The site of Towers Park lies in the former grounds of the Towers hospital, which was originally opened as the Leicester Borough Lunatic Asylum in 1869, admitting 274 patients. The hospital remained open for 144 years, covering two world wars and evolving scientific understanding of mental health. The asylum was renamed as the Towers Hospital in 1947 when it was expanded to hold 1,200 patients. The last patent left in 2000 and the hospital finally closed in 2013.
The grounds were an important part of the institution, covering 90 acres during its heyday. This included a full-working farm, orchards and greenhouses, all of which provided the hospital with additional funds through produce sales.
It also allowed residents the chance to work outdoors as part of their treatment, though this was halted in the 1960s.
Closer to the building were formally laid out gardens with large trees, paths and recreational activities for the patients, such as a pavilion and a sports ground.
Local people could not access the grounds until 2005 when the section that is now Towers Park was handed to Leicester City Council as a public open space. From 2017, improvement were made, such as the installation of an outdoor gym; now the whole park can be enjoyed by the general public.
The Making of the Asylum
Designed by the Borough Surveyor, Edward Loney Stephens, the asylum was built to house the growing number of Leicester’s ‘pauper lunatics’ with the land purchased in 1864 for £8000. The building occupied the estate and site of Victoria House at the junction of what is now Victoria Road East and Gipsy Lane. Originally, it was supposed to accommodate 100 known patients with space for 100 more over two storeys. This was increased to three storeys and men and women occupied separate wings; the building scheme finishing promptly in time for the first ten admissions on 2nd September 1869.