Sad Places: Old Langho Church & Brockhall Hospital Memorial

I paid a visit to Old Langho this week. There’s not much there: a few farms, cottages, a pub and a redundant church.

The church was built in 1557, at the time of Bloody Mary, so it must be one of the last churches to be built that served as Roman Catholic before Elizabeth I again reformed them the following year. The 1500s saw few religious buildings being constructed, but a great many being pulled own. It’s pleasant enough, with a simple exterior, the wood and stonework possibly coming from the nearby dissolved Whalley Abbey.

A stone’s throw from the church stands another reminder of a previous age, perhaps even sadder than the redundant place of worship. Brockhall Hospital is commemorated by a large stone memorial, which lists all the inmates who died there, buried in that field close by the church. It gives the hospital’s various names, each one subsequently mellowing in tone, showing the (slightly) increased compassion British society felt for people with low intelligence quotient:


Lancashire Inebriates Reformatory (1904)

Brockhall Hospital for Mental Defectives (1915)

Brockhall Hospital for the Mentally Subnormal (1959)

Brockhall Hospital for Mentally Handicapped People (1974)

Brockhall Hospital for People with Learning Disabilities (1991)

It goes on to state:

In an isolated institution located to the north east of this stone there lived from 1904 to 1992 a large number of people who were thought to be too strange, too difficult or too challenging to be cared for in their own communities… although those who lived there carried heavier burdens than most they were part of our common family. Brockhall Hospital closed its doors in 1992 and the land on which it stood was acquired by Gerald Shimon Hitman of Newcastle upon Tyne who raised this stone as a memorial to those who ended their days in the hospital and are buried here.

It concludes with a heart-warming prayer:

God full of compassion grant perfect rest beneath the shelter of your presence to these your children who have gone to their eternal home. Master of mercy, cover them in the shelter of your wings forever and bind their souls into the gathering of life. It is the Lord who is their heritage. May they be at peace in their place of rest.

The hospital closed within a year of receiving its kinder name, and its patients were cared for in the community, where they rightly belonged. In Jesus’ parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25, people with learning disabilities are not seemingly mentioned:

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

I prefer to think they are mentioned six times. 

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’