What is Bangour?
Literally translated from the Celtic langauge, Bangour means “Hill of the Wild Goats”. Although there are no wild goats there today, Bangour Village Hospital still stands proud over 100 years since it’s construction. Located outside of Dechmont, West Lothian it’s 960 acre site was home to thousands of patients over the years. In 1902 the Edinburgh Lunancy Board purchased the 960 acre Bangour site, and by 1906 Bangour Village was officially opened by the Right Honorable Earl of Roseberry even although patients were being treated there since 1904.
Many additions and modifications were made to Bangour Hospital over the years but most interesting was the Wee Bangour Express constructed in 1905. Although only serving till after the first world war, Bangour’s own railway did a fine job carrying construction goods and latterly transporting wounded soldiers from the war. Not to be confused with the Village hospital, Bangour General was constructed in 1939 just to the North West of the village in order to cope with wounded soldiers from the second world war. Originally built as prefabricated huts Bangour General was only meant to last 10 years, but it excelled and outlived it’s expectancy and eventually closed (and now demolished) in 1990 with the construction of St John’s Hospital in neighboring Livingston.
Meanwhile, back in the village things were going from strength to strength. Bangour was at the forefront of psychiatric medicine and became a teaching ground for doctors and nurses. So much so that a nurses accommodation was constructed so that the nurses could live and and breathe their work. Sadly in the 1980s, with the advent of new technology and scientific findings, the need for an entire village dedicated to psychiatric medicine became less and less.
By the 1990s only a few villas (or wards) were still active. Bangour Village Hospital finally closed it’s doors 100 years after it was originally began treating patients. Villa 32 was the last villa to close, with Donald A.D. Macleod, consultant surgeon, closing Bangour General and Village Hospitals in March 2004.
Bangour first came to our attention in 2005 when filming began for the movie produced by George Clooney starring Keira Knightley and Adrien Brody called The Jacket. Producers chose Bangour Village Hospital to be used as their main filming location, doubling as an American mental institution where various physical restraints and torture are present, which is rather ironic seeing as Bangour prided itself as free of “American devices”. When we first visited Bangour in the summer of 2005 we were simply amazed that such a huge village existed. Just off the A89 at Dechmont you can only see a few buildings, you really can’t grasp how big Bangour is until you’ve walked the grounds. In actual size, including the wooded areas to the north, Bangour is 960 acres big and includes over 4 miles of road. When walking round Bangour it can sometimes be quite eerie, the whole place is just like a derelict village, as if the inhabitants just got up and left; bus shelters still bear the old timetables, the shop still sells in shillings, the phones still work and even the drugs are still in the drug cabinets. However you can’t escape the fact that at one point Bangour was once a thriving, peaceful community.
Bangour is now in a sorry state of affairs. After the filming of The Jacket was completed several other film companies requested permission form the NHS to film there. Unfortunately Bangour is now thought to have been bought over by Persimmon Homes who in turn are being overseen by the historical trust Burrell and Co. At present the plans are to demolish all non listed buildings and create luxury flats from the listed buildings aswell as constructing new ones.Iin the long run Burrell and Co. hope to turn Bangour into a thriving village once again, although hopefully this time without the lunatics. The police currently use Bangour as a training ground for their riot squads and to test their room breaching techniques, as well as this several guards are on duty 24/7 that patrol the grounds by car once every couple of hours, even during the night. If you wish to visit Bangour you are free to do so as there are no trespassing laws in Scotland, as long as you do not break and enter! In fact Bangour is now more popular than ever with many dog walkers choosing to exercise in the grounds.