Watch: See inside this haunting former asylum

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The former asylum at High Royds in Menston is one of Yorkshire’s most controversial buildings.

The 300-acre estate opened in 1888 as a paupers’ asylum, and later became a psychiatric hospital.

The Gothic Victorian buildings contained a library, surgery, dispensary, butchery, dairy, bakery, shop and workshops, and there was also agricultural land used for growing produce. There was a ballroom used for musical entertainment, and an underground vault.

Patients lived in wards and worked on the farm or in the kitchen and laundry. The complex had its own spring-fed reservoir to provide a water supply.

The estate was connected to the nearby Wharfedale railway to Ilkley, but the private siding was closed in 1951. There was also a cemetery on the site for patient burials. Nearly 3,000 paupers are buried in a graveyard next to the railway, with a further 900 in unmarked graves in Guiseley.

High Royds eventually became unsuitable for mental health treatment, and was shut in 2003 and its services relocated. It has since been developed for residential use, and some of the housing is within the original listed buildings.

It has been used as a filming location for several productions, including the movie Asylum and television series No Angels, Bodies, Fat Friends, Heartbeat and The Royal.

David Jason's 2005 drama Diamond Geezer was also shot there, and local band the Kaiser Chiefs have written a song about High Royds, as three members attended school in Menston.

There has been controversy over various treatments given to patients at the asylum during its history, including the administration of shock therapy without anaesthetic. In the asylum's early years, before mental illness was considered treatable, inmates would be simply restrained and left in rooms, many of them until their deaths.

Billy Pearce.

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