A mass grave discovered at the old Ravenspark hospital site in Irvine last week has been ruled out as a crime scene by police.
The site at Sandy Road, Irvine, had initially been sealed off as police and forensic experts began investigations following the discovery of human remains by Dundas Estates contractors.
The building became part of the NHS in 1948 and renamed as Ravenspark hospital in 1958.
Prior to the NHS takeover, the former poorhouse was maintained by the local authority from 1930 as Cunninghame Home & Hospital.
It cared for the elderly, those suffering from mental health problems, and also acted as an asylum for the insane.
Ravenspark hospital was closed in 1996, remaining empty and derelict until the site was first sold for redevelopment at the start of the century.
As reported in last week’s Irvine Herald, local residents were stunned to see “bones and skulls everywhere”.
There were also rumours that full skeletons had been unearthed.
Speaking to the Irvine Herald this week, one local resident remembers visiting the hospital as a child while visiting a relative with their parents.
“The atmosphere was so depressing and the environment dark and gloomy.
“Some people seemed to have been literally left in the cornerand forgotten - there was no life for these patients.”
She went on: “Back then, mental illnesses were still a taboo subject.
“There were no treatments and people were unsure how to cope.
“It must have been a dreadful experience for those who were left to fade away; it was certainly harrowing to witness such scenes.”
The hospital building began life in the mid-nineteenth century as Cunninghame Combination Poorhouse, serving a number of parishes within North Ayrshire.
The poorhouse could initially accommodate 10 male and 10 female inmates, who were most likely to have been categorised as imbeciles or idiots.
In 1892, a report detailing the concerns of the then governor spoke of the indiscriminate burying of Protestant and Catholic paupers who died in the institution.
The report also stated that part of the garden had been used more than once and that there were no burial records that would allow families to erect a headstone if they wished.
Dundas Estates - who bought the land for redevelopment last year - said they had “spent a considerable amount of time investigating the history of the site”.
A spokesman for the company said:
“Current development plans have been approved by North Ayrshire Council and these plans protect and respect the graveyard.”
He added: “The graveyard has been allowed to become run down and overgrown and plans to create a scented Garden of Remembrance are being finalisedwith local authorities.
“Last week’s event has only reinforced the importance and sensitivity of the project.”
A police spokesman confirmed that police investigations surrounding the incident have now ended and building work will resume on the site this week .