The Northfield Hospital was a psychiatric hospital located at Tessal Lane, Northfield in Birmingham, England, and is famous primarily for the work on group psychotherapy that took place there in the years of the Second World War. Northfield Hospital was formed by the Rubery Hill and Hollymoor Hospitals, and closed in 1995.
Northfield hospital refers to both the Rubery Hill and Hollymoor Hospitals in Northfield. Dr Thomas Lyle oversaw the building of Rubery Hill hospital which opened in 1882 and he was appointed as its first Medical Superintendent. Hollymoor Hospital was built as an annexe to Rubery Lunatic Asylum by Birmingham Corporation and opened 6 May 1905. During the 1914–1918 Great War, Rubery Hill was commandeered and became known as the 1st Birmingham War Hospital.
During the Second World War, the hospital was again converted to a military hospital in 1940. In April 1942 it became a military psychiatric hospital and became known as Northfield Military Hospital.
By 1949 the Hollymoor Hospital was recognisably distinct from Rubery Hill Hospital. It held 590 patients, falling slowly to 490 by 1984, and then dropping rapidly to 139 by 1994. The hospital closed in 1995 and was largely demolished.
The Northfield experiments
In 1942, while Northfield was serving as a military hospital, psychoanalysts Wilfred Bion and John Rickman set up the first Northfield experiment. Bion and Rickman were in charge of the training and rehabilitation wing of Northfield, and ran the unit along the principles of group dynamics. The experiment had to close after six weeks as the military authorities did not approve of it and ordered the transfer of Bion and Rickman (who were members of the Royal Army Medical Corps). The second Northfield experiment, which was based on the ideas of Bion and Rickman and used group psychotherapy, was started the following year by Siegfried Foulkes, who was more successful at gaining the support of the military authorities. The experiments were important in the development of therapeutic communities.
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