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Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteMiddlesex Asylums


Hanwell Lunatic Asylum

In the Parish of Norwood is the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum, belonging to the County of London, first erected in 1829-1831, but since repeatedly enlarged and greatly improved. The building is constructed of brick in a simple Italian style, and consists of a central block with projecting wings at either end, both in front and rear are spacious grounds laid out with lawns and avenues of trees. The different wards are well equipped with books and games and musical instruments. The asylum will hold about 2,520 inmates. The Chapel, in front of the main entrance, erected in 1880, is an edifice of brick, in the early English style, and has a lofty tower with spire containing one bell. There are about 1,000 sittings.

LINK to map of Hanwell Asylum

Colney Hatch

At Colney Hatch, otherwise New Southgate, is the Lunatic Asylum for the County of London, a fine structure of brick, with stone decorations, in the Italian style, from designs by Mr. S. W. Daukes, architect, the first stone of which was lain by the late Prince Consort on May 8th 1849, and the patients received July 17th 1851. 

The building, erected at a cost of about £400,000 covers upwards of four acres and will hold above 2,000 patients. The principle front, facing northwards, is nearly 2,000 feet in length, and is flanked at either end by a ventilating tower. In the centre is the Chapel, a spacious oblong chamber seating 600 persons. There are also residences for the officers, farm buildings, airing courts, Laundry, gas and water works, workshop, yards and lodges, the whole covering nearly 20 acres, and with kitchen garden, burial ground, and other land belonging to the establishment, and area altogether of about 119 acres, and also has a farm of 160 acres. The cemetery was consecrated by Bishop Blomfield in 1851.

This asylum is for the reception of pauper lunatics only, chargeable to parishes in the County of London, as provided by the "Local Government Act 1888" and required by the "Act 16 & 17 Vict,c.97" and is under the management of a committee of Visitors.

Moorcroft Lunatic Asylum 
This Asylum contains 40 inmates. (Post Office 1846)

Kelly's Directory 


The Board also has charge of 1,059 mental patients, 27 of whom are maintqined at Edmonton and 1,032 in 17 Asylums, at a weekly charge varying from 10s. 6d to 19s. 3d. per patient. The great majority, however, (818 are at Napsbury Asylum, at a cost of 11s. 1d each.A grant of 4s per week per patient is received from the county rate.  


One of the most difficult and expensive of tasks entrusted to the County Council ( Middlesex) is the treatment of lunacy. In 1891, 16 in 10,000 were admitted to Asylums; in 1907 the figure had increased to 21 per 10,1000. During this time (1911), the population increased 81.2 per cent.,and admissions to Asylums increased 144 per cent.

1.  Napsbury, near St Albans. Opened June 3, 1905. Already practically full. An estate of 432 acres, 100 occupied by buildings and  gardens.

            The cost, including land and equipment, was £545,000, or £473 per bed.    There is accomodation for 1,205 persons. Applications increase at the  rate of 142 per annum, and plans have been passed for buildings to           accomodate 582 more patients.
Medical Superintendent.  - Dr L. W. Rolleston
Clerk and Steward - H. G. Armour.

2. Wandsworth, SW. An estate of 141 acres , taken over from London; 28 acres are occupied by buildings. The accomodation is for 1,214 patients.
 Medical Superintendent. - Dr H. Gardiner Hill.
Clerk. -T.W. Beale, Beechcroft Road, Upper Tooting, SW.


The humanitarian spirit which has been infused in modern times in our penal and poor law establishments, has also wrought a beneficial change in the treatment of the insane. There was a time, some three generations ago, when the insane were badgered from pillar to post, as though they were wild animals. Those who were confined in asylums were in no better plight; confinement in chains in noisesome dungeons, with heartless whippings, were part of the general routine of some of these places of horror.

            It was in these unenlightened days that the unfortunayte inmates of some asylums were exhibited to the idle curious, who paid an admission fee to watch their terrible frenzied contortions. The reformation of this unnatural  system was commenced in France by M. Phillippe Pinel, a benevolent physician. In this country a parliamentary enquiry, in 1815, into thwe barbarities practised in the treatment of the insane led to a slow and steady improvement. The general management of the asylums has been brought into harmony with humanity and common sense. Private asylums, which were formerly the scenes of grave scandals, are now under proper supervision. The various county institutions are fully equipped for the rational treatment of those mentally afflicted. Handsome buildings in spacious grounds have been provided, the inmates living under comfortable conditions, amidst artistic surroundings, whilst they wre givena sense of freedom as far as is compatible with saftey. Every opportunity is afforded, by means of healthy outdoor occupations and skilled attention, for the return to sanity and self control, especially in the early stages of brain failure. Farm work and gardening are found to be very useful in many casees, whilst every facility is provided in the way of recreation both summer and winter. The institutions have come to be regarded more in the nature of mind hospitals than houses of detention; in fact, in some counties the title “asylum” has been altogether abolished. Every care is also taken that only really insane people are deprived of their liberty. The principle central supervision  over the asylums in England and Wales is vested in the Lord Chancellor, and in the Commissioners of Lunacy, appointed by him. The Commissioners inspect all establishments to see that the regulations for the welfare of he patients are properly framed and administered. They investigate complaints made by patients, and have the power to grant discharges. A lunatic can be placed under restraint either under a reception order or by inquisition. A reception order is made by a Justice of the Peace on petition or on a summary process. A lunatic may be detained in a workhouse or an asylum for fourteen days on the certificate of the medical officer. For a permanent detention, an order of the Justice of the Peace is required. Inquisitions are practically held only when the patients have considerable property.

            Figures show that the number of certified lunatics is increasing in this country to an extent that must cause anxiety. In fifteen yearsthe percentage per 10.000 of the population rose from 30.3 to 35.7. Although the statistics in recent years show an increase in the number of inmates, this is partly due to  the fact that many of the feeble-minded who were formerly placed in workhouses are now sent to the asylums to relieve the local rates. Owing to the improved  conditrions, the public have less apprehension in allowing their relatives to be sent to these institutions. Other important factors are the large proportion of  incurables among the admissions; also the difficulty of obtaining homes  for the cases of more favourable types when they have partially recovered. As a rule their friends are too poor to make provision for them. With this great growth, the public mind has been directed to dealing with it at the two extremities. In Scotland something is done  by means of homes for preliminary cases. In some cases where the mental weakness is due to overwork or temporary worries, the sufferer is saved from the stigma of asylum detention. The large percentage of relapses has led a philanthropist to endeavour to relieve the situation by anither direction, and that is by the after care of the patients who have recovered, but are not entirely competent to resume the battle of life. This method of dealing with the difficulty is likely to be extended, as it  is receiving the enthusiastic support of sociologists.

Extract taken from the 1911 District Handbook Ratepayers’ Guide and Almanack for Bowes Park, Palmers Green, Southgate, Winchmore Hill and New Southgate
Submitted by Anthea Greenaway


Page updated March 12, 2008 by Rossbret