A site for the Durham county asylum was purchased in 1855 at Far Winterton to the north of Sedgefield which had been occupied by Well Garth Farm and Winterton Mill. Designed by John Howison, a 300 bed, 3 storey corridor plan asylum, facing south was erected comprising of central administrative block, chapel and superintendent’s quarters surmounted by a clock tower, with male wards to the west, females to the east and services behind. A stewards residence, gas works and a terrace of six cottages for married attendants were located in the grounds with the main entrance gates and lodge erected to the north east. The style used was Elizabethan, built in red brick with white brick dressings and embellished with a distinctive ventilation tower at the end of each wing.
Between 1875-80 a major extension programme with William Crozier Jr. as architect took place, based around a pavilion-plan chronic asylum annexe in Italianate style, to the south west of the grounds, creating space for a further 400 patients and including a centrally sited medical officer’s block and recreation hall. Lodges were placed to the east and west of the drive serving the annexe (known as the Winterton block), with another constructed to serve the original service drive to the north east of the site. A water tower and stables were added to the north of the main asylum with a further six cottages for attendants on Salters Lane. A replacement chapel (dedicated to St. Luke) for 700 inmates was located on the new drive linking the main and chronic asylums was completed for use in 1884.
Additional two storey wings to male and female sides of the main building to increase it’s capacity were followed by a new superintendent’s residence (The Gables) to free up space in the administration block and a cemetery and mortuary chapel on the opposite side of Salters Lane in 1891-3. The removal of Sunderland County Borough patients to their own asylum at Ryhope also freed further space. A new main stores and pair of villas were constructed in 1901, with a further pair following in 1904, with an isolation hospital. A nurse’s residence was built in 1906 on land to the north-east of the female side. of the main asylum. Gateshead patients were removed to new premises in 1914 on the opening of that borough’s asylum at Stannington.
A second major plan of expansion occured between 1932-4, providing an admission hospital and separate administration block, located in the north west of the site. Lodges to the north-west, west, south west, and south east being rebuilt and officers residences constructed opposite the entrance to the Winterton block. A villa for male patients working on the farm was situated across the fields to the north of the main entrance.
South Shields and West Hartlepool County Boroughs relocated their respective patients to the expanded Gateshead premises at Stannington in 1939. World War II saw the construction of a hutted emergency medical services hospital between the farm villa and main building, which would later develop into Sedgefield General hospital. Both this and the mental hospital were incorporated into the National Health Service on its inception in 1948. At the peak of inpatient numbers in 1954, approximately 2000 patients occupied the hospital.
Under the NHS the main and Winterton blocks were modified and a day/treatment unit, nurse training school, and patients social centre incorporating a library and shop were built within the grounds between 1964 and 1972. The superintendent’s residence was converted to a staff social club. With resettlement taking place the chapel closed and the hospital gradually retracted from the south west with services concentrated in the original building and admission hospital.
Following closure of long stay facilities, the majority of buildings were demolished with the main building and its outbuildings being replaced by new business premises. The Winterton block, gardens department and much of the surrounding grounds have been replaced by modern housing. The lodges, now privately occupied survive to the west, south-west and south-east, as do the two blocks of attendants cottages on Salter’s Lane. The hospital cemetery also remains although the mortuary chapel has been removed. St. Luke’s Chapel is listed Grade II and has been converted to a new usage. Mental health services continued to occupy the admission hospital for some years, but have now been replaced and the buildings cleared. The adjacent Sedgefield general hospital has been demolished leaving two staff residences and the farm villa currently derelict.