Although not fully completed until 1853, the first patient, Jabez Jackson, was admitted from Derby Union Workhouse on 21st August 1851, into an asylum whose first Superintendent, Dr John Hitchman, adopted the humane treatment model which he would have used in his previous role as Superintendent of the female side of the Middlesex County Asylum (aka Hanwell/St Bernard’s) where the model was already being practised. Patients at Pastures were to enjoy a more humane, open and self-determinate regime than many asylums had adopted at this early stage. Indeed, Dr John Connelly, the widely influential Superintendent of Hanwell had advised the Derbyshire Committee on the designs and cited the building as the first example of a County Asylum having been “in almost every material point accordant with the principles maintained” in his seminal book which covered the subject in microscopic detail.
Pastures was built in a Jacobean style. The admin block contained a room for the Superintendent and other officers, as well as private meeting rooms, visiting rooms, and a larger Committee meeting room. Initially, there were 12 wards with six each for male and female patients. A chapel for 200 sat to the rear of admin block, together with a recreation hall. Pastures was ahead of its time in terms of the integration of patients into the wider community, and as the asylum was a significant boon to the village of Mickleover, providing much work and social activity for the following century and a half, patients too became unusually involved in village life from a very early stage. While integration into the wider surrounding community became much more common at most asylums during the later 20th Century, Pastures’ patient were encouraged from the outset to become involved in local sport and recreational activities. Dr Hitchman was to become skilled in animal husbandry, and founded the Derbyshire Agricultural Show alongside local farmers and land-owners. During the summer, patients were taken to concerts at Derby Arboretum, and an annual picnic to Matlock Baths.
Between 1854 and 1875, three sets of extensions were made, adding new wards to the building. In 1869, a new detached chapel was built, along with a small new boiler house to heat it, and the space in the old chapel was knocked-through to enlarge the recreation hall. A new separate water tower was built in 1879, with a fire engine located beneath it. Derby Borough would go on to build its own asylum, Kingsway, in 1888.
New wards were added in 1895, and yet more in 1905, doubling the building’s patient capacity to around 600, and in 1918, the site became formally re-titled Derby County Mental Hospital.
The ornate water towers and clock were taken down in the 1960’s and the Pastures was wound down throughout the 1980’s in keeping with national plans to close all the old asylums and provide “Care in the Community”, finally closing in 1994. The main 1851 building and chapel were retained and converted to luxury housing, with extensions, annexes and outbuildings mostly demolished.