Visitors to High Royds Asylum, now disguised as an extensive residential development, are at first impressed by the striking roofline complete with fairytale towers. Depsite its history now being hidden, the site was once a psychiatric hospital founded in 1888 and for more than a century, dominating all was the great clock tower, it’s solid bulk sparsely decorated with low battlements and heavy gothic arches.
The clock was manufactured by the great clockmaking dynasty Potts & Sons, who had been involved in the business since 1790. In 1847, William Potts was commissioned by Lord Grimthorpe to manufacture a clock for Ilkley Parish Church. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship which produced many introductions for further work with which Lord Grimthorpe was involved. The latter part of the Victorian era saw many large clocktowers being built. This was a pioneering age of order and discipline and the clock at High Royds was inescapable for inmates and staff alike. It served as both a landmark and practical feature. Try as they might, patients and workers could not escape the clock. Time had to be kept: this was an ordered institution.
Architect’s Narrative: "The Roof hipped with decorative iron finials has central tower (former water tower) which has 2 transomed windows to lower stage; clock in painted arched recess of several orders to upper stage; and machigolated, embattled parapet (formerly surmounted by timber framed, gabled water tank)."
Despite standing alone as a single reminder of the infamous West Pauper Lunatic Asylum institutions, much of the old building is still largely intact, including original mosaic tiling and majestic carvings. The gigantic clock tower has been restored to full working order, providing a sense of splendour from its stance over the other buildings. It remains locked away amidst the derelict, crumbling interior to present visitors with a truly unique statement of architectural authority as they enter the grounds of the residential estate. Within time, most people who live here will have forgotten what it once stood for.