I toddled round the ward giving sweets to old women and wondering why so many of them were clutching teddies. It taught me not to be scared of people with mental illness
I was two when my mum became a consultant psychiatrist at Lancaster Moor hospital. Opened in 1816 as Lancashire’s first “lunatic asylum”, it was a forbidding place, looming over the M6 like a gigantic haunted mansion. It had neo-gothic towers and echoey corridors and always felt deserted, even though there were still a thousand patients when Mum started working there.
At its peak, there were 3,200 people living inside its blackened walls, many in locked wards. Some had transferred from Lancaster Castle, a prison right in the centre of the city where the Pendle witches stood trial. The hospital complex was like a village: there were two churches, one Anglican and one Catholic, and it had a farm, a bowling green and its own generator.