Our Lady’s Hospital Cork – Formerly Eglinton Asylum
Our Lady’s Hospital, formerly Eglinton Asylum, Cork was originally built to house 500 patients and was the largest of seven district lunatic asylums commissioned by the Board of Public Works in the late 1840s to supplement the nine establishments erected by Johnston and Murray between 1820 and 1835.
Like the earlier buildings, the new institutions were corridor type asylums, but with the emphasis on wards rather than cells. There was a noticeable change in style from Classical to Gothic. Designed by local architect William Atkins, when it opened in 1852 it was one of the longest buildings in Ireland at almost 1000 feet. The building was originally designed as three separate ranges, the construction taking five years.
The ranges were linked by low arcades which also linked a chapel and refectory hall set behind the main buildings. These were arranged so that the gable of the hall and spire of the chapel were visible from the front. The whole ensemble had six staircase towers and numerous gables. In 1861 Atkins was forced to link the main blocks to provide more accommodation thus giving the building an almost unending facade in the process.
The elevated site overlooking the River Lee at Shanakiel, appears to have been chosen by the local Governors for dramatic effect rather than practicality, great difficulty was encountered in providing exercise yards on the steep slope to the river. The vast institution was named after the Earl of Eglinton, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the construction cost including the purchase of land was £79,827. 1/5d. Currently the hospital which closed in 1988 is partly converted into contemporary apartments and appropriately named Atkins Hall in reference to the original architect.