Starcross Hospital

What the voices tell us

Editor: Caroline Hill

The Poor Law that incarcerated disabled people and the poor in Workhouses, then the expansion of institutionalisation through the 1930s onwards and the takeover of asylums as hospitals in the creation of the NHS, left us with a terrible, but very important legacy. We have an obligation to remember what society did to disabled people, to people with learning difficulties and to their families; especially as there are worrying signs of a return to some of the misplaced values that created the institutions. We are thankful to those like David King and Caroline Hill who are helping us to remember, appreciate the realities and avoid making the same mistakes again.

From the Foreword:

A case study about moving to Care in the Community, written by David King, was published by the Nuffield Trust in 1991. It sought to describe how and why the institutions around Exeter, in Devon, were closed in the 1980s, and to inspire and enable other health areas to follow suit.

It was written from the perspective of overseeing the push from hospital to community care, as David was at the helm of the Exeter Health Authority throughout this period, before moving to New Zealand where he would lead similar change.

Before the first of the institutional hospitals in the Exeter area closed – the Royal Western Counties Hospital at Starcross – David set in train a project to create an oral archive. Now, the opportunity has come to publish extracts from the interviews alongside a commentary drawn from David’s words – from then (1988 and 1989), from 1991, and with fresh eyes from 2020.

I hope this will be a useful companion to the 1991 publication but also a tribute to those who lived and worked at Starcross Hospital as well as a window on an important part of the social history of the village of Starcross.

Read and download the free pdf in your browser, link below.

The publisher is Caroline Hill.

Starcross Hospital: What the voices tell us © Caroline Hill 2020.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.


Paper | 22.03.21

Deinstitutionalisation, intellectual disabilities, social care, England, Paper

Jan Walmsley


Independent researcher

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