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Former mental hospital inspires debut novel

By The Citizen  |  Posted: March 27, 2012

FASCINATION:   Andrew Godden  and his book, inset.

FASCINATION: Andrew Godden and his book, inset.

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THE eerie atmosphere of a former mental hospital has provided the inspiration for an author's first book.

Andrew Godden, 44, from Coleford, worked at the notorious Coney Hill Hospital for four years, starting when he was 19.

The asylum has since been closed down and turned into flats.

Andrew's debut novel, The Key to Kingsnorth Place, tells the tale of heroine Carrie who, when she moves to the book's eponymous location – a block of flats that was once an asylum, finds she can travel back to the 1930s.

There she meets heavily pregnant and apparently sane Emma Bishop, who is in danger of remaining in hospital against her will for the rest of her life.

"Coney Hill Hospital could be an eerie place to be, especially at night," said Andrew, who now works in mental health at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

"The book's not explicitly about Coney Hill but anyone reading it would probably recognise a few things.

"I have long been fascinated by the conversion of Coney Hill and Horton Road Hospitals into flats and have often thought of all the stories the walls could tell.

"Places like Coney Hill were used as a first resort, even just for people who had become pregnant out of wedlock, whereas now it's very much a last resort."

The book is on sale at Forest Bookshop in Coleford but Andrew, who has self-published it, hopes other outlets will pick it up.

The cover features a picture of his daughter Poppy looking up at the hospital's clock tower, taken by his son Ellis, a photography student.

"The book's aimed loosely at teenage girls but I think it will cross over into adult fiction," said Andrew.

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  • NoH8rsPls  |  March 27 2012, 8:13AM

    I have often wondered about the logic of centralising folk in that way. Surely the best way to push people over the edge would be to lock them in a place filled with insane people 24/7. Then again replace asylum and insanity with prison and criminality or hospital and illness...

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  • Polly_Willets  |  March 27 2012, 7:41AM

    I worked on occupational therapy (literally basket weaving) and geriatric ward for work experience while at school. (Ironic eh?) I was amazed to learn that many of the older patients had been admitted for things like 'spitting in the street', 'having sex before marraige' and many other misdemeanors that the youth of today accept as their right. These elderly people were so institutionalised there was no way they could be let back into the community. Being locked up, labled insane, had driven them insane. Catch 22...

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