VIDEO: Graylingwell heritage project launched

AN ‘UNBELIEVABLE’ array of artefacts was brought to the launch of a £99,000 heritage project on Saturday (April 26).

The doors of the Guildhall in Priory Park were thrown open to welcome people to share their memories of Graylingwell Hospital over the years, looking at how it had evolved.

Graylingwell Hospital

Graylingwell Hospital

Senior archivist at the West Sussex Record Office Sue Millard said: “I think it’s gone really well. We’ve had a continuous flow of people showing interest and lots of ideas and information to help us get the project off the ground and we’re looking forward to following them up.”

The goal of the day was to encourage people to share their memories, in order to help bring together a project which has seen the University of Chichester, the record office, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester Community Development Trust (CDT) come together.

One of the many highlights of the day saw the son of a former doctor at the psychiatric hospital turn up with numerous pieces of artwork, which patients at the hospital drew to help them with their therapy.

The find was of particular excitement to the Pallant House Gallery, which will be creating an exhibition on the hospital next year.

“Getting a body of artwork produced by patients is just unbelievable,” said the museum’s co-director, Marc Steene.

His thoughts were echoed by the trust director of the CDT, Clare de Bathe, who said the day was about getting people to share their memories.

“It’s delivered on that in abundance. Having a trove of artefacts there is unbelievable,” she said.

The project has been the recipient of a £99,200 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

At the launch on Saturday, the project’s manager, Sarah Rance-Riley, said it was very ‘gratifying’ to see so many people turning out with an interest in Graylingwell.

“We want to explore the past of the institution from 1894 to present, interpret the data relating to past events, explore experiences in lives of people, explore language associated with the asylum and mental health, offer the community a space for a dialogue with the past and to share new skills with community members.”

She added: “We hope that through this project we can help to start challenging notions of stigma associated with mental health issues.”

Each of the four partners has a key area of the project which they are going to focus on.

The project will last for a year up until May next year.

It will feature everything from a community arts programme, a heritage exhibition and a project booklet to be produced.

Also people’s recollections will be recorded and kept and a number of the patients’ records are being digitised.

Katherine Slay, of the record office, gave a talk on the hospital this week.

“Graylingwell has been such a key part of Chichester’s history for more than 100 years, and lots of people are interested in its history,” she said.

See next week’s paper for a feature detailing more of the work that will be undertaken.