DRAWINGS of gleeful cartoon characters still adorn a wall long abandoned in the derelict remains of a psychiatric hospital, once a secluded Brecon Beacons home for those society would rather lock away.

For over a century, what was originally the Brecon and Radnor Joint Counties Lunatic Asylum, housed hundreds suffering with little understood mental illnesses.

Opened in 1903, the Talgarth asylum was built in the grand style of the Victorian era that had just come to a close with the focus on self-sufficiency and isolation for its inhabitants.

They grew their own food, and piped private water, electricity and heating, walled off from the those who couldn’t, and didn’t want to, understand them.

Closed in 1999, the grand hospital has been left for nature to reclaim. Crumbling, waterlogged and strewn with furniture, Talgarth Mid Wales Hospital attracts interest from urban explorers and the occasional intrigued academic. Documentary maker Hugh Purcell is one of the latter.

A BBC man for three decades, Hugh has traversed the globe, deep-diving into historical projects for Radio Four, and the screen. Hugh’s latest work, titled ‘Up Top’, includes a focus on a particularly troubling period in the hospital’s shrouded history

During World War Two, men permanently terrified by the horrors of battle seldom met a sympathetic ear. Cast as cowards, many were banished to lunatic asylums peppered around the country. Many languished within the grounds of Talgarth.

Alongside these men, some of whom were mentally battered with what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), were Italian and German prisoners of war.

Hugh’s research has gleaned testimony from many former patients as well as nurses who worked at the hospital during the war years of 1939 to 1945. Now Brecon & Radnor Express readers who have memories of the hospital, particularly in the war years, are invited to contribute.

Hugh would like to hear from anyone who may have resided at the hospital, or those who may have any insight regarding Talgarth, particularly the hospital community, during the 1939-45 period.

Hugh said: “This creepy ruin was for 100 years the most important mental hospital in the border country. I want to cover its history from its time as an asylum that locked up lunatics, through the 1940s when it was the only hospital in the UK to treat mentally ill POWs from Germany and Italy, through the period I call ‘Brave New World’ when crazy operations were carried out to combat schizophrenia like brain lobotomies, to its last period when the hospital was emptied for ‘community care’.

“The Mid Wales Mental Hospital was nicknamed ‘Up Top’ as it was built above Talgarth. The double meaning is clear and it’s the title of my book.

“I have interviewed many former nurses and researched several archives. Now I am looking for former patients and those who may remember as children the hospital in the war years. Please get in touch with me through the Brecon & Radnor Express.

“I have lived in the area part time for 50 years, first near Hay and now near Brecon. I spent my career in the BBC and now I am a professional writer of history and biography. This is my sixth book.”

Anyone with information they feel could make a valuable contribution to Hugh’s book can get in touch with Hugh via the Brecon & Radnor Express by sending an email with their full contact details to [email protected].