4 Extra Debut. Barbara Taylor documents her own breakdown revisiting Europe’s largest former asylum after it had been turned into luxury flats. Read by Maggie Steed.
The Last Asylum begins with Barbara Taylor's visit to the innocuously named Princess Park Manor in Friern Barnet, North London - a place of luxury flats and careful landscaping. But this is the former site of one of England's most infamous lunatic asylums, the Middlesex County Pauper Lunatic Aslyum at Colney Hatch. At its peak, this asylum housed nearly 3,000 patients - including, in the late 1980s, Barbara Taylor herself.
Writing about The Last Asylum, Booker prize winner and memoirist, Hilary Mantel said, ''We believe our response to mental illness is more enlightened, kinder and effective than that of the Victorians who built the asylums. Can we be sure? Barbara Taylor challenges complacency, exposes shallow thinking, and points out the flaws and dangers of treatment on the cheap. It is a wise, considered and timely book'
Darian Leader has described it as 'Superb, Riveting, insightful and relentlessly honest'.
At its founding in 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition, Colney Hatch was the largest asylum in Europe. When Barbara Taylor revisited it years after her own stay there, it had been converted into luxury flats.
Reader: Maggie Steed
Abridged and produced by: Jill Waters
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4
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