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Woodilee Mental Asylum

Sat, 23 Jan 2010 01:52PM

Category: Trips & Visits

Written by Sarah | With 19 comments

I travel on the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow every weekday for university, and just before the train zooms past a village called Lenzie, there are these beautifully haunting ruins in a field right next to the train track. I always assumed they were separate buildings – perhaps a church, a town hall and some sort of bridge thing – that were abandoned years, if not centuries ago. There didn’t seem to be any roads up to it, and the whole place looked dead and forgotten.

Wondering what they were, I did some digging on the net, and found out they are the ruins of a mental asylum called Woodilee Hospital. Built in 1875, it became the largest psychiatric hospital in Scotland with over 1250 inmates. I shudder at the word ‘inmate’, I wonder what awful things they did to those people during the Victorian era. The hospital carried on until 1987 when structural defects were found in the building, and most of it was closed down. It finally shut down in 2000. The hospital owned a vast amount of land (167 acres) with 4 farms which was used as ‘work therapy’ for some patients until the 1960s. This has mostly all been sold off now to make way for a new development which aims to increase Lenzie’s population by 2000 people.

Jason and I took a trip to Lenzie yesterday to explore the ruins. As expected, very close by were construction sites and new factories and warehouses. We took a wrong turning and ended up at Lenzie cemetery and so had to walk through a warehouse estate, climb through a dense forest of thorny bushes and across a quite marshy field to get to a road which was totally iced over leading us to the asylum. The place was amazing – quiet and tranquil apart from huge numbers of crows which starting cawing every time we entered any building. It was a little creepy too, imagining all the things that happened there. Also, some distant ice-cream van starting playing its music every now and then, which seemed so oddly appropriate for this place of madness. Each building was surrounded by a so-called ‘fence’, but most of the fences were either pulled down or had massive holes for people to get in. The buildings were covered in graffiti and the ground swathed in beer cans and drinks bottles, but it didn’t take away from the amazingness of the place. It was difficult to comprehend that this had only been abandoned 10 years ago. I would have believed it to be a late Victorian ruin.

It’s unclear whether the place was blown up (none of the websites about it mention what happened after closing) but one website mentions the place had several fires in the 1990s and large parts of the site were demolished. I’m curious as to why they left the four parts of the building that still remain. I can understand leaving the main building and one of the side buildings, but why two ends of a corridor (once the longest continuous corridor in Europe)? There were bits of tile and brick scattered everywhere on the fields, and marble flooring in between the grass which suggests the hospital covered much more than what still stands. I’d love to get the original blueprints of the building to see what’s gone.

Below are some of the photos I took there. I wish I knew how to take artistic photos, and also had a good enough camera! I will definitely take up a photography course when I’m older and can afford it. Click to enlarge.


My dad worked as a charge nurse at Woodilee Hospital for over 30 years. After the war and a short time in the mines he became a nurse.  A few of my relatives spend most of their working lives here as well as many local people.  I new the hospital well but I am now really sad at the state of the area now. The place was very well kept and the gardens were beautiful.  My day is dead and so are many of his colleagues but I just wonder what they are thinking.  The graveyard you are refeerring to is called the Auld Aisle and is in Kirkintilloch.
frances duncan
Thu, 01 Jul 2010 07:05PM
My grandmother died at woodilee,I have tried to find her death certificate but have been sent someone elses same date of birth and name.Where would the records of this hospital ave been sent to after it closed.Very concerned granddaughter.Also where would my grandmother be buried with the hospital taking care of it,did they have ther own cemetary.Can anyone help.
kindest regard's.
Sun, 24 Oct 2010 04:05PM
I was put into woodilee as an unruly child to have some phsychiatric assessment, after not playing my part and answering their questions i was taken into a room, laid on a bed and told i was to be given a blood test and to look the other way as the needle went in, well..i was around thirteen, so i did and turned round in time to see them administer some fluid, which i realised sometime after was ( sodium pentathol) i sang like a canary, to have this happen to you at thirteen was nothing less than the rape of my mind and the destroying of any trust i might have had for any in authority for yrs to come.
I'm sure this is just one of many abuses that transpired from woodilee
Hugh Mavor
Sun, 07 Nov 2010 12:13PM
Hi. Im really interested in the old asylums too, I recently went to Kelvingrove Art Gallery , they have a small exhibit on the asylums, Gartloch , Woodilee , Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital etc, if you want to know a bit more about these places the Mitchell library in Glasgow might have blueprints of these and also pictures of the old buildings. I have a few of woodielee when it first opened and judging from your pictures about 95% of the original asylum has been demolished .
Iain Maclachlan
Thu, 13 Jan 2011 01:05AM
An interesting youtube vid showing how large the site is. The area is now being re developed as a housing estate with some 800 homes. The arches although listed could not be saved but the clock tower is to remain as a reminder of the sites history 

Mon, 28 Mar 2011 09:18PM
Yeah I've seen the new redeveloped site - they are building around the ruins! I don't understand how this will work long term - brand new houses next to a crumbling and dangerous ruin? I would find it incredibly creepy to live right next to the place.
Mon, 28 Mar 2011 09:48PM
From what ive heard the clock tower is to be kept and form the outside wall of a courtyard with appartments. the admin building will be the same similar to the main building at Gartloch hospital. The stonework from the arches will be used to create a new arches at the back of the courtyard and will be used to create benches in open spaces with plaques detailing there history. Its a shame they couldnt retain the original arches as the were a landmark
Mon, 28 Mar 2011 10:07PM
My dad worked as a nurse and later charge
Nurse in woodilee,he met my mother there,
She was a nurse in the verandas,that's what
They called the huge wooden buildings,
He retired in 1974.
John Waller
Thu, 04 Apr 2013 07:38PM
I worked in this hospital for a number of years, I worked as a nursing assistant then did my RMN training
I remenber it well, I also lived in the nurses home which also housed patients - interesting
all in all I worked there fo approx 4 years form 1979 -1983
Wed, 27 Nov 2013 09:18PM

I knew your dad George from Waterside.  My dad was Tommy Docherty from Hillhead.

Are you still in Kirkie, I live in Lenzie.

I think they would be shocked to see all the houses in the grounds now.

My dad worked there for 37 years and was off sick once.
Frances Duncanf
Sat, 10 May 2014 03:33PM
You should look up there now.  It is completely transformed.  I live near the Clocktower on Rutherford Drive. I enjoy looking up the history of Woodilee Hospital and have enjoyed your photos.
Jonathan Roman
Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:37AM
Hi I was reading all of these posts with interest.

I'm looking for information on my great uncle who was a patient at woodilee.

His name was John William Ramage known as Willie Ramage.

Can anyone help?
Paul McCarroll
Mon, 29 Dec 2014 09:10PM
My gran was an "inmate" at Woodilee too after apparently taken a breakdown. She passed away while there after a few years, and I've only found out recently that she was buried in a paupers grave in Auld Aile Cemetery with another 2 strangers.
We're looking into the process of getting her remains moved so she can be buried with some dignity.
In the cemetery near the coup, a row of conifer trees lines unmarked graves.
Terribly sad.
glynis boyle
Sun, 22 Mar 2015 10:44PM
My mum (Janice McLachlan) was a patient throughout the 70's, 80's and 90's, but by 97 they had built a new out building for paitents 
My mum told me some awful storys about ECT and how they made her mentally ill, she was just a troubled kid like most youths these days I cant begin to imagine the horrors but this hospital was HUGE when it was 1st built
Gavin McLachlan
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:05PM
My Great Great Grandfather died in Woodilee back in the day.  I wondered if they buried him close by.  Poor old fella.
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 05:56PM
I remember my first I started work at Woodilee Hospital.    It was something out of a horror movie. It was a snowy January morning 7am. I remember walking up that big long drive petrified. The crows, the trees the wind the atmosphere of the place !  When I knocked on this big door and it opened the smell almost made me faint. I was given a white coat and a big brass key, a cup of tea and a fag ( I didn't even smoke ).  How I got through that first day, I just don't know ?.  I cried on the bus home. Yet somehow I stayed on for my 3 years training.
Thu, 07 Jan 2016 10:52AM
Dear Frances Duncanf  
I'm trying to find out about my grandmother who was in woodilee & then Gartloch I believe, Catherine Hannah (haig) was her name, she played the piano there as well as being a patient from 21 year old until her death around 63 years of age, about 1973, very interested as to where she is laid to rest,
Jennifer Whelan
Thu, 18 Aug 2016 12:09PM
I've just discovered that my Gran was born in Woodilee in 1883. Her birth is registered in Lenzie in May 1883 and I've since discovered it was registered again 2 months later in another part of Glasgow.
Was Woodilee also used as a maternity hospital in 1880's or was her mother suffering from a mental illness whilst pregnant? 
Any information would help my search. Thank you
Vicky Chalmers
Thu, 29 Sep 2016 07:42PM
I worked as a nurse between 1981 -1985 at Woodilee. I was 19 yrs old when my training started. I will never forget my time there. it was the most scary, eye opening and interesting time of my life. I lived in the nurses home alongside patients. A lesson in life I will never forget.
Jane Robinson
Thu, 29 Sep 2016 11:23PM

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