A Guide to Using the Records

This guide has been designed to assist researchers in navigating and using the North Wales Hospital collection. It is broken down into subject area and guides researchers to records which may be useful to their area of interest.

This guide is not an exhaustive list of every record in the collection, and researchers are encouraged to explore the full collection catalogue alongside this subject guide.

Please note that patient and staff records containing sensitive personal information are closed to the public for up to 100 years. These records may be available to researchers who belong to an academic institution upon request. See our hospital record access conditions for further details.


This collection includes terms that would now be considered derogatory or offensive. These terms reflect the language and attitudes of their time and should be viewed in historical context.

How to Search for a Patient

Reception Orders

Patient reception orders provided evidence that a patient was ‘certified insane’. They include personal information and details of the patient’s symptoms before they were admitted to the hospital.

The reception order is the first record of the patient’s time at the hospital, and can be used alongside other records, such as case notes, to find out more about the patient’s care.

An index of the patient reception orders dating from 1848 to 1914 can be found online. See the collection catalogue for an index to these records.

Admission Registers

The admission registers record details of a patient’s admission into the hospital. They are usually arranged by date of admission and include personal details about the patient including patient number, name, age, place of previous abode, marital status, and details of date of discharge or death. Up until 1907 the admission registers include details of a patient’s medical condition. After 1907 medical details were recorded in a separate series of medical registers.

The admission registers are divided into different sub categories of patients including private, pauper, certified, temporary, and voluntary patients. See the collection catalogue for further details about the different categories of patients.

Patient Case Books and Files

The patient case books and files are the most informative records about a patient’s time at the hospital. They are arranged either by date of admission or alphabetically. They vary in format but usually contain personal details about a patient including name, age, date of admission, medical condition, an examination of the patient upon admission, and reports of the progress of the patient written at various intervals during their stay.

The patient case books and files are numerous, and information about patients should first be sought in other records. Knowledge of an individual’s patient number or date of admission will be advantageous in searching the case books and files. This information may be found in the reception orders and admission registers.

Registers of Discharges, Transfers, and Deaths

The registers of discharges, transfers and deaths are usually the last record of a patient as they leave the hospital. They are usually arranged chronologically by date of discharge, transfer, or death. They can be easily searched if a person’s date of discharge or death is known. The registers include details of patient name, and details of the type of discharge or transfer, or the cause of death.   


Unlike some asylum and hospital collections, the North Wales Hospital collection does not contain a photograph of each individual patient. The collection includes around 60 photographs which can be found in the Photographic and Audio Visual Material section. See the collection catalogue for individual descriptions of these records.

How to Search for a Member of Staff

Staff Application Forms

The staff application forms include personal details about the applicant, including name, address, age, skills, previous employment history, and the position they were applying for. They usually also contain testimonials about the applicant for family or previous employers. See the collection catalogue for an index to these records.

Staff Files

The staff files vary in format but usually contain information relating to the name of the staff member, occupation, starting and leaving dates, and employment history. Some files may also contain additional documents such as correspondence, application forms and information regarding pensions.  

How to Find Out More about the Hospital

Committee Minutes

The minutes of the hospitals committee and sub committees date from 1848 to 1969. The committee and sub committee minutes contain information relating to the management and running of the hospital, they do not contain information relating to individual patients.

From 1848 to 1948 the hospital was managed by a Committee of Visitors who had a statutory and financial responsibility for the hospital and were legally required to inspect the asylum regularly. After the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 the Committee of Visitors was replaced by the North Wales Hospital Management Committee. The new committee also took responsibility for the Mental Deficiency Institutions of Coed Du, Broughton, Llwyn View in Dolgellau, Fronfraith House and later Garth Angharad and Oakwood Park. In 1967 the former Hospital Management Committee was dissolved and replaced by the Clywd and Deeside Hospital Management Committee, which was responsible for a number of hospitals in the area.

There is an index to some of the minutes within each volume. Some volumes have separate index books. Where a separate index to the minutes exists this has been noted in the item description. See the collection catalogue for further information.

Annual Reports

The annual reports were produced at the end of each year. They contain numerous reports from various members of staff and external governing organisations. They do not contain information relating to individual patients.

The content of the annual reports changes over time, the types of reports and information that may be found are:

  • Report of the Committee of Visitors/Report of the North Wales Hospital Management Committee: These reports contain statistics relating to admissions, discharges, and deaths. They may also include reports on procedural and administrative changes, reports on the condition of the building, and reports on changes in staff.
  • Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy/Report of the Commissioners of the Board of Control: These reports present on the findings of the hospitals annual inspection and recommend areas for improvements. The reports usually examine areas such as patient care, health and safety, and building maintenance.
  • Medical Superintendents Annual Report: Reports on admissions, discharges, deaths, diagnoses, and treatments. The report includes information about special treatments such as Electroconvulsive therapy, insulin therapy, and prefrontal leucotomies. The report also examines the general health of the hospital and reports on any infectious diseases. The report may also examine patient employment and recreation, changes in staff, outpatient services, and building alterations and improvements.
  • Clerk and Stewards Report: This report examines the finances of the asylum looking at various accounts and supplies.
  • Annual Financial Statement: This report includes details of the hospital annual financial accounts.
  • North Wales Child Guidance Clinics reports: These reports appear from 1952, they report on the work of the clinics during the previous year. They include information on the schedule of the clinics, staffing, patients including the reasons for referral, diagnosis, and statistics of attendances.
  • Report on the Mental Deficiency Institutions: These reports are included from 1953, they include a brief report on the facilities available at each institution, and changes to the institutions over the previous year.
  • Appendices: The appendices usually include various tables showing changes to the patient population, numbers of admissions, discharges and deaths, cause of deaths, the probable causes of mental illnesses, age of patients on admission, the marital status of patients, occupation of patients prior to admission, patients religion, and the employment of patients within the hospital.

Please note this list is not exhaustive, see the collection catalogue for further details of the contents of each annual report.

Building, Redevelopment, and Maintenance Records

These records are one of the most informative series of records relating to the construction, development, and maintenance of the hospital building. Dating from the initial building of the hospital in 1843, they cover a long period of the hospital’s history up to 1980. These records are the only source of information relating to the initial design and construction of the hospital as none of the original building plans have survived.

These records include logs of the work carried out in building, altering, enlarging and repairing the hospital, contract and order books, correspondence, building maintenance manuals, and paintings of proposed colour schemes for the interior of the hospital. The information contained within these records varies, see the collection catalogue for further details of the content of each record.

Maps and Plans

The extensive series of maps and plans relate to the hospital building, other sites owned by the hospital, and the surrounding area. The collection includes ordnance survey maps of the hospital and the surrounding area. The collection also includes plans of building work and developments to the interior and exterior of the hospital.

There are also plans of other sites owned by the hospital including Gwynfryn Reception Hospital, and Pool Park Hospital. Where the information is available, the description for each record has recorded drawing numbers, sheet numbers and the names of the architects.

Please note that none of the original building plans for the hospital have survived, for a description of the original plans see the building, redevelopment, and maintenance records.