was a private residence for most of its life (1154 - 1930), until its purchase by the Joint Committee for Carlisle, Cumberland, Westmorland and Carlisle Joint Committee for the Mentally Defective. Over the years the hospital slowly expanded and eventually had accommodation for 400 patients.

If anyone has any memories, photographs or other information regarding Dovenby Hallís life as a hospital, we would very much welcome these to pass on to Maureen and her colleagues. You can contact us by email ( or via our website:

Gloria Edwards

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