World Within Walls Project

The 'World Within Walls' project aims to remember St. Davnet's history and explore its evolution from District Asylum in 1869, to a psychiatric hospital and now to its present role as a modern community mental health services campus.

The project was commissioned by the HSE and delivered by Stair: An Irish History Company Ltd. The project was delivered between February 2014 and February 2015, and was designed as an outreach project to open up the history of the hospital to the community.

There are a number of elements to the World within Walls project, including:

Book: World Within Walls: From Asylum to Contemporary Mental Health Services

World Within Walls: From Asylum to Contemporary Mental Health Services

"The story of the psychiatric hospital in Monaghan is a fascinating one and it is exceptionally well-told in this erudite, insightful book. It is readily apparent that this is very much the story of an evolving institution, which changed greatly over time."

(Quote from the book’s foreword by Professor Brendan Kelly, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and historian of Irish psychiatry.)

World Within Walls:From Asylum to Contemporary Mental Health Services is a new book tracing the history and evolution of St. Davnet’s Hospital, Monaghan from District Asylum in 1869 to its current role as a modern community mental health campus.

The book, written by Anne MacLellan, Niamh Nic Ghabhann and Fiona Byrne recalls the history of St. Davnet’s through the hospital’s rich archival documents and the personal stories and memories of people connected to it. A number of people contributed to this narrative, including, staff, carers, individuals who experienced mental ill-health and those with family ties to the hospital. World Within Walls also has a chapter the architecture of St. Davnet’s, which reflects the changing ideas on design for healthcare over a period of about 150 years.

The book will be officially launched by Professor Brendan Kelly, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and historian of Irish psychiatry at  special event in the Iontas Theatre, Castleblayney on April 23.

Following the book launch the Iontas Centre will also host, 'Stories from the Front’, a theatrical performance which tells the personal stories of people who have experienced mental ill-health.

Copies of the book will be available on the night. It will also be available in local shops at a cost of €25.

Archiving of Records

Monaghan Asylum Minute Book

St. Davnet’s holds a very well preserved set of archives, of special note is the collection of the hospital's minute books. The listing, archiving and storing of existing records from the hospital was undertaken by Mr. Brian Donnelly, Head Archivist, National Archives Ireland in 2012. This project builds on this original piece of work to complete a full archiving and conservation of all the archival records.

The Project Reference Group, following a visit to the National Archives and consultation about processes around data protection and information management, recommended that all records of the hospital should be transported to and archived in the National Archive. This recommendation has been endorsed by the Cavan Monaghan Area Divisional Management team.

Oral Histories

Oral histories were gathered from past patients, present staff and retired staff to portray individual perceptions and experiences of those who lived and worked within the walls were taken. A chapter in the book is dedicated to these narrative stories breathing life into the pages of the book. A selection of edited clips will also augment the exhibition experience, where visitors will be able to listen to the stories about the site.

The archive of oral history interviews will remain the property of the HSE but will be stored, as recommended by the Project Reference Group, in the Digital Repository of Ireland and policies and procedures around access are currently being developed in compliance with Data Protection Legislation. The development of this repository of all the images gathered during the lifetime of the project and the oral histories is the first of its kind in Ireland and is therefore significant in preserving the social history of institutions.

Community Engagement

One of the pictures made at the community workshopOne of the pictures made at the community workshopOne of the pictures made at the community workshop

Community outreach has been a very important aspect of the project and the interaction and engagement of the general public key to the success of other project strands such as the oral history gathering, the exhibition, schools projects, community days, workshops etc. There is a huge local interest in the site and a sense of ownership of its history as many people grew up in, worked and lived in the hospital. It was paramount that their voices be incorporated into the project.


An educational interactive tool, website and online exhibition is being developed. This provides tools for teachers such as lessons plans and external resources.  Archival materials, photographs and audio clips have been digitised and uploaded to the site, further exhibits will be uploaded as the exhibition is developed.

The interactive learning tool development has been informed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) with regard to the curriculum, modules, templates. It is envisaged that this programme and tool can also be developed to full fill professional development requirements for teachers. The website is still work in progress and it is envisaged that it will be fully accessible in July 2015.



An exhibition, a joint partnership between the HSE and Monaghan County Museum, will be launched in heritage week on 14th May 2015 by Ms. Heather Humphries, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The exhibition includes personal effects of past patients from St. Davnet’s Hospital. It will provide an engaging, interactive and valuable insight into the history of St. Davnet’s Hospital and its evolution from District Asylum, to Monaghan Mental Hospital and in the latter years St. Davnet’s Hospital to the services of today.

Abstracts from oral histories, medical instruments, a glass wall painted by the community, items of daily living and personal artefacts will make up this exciting and vibrant exhibition.