I worked in Friern Hospital in the ´70s for a year or so as a student psychiatric nurse. It was a mental hospital built originally in Victorian times as an asylum, and absolutely enormous. In the past it had been self sufficient with its own bakery, brewery, laundry and farm and several additional villas and had housed up to 2,500 patients. It reputedly had the longest corridor in Europe!
Quite frankly I did not enjoy my time there and gave up my course before qualifying. It was a pretty grim place and many of the patients had spent most of their lives there and were very institutionalized. If you had the time to chat to the patients there were some very sad stories as well as interesting ones. One very old lady had been seamstress to Queen Victoria and another, with a very upper-class accent, had run away from home to march with the suffragettes in London.
The hospital eventually closed down in the ´90s due, I believe, to the ´care in the community`initiative which meant many patients were discharged into the community and the demand for psychiatric hospital beds greatly decreased. While that sounds like a good idea I think many people fell through the cracks in the system. I can´t help wondering whether a thoroughly updated, bright and welcoming hospital wouldn´t be a better and safer option for them, especially those living on the streets.