The City of Newcastle upon Tyne and its’ neighbours at Durham, Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland were all authorities which were slow to respond to the 1845 Lunacy and County Asylums Acts which had obliged them to provide lunatic asylums. Until the new asylum was opened, Newcastle had utilised a number of private asylums in the Gateshead, Co. Durham area.The new asylum site was chosen in 1865.The asylum was designated as the County of Northumberland War Hospital by the military in 1914 and in addition to the medical and surgical cases accepted, 100 beds were also set aside for mental health patients. With the return of the civilian population the opportunity was taken to rename the asylum, which became the Newcastle upon Tyne City Mental Hospital.In line with surrounding authorities and the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 the Newcastle Corporation purchased a site at Shotley Bridge in order to provide facilities for so called mentally defective persons. Shotley Bridge was evacuated at the start of the 1939 War to serve as an Emergency Medical Services Hospital. After the War, the creation of the National Health Service 1948 meant the transfer of the Newcastle upon Tyne City Mental Hospital to the newly formed Newcastle Regional Hospital Board. The new management resulted in a change of name to the St. Nicholas Hospital.
As the Government’s policy of winding down large mental hospitals continued into the 1980’s the former female wing, previously the original asylum was gradually vacated and patients were concentrated into the 1890’s extensions. The chapel was destroyed by fire in 1986 and subsequently demolished, part of its’ site being developed in 1994 as the Ashgrove Nursing Home. The hospital continues to operate from the refurbished former male wing and a number of newer detached units in the grounds. The majority of the hospital grounds south of the main buildings are occupied by housing development.