Hanwell Asylum

Hanwell Asylum

The (1st Middlesex) County Asylum at Hanwell, also known as Hanwell Insane Asylum, was built for the pauper insane and has evolved to become the West London Mental Health (NHS) Trust (WLMHT). The 2nd Middlesex was Colney Hatch Asylum, opened in 1851, and the 3rd was Banstead Asylum in Surrey, opened in 1877.

Its first superintendent became famous in his own lifetime for his pioneering work and his adherence to his 'great principle of therapeutic employment' (developed at his previous post at Warwickshire Asylum). His many sceptical contemporaries were amazed that at Hanwell such therapy speeded up recovery. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2002) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/ "Ellis, Sir William Charles"] accessed 2006-08-31] This greatly pleased the visiting Justices of the Peace (JPs) as it ultimately reduced the long term costs of keeping each patient. Under the third superintendent John Conolly the institution became world famous for being the first 'large' asylum to totally dispense with all mechanical restraints. [cite book
last = Bynum
first = W.F
coauthors =Porter, Roy; Shepherd, Michael
title = The anatomy of madness: Essays in the history of psychiatry. Vol III; The asylum and its psychiatry.
publisher = Routledge
year = 1988
location = London
pages = pg 194
id = ISBN 0-415-00859-X
] [cite book
last = Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =
publisher = Oxford University Press
date = 2004-09-23
location = England
pages =980
url = http://www.oxforddnb.com
doi =
id =ISBN 0-19-861411-X

It lies next to the village of Hanwell from which it gets its name but parochially belongs to the suburb of Southall (and before a boundary change it was in Norwood). [cite book
last =Hounsell
first =Peter
title =Ealing and Hanwell Past
origyear =1991
format =Hardback
publisher =Historical Publications Ltd
location =London UK
id =ISBN 0-948667-13-3
] It is some eight and a half miles from London which lies to the south east and six and a half from Uxbridge to the west. (O/S map ed 1896)

Location map|Greater London
label =
lat = 51.51
long = -0.35
caption = Map showing the location of Hanwell Asylum within Greater London.
float = right
background = white
width = 200
The building is well situated on a gently sloping 'river gravel terrace' which is a common feature of the Thames river valley. This terrace was formed during the cold wet periglacial periods of the quaternary. The land immediately to the east was further cut down by the River Brent, which still flows alone its eastern perimeter. At its southern boundary is the Grand Union Canal and a flight of six locks. Both the southern wall of the old asylum and the flight of locks have been designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument. [cite web
last = British Waterways
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Hanwell Flight Of Locks
work = Environment Heritage
publisher =
date =
url = http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk/london/environment_heritage/hanwell.html
format =
doi =
accessdate =2006-09-26
] This meets the western boundary of Windmill Lane at the Three Bridges, (which is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument). Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened in 1859, it consists of a cast-iron trough carrying the Grand Union Canal over the Great Western Railway and a cast-iron bridge carrying the public highway Windmill Lane over the other two. So, it is actually only two bridges.

Today the building also serves as the head offices of the West London Mental Health NHS Trust (WLMHT). Although the on-site facilities have been reduced and scaled down from what was once the world's largest asylum, it is still very much involved with the treatment and research into serious mental distress. A prior trust created the London West Mental Health R&D Consortium [cite web
last =London West Mental Health R&D C onsortium
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title =Home page
work =
publisher =
date =
url =http://www.lwmhr-d.nhs.uk/
format =
doi =
accessdate =2006-09-26
] which also has its administrative base there. On the land released by scaling down the old mental hospital, there is now a complex of other buildings known as Ealing Hospital NHS Trust built on the old asylum's recreational grounds and cycle track to the east. At the back of the main building are some disused wards that still belong to the Regional Health Authority.

The WLMHT currently act as guardians of the Corsellis Collection, containing some nine thousand specimens of brains dating back to the 1950s [cite web
title = Isaacs Report chapter Chapter 33: The Corsellis Collection
url = http://www.archive2.official-documents.co.uk/reps/isaacs00/isaacs42.htm
accessdate = 2007-09-14
] . No larger depository of this speciality is known. WLMHT also run Broadmoor High Secure Hospital in Crowthorne, Berkshire.

"Medical terms in this article are in the context of what was legally correct usage for that period where they appear in the text. Therefore "feeble-minded", "idiot", "imbecile", "lunatic", etc., should not be taken at their modern significance."

Early history

The building of the asylum was made possible through several Acts of Parliament and statutes still drive the changes in mental health care into the present day. The more important ones and other notable dates are:

County Asylums Act (1808)

The context which made it possible to create an asylum in Middlesex might be best understood from drawing attention to the 1808 County Asylums Act. This recognised lunatics as being ill, being held in the wrong institutions and who would possibly 'recover' if given the right type of treatment. Non-recovery would mean the insane pauper would always need to be looked after and hence cost more in the long run. The war with France had cost much. Moreover, industrialisation was causing some parishes to grow in population and so have a greater number of people in need than the existing system of charitable institutions and workhouses could cope with. This 'acceptance' of insanity being an illness can almost be seen as an attempt to improve the health of local finances rather than that of the poor or for to meet any other high need of humanity.

"Whereas the practice of confining such lunatics and other insane persons as are chargeable to their respective parishes in Gaols, Houses of Correction, Poor Houses and Houses of Industry, is highly dangerous and inconvenient" " [cite web
last = Roberts, Andrew
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = "Table of Statutes"
work =The asylums index
publisher = Middlesex University, London, England
year = 1981
url = http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/Law.htm#48Geo3c96
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2006-09-26

Therefore, the 1808 Act was passed to empowered county Justices of the Peace (JPs) to construct asylums financed out of the local rates which was very unpopular. As JPs faced annual re-election they often found resistance to enforcing this policy. As already mentioned the cost of keeping lunatics in jails and workhouses had previously been charged to the parish of the individual's birth. With no treatment to regain mental health costs to the affected parishes continued unabated. [cite web | last =Hereford Council | first = |authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Workhouses and poor law | work = | publisher = | date = |url =http://www.smr.herefordshire.gov.uk/post-medieval/workhouses/workhouses_poorlaw.htm | format =| doi = | accessdate =2006-09-26 ] To make matters worse (and a factor often overlooked) the Corn Laws kept food prices high while the Enclosure Act of 1813 removed the right for poor people to use the common lands to support themselves, causing added mental distress to the already impoverished.

Decision to build asylum (1827)

Concern grew about the disproportionate number of lunatics in Middlesex. The local judiciary (before whom the lunatics would have appeared charged with various offences or running amok) decided on 15 November 1827 to exercise their powers and build an asylum. [Roberts, Andrew (1981) [http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/6BIOH.htm#H13 Colonel James Clitherow Middlesex JP and Deputy Lieutenant - Metropolitan Commissioner 1828] "The asylums index." Middlesex University, London, England. accessed 2006-09-24] In the following year Parliament recognised the barriers to asylum building and passed the 1828 Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy Act to ensure the 1808 Acts was enforced by giving JPs the powers to progress things more rapidly. (Norris & Alen)

The building (1829- 1831)

Work on the new asylum at Hanwell started in 1829 on land most of which (44 acres) was purchased from the Earl of Jersey. The building contractor was William Cubitt who competed the work to a tight budget of £64,000. [ Hermione Hobhouse, [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6861 ‘Cubitt, William] (1791–1863)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, October 2006 Accessed 2008-04-18] cref|wc The architect was William Alderson, a Quaker. His neo-classical design consisted of central octagonal 'panopticon' tower of a basement and two floors. The windows have a tall aspect with semicircular bonded gauge brick arches at the top. Two wings of one basement and one floor only (in the 'corridor form' style) going east and west. [cite web
last = Roberts, Andrew
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =Cracknell, Peter; Piddock, Susan; Sarah Rutherford
title = Asylum architecture
work = The asylums index
publisher = Middlesex University, London, England
year = 1981
url =http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/study/AsyArc.htm#Colony
format =
doi =
accessdate =2006-09-26
] They then both turn north and each terminate at it own panoptican tower, which again has a basement and two floors, thus forming in plan view: a building around three sides of a square.The east side of the central tower was intended for the male patients and the west for the females. With germ theory beginning to be developed around this time, spreading the wards out in this manner was thought to help reduce the spread of infections. The central tower was adorned with a monumental clock procured from John Moore & Sons of 38-9 Clerkenwell Close, London (this was later moved to the Chapel tower - see the lithographic print (below) [London Metropolitan Archives: Middlesex Sessions of the Peace: Administration [MA/D/A1 – MA/DCP/G] . [http://www.a2a.org.uk/search/documentxsl.asp?com=1&i=1&nbKey=1&stylesheet=xslA2A_com.xsl&keyword=hanwell%20asylum&properties=0601 Messrs. Moore and Son of Clerkenwell Close, clock manufacturers] . ref. MA/D/A1/081/6/1-2 - date: 18 Mar. 1831. Accesed 2007-06-05.] In November of the same year building work started again on the first extension (there was more expansion again in 1837, 1857 and 1879).

The newer extensions which were added in 1857-59 are readily identifiable, as they have flat bonded arches to the tops of the windows.

In 1999 the exterior of the building (just those parts of the building which are still in use and visible to the general public) were cleaned with a proprietary dilute hydrofluoric acid preparation, removing over 170 years of grime and soot to reveal the rough golden yellow colour of the bricks, which is characteristic of handmade 'London stocks'. One can still see original small cast iron ventilation grills that show the Middlesex County Shield with the three Saxon saexes incorporated into the design, indicating the asylum's original ownership.

Upon entering the building one is struck by the economy in the proportioning of space for a building of this period, until one remembers that it was not built as a grand residence or proud civic building but purely a functional work space and home for the treatment of insane paupers. This unfortunately lead to the building having poor ventilation, and together with overcrowding may be the reason behind the high rates of TB before the age of antibiotics.

This was made worse in that the asylum filled up so quickly that basements were converted into sleeping dormitories and even a few extra wards. To this end earth was dug away from the basement walls and windows fitted. This worked quite well for much of the east side where the ground level is almost 5 metres lower than on the west due to the slope.

The main view most people see of the hospital is the elegantly proportioned gatehouse entrance. This adjoins the Uxbridge Road. It takes the form of a neoclassical half circular arch, large and solid, over tall vertical barred, iron gates, which incorporate a small pedestrian gate with its own key lock. Any harshness in the architecturally solid lines are softened somewhat by the vine creepers that envelop the upper parts. Surprisingly, it is built from pale grey Gault bricks which are not only gauged but had to be brought in from afar, and so commanded premium prices. It also supports on the north side of the building a blue Ordnance Survey Bench Mark; type: flush bracket; No. S1016. This point was measured to be 69.279 feet (21.116 m) above mean sea level. [cite web | title =Flush Bracket S1016 | work =Bench Mark Database | publisher = | url = http://www.bench-marks.org.uk/bm10809 | accessdate = 2006-10-02 ]

Middlesex County Asylum at Hanwell 1831 - 1889

Under the administration of the local Committee of Visiting Justices of Middlesex County Council.

The asylum opened on 16 May 1831 by taking in twenty-four male patients and eighteen female patients.

Dr William & Mildred Ellis

The first superintendent was Dr William Charles Ellis (later knighted) presided together with his capable wife Mildred Ellis who held the post of matron, from the opening in 1831 until his resignation in 1838. [Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2002) [www.oxforddnb.com/] "Ellis, Sir William Charles" accessed 2006-08-31]

In this age of relative enlightenment it was found essential for recovery that the patients should get out into full daylight, take in fresh air and to walk about and exercise, so the ground floor wards had 'airing courts' which were shared by the other wards upstairs. These were pleasantly laid out areas with seating and bounded by walls or railings so patients could not wander off. When a patient had somewhat recovered their wits they were allowed to walk and work in the surrounding fields. The asylum had its own carpentry, bakery, brewery, dentistry, fire brigade, gasworks, laundry, shoemakers, smithy, tailors, farm, church and burial ground etc. ("See diagram of the layout of the asylum"). It was as self-sufficient as it could be. The asylum paid the canal company for taking water from the canal and had its own dock to receive barges. This was very convenient for receiving coal deliveries, which was used not only for heating but for producing gas for illumination.

Originally planned to house 450 patients with space for a further 150 its capacity was reduced back to 300 with space for another 150 due to fears of an outcry if the local rate increased too sharply. At first the number of paupers admitted was low due to the charge of nine shilling per week each, this being higher than the workhouses and jails, but by force of the law the asylum was full within six months and more space was badly needed. Therefore, in November of the same year work on building extensions began and so started the almost continuous process of rebuilding and improvements that go on in the present day. [ Rev H A Norris; Hanwell Asylum: St. Bernard's Hospital " [http://www.a2a.org.uk/html/074-h11_1.htm London Metropolitan Archives] , Ref: 26.21 Han"]

Anatomy Act (1832)

When a person died in the asylum, their friends or relatives were free to remove the remains for burial. Failing this, the deceased was interned in unmarked paupers grave in the hospital's burial ground. With the 1832 Anatomy Act, the body was first kept in a building called the 'dead house' (which was situated to west side of the burial ground). ("See diagram of asylum layout above") and if unclaimed after 72 hours could be sold to a (licensed) anatomy school. The Act also provided for people who wished to donate their bodies upon death. Inspiration for this Act was came from the 1828 trial and conviction of Burke and Hare, the body snatchers.

As permission to perform autopsies on paupers did need not be sought from the local coroner, autopsies became common at the hospital. Starting in 1845, the results of these autopsies were recorded in detail by Dr Hitchman. [ Rev H A Norris; Hanwell Asylum: St. Bernard's Hospital " [http://www.a2a.org.uk/html/074-h11_1.htm London Metropolitan Archives] , Ref: 26.21 Han page 84"]

John Conolly (1839)

John Conolly took up residence as the third superintendent on 1 June 1839. When his appointment came though earlier in April, Serjeant Adams, who was one of the Visiting Justicies of the asylum (and a circuit judge who often visited Lincoln, the county of Conolly's birth) suggested that Conolly visit the Lincoln Asylum and see the system worked out by Mr. Robert Gardiner Hill. [cite book
last =Dickens
first = Charles
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Household words: A weekly Journal
publisher = Bradbury and Evens, printers
year = 1857
location =
pages = page 521 |
doi =
id =
] So impressed by what he saw there that he was convinced to do everything he could to abandon all mechanical restraints at Hanwell. This must have taken enormous powers of persuasion, since the existing staff would have to abandon old habits and learn how to nurse more effectively those patients whose illness exhibited itself in troubling behavior. This however, seemed to avoid the patient from suffering still further trauma from being restrained and made to feel totally helpless. The fact that he did this in only three months (accomplished by 21 September 1839) is also possible testament to the earlier work of Ellis. [Citation
last =Winslow
first =Forbes
author-link =
last2 =
first2 =
author2-link =
title =On the Management of Hanwell Lunatic Asylum
journal = The Journal of Psychological Medicine and Pathology
volume = 2
issue =
pages = page 418
date =
year = 1849
url =http://www.google.co.uk/books?id=OXgn9fbZxoYC&pg=PA418&dq=hanwell+lunatic+asylum&as_brr=1#PPA418,M1
doi =
id =OCLC: 1639517

Something of his success can be gained from this extract of the first page of the sixty-eighth report of the Visiting Justicies.
" "The Visiting Justices have the satisfaction to find that every year, as the excellence of the non - restraint System becomes more generally recognized, affords fewer Materials in the Asylum for Comment or Report. For four years it has been the settled Rule of the House, that no harshness nor coercive cruelly should be used in any case, but that every patient, however violent, should be treated with uniform kindness and forbearance; and during that time such as been the undeviating success of this Plan, such as been the even tenor of it course, that it now presents no new fact nor features either to vindicate or explain. This is the more extraordinary, as it rarely happens that a Theory can be brought into practice without losing a Portion of its presumed Efficiency." " [cite journal
last = Tulk
first = Charles Augustus
coauthors =
title = The SIXTY-EIGHTH REPORT of the Visiting Justicies " appointed to superintend the management of" The County Lunatic Asylum at Hanwell.
pages = page 3
date = 26 October 1843

(Serjeant Adams was also, a founding member and first chairman of Leagal & General)

"The Illustrated London News" (1848)

Full page illustration and short article was published in "The Illustrated London News" on January 15, 1848 about how Twelfth Night was celebrated at the Hanwell Asylum. [cite web
last = Roberts
first = Andrew
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Twelfth Night at the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum
work = The asylums index
publisher = Middlesex University, London, England
year =1981
url = http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/study/xmad1848.htm
format =
doi =
accessdate = 2006-10-07

The brewery closes (1888)

In 1888, the earlier 1879 Act of Parliament to facilitate the control and care of Habitual Drunkards was made permanent (and the term 'Habitual Drunkard' changed to 'Inebriate'). As Hanwell would take in such patients for up to a year, this Act was seen as a reason to close the brewery.cref|m

London County Asylum, Hanwell 1889 - 1918

Under the administration of the London County Council.

Hilda Elizabeth Wolsey

on 11 June 1910 Nurse Hilda Elizabeth Wolsey followed a female patient who climbed one of the fire escapes and then along the guttering of the ward roof. She held on to the patient until help arrived and they could both be lowered to the safety of the ground. For this act of heroism she was awarded the Albert Medal. (In 1971 surviving holders of the Albert Medal were invited to exchange their decoration for the more suitable George Cross; which she did. Wolsey died on 11 March 1974 in Ealing, West London.) [cite web | last =Wolsey | first = H E | title = Recipients | work = George Cross Database | publisher = Chameleon H H Publishing | url = http://www.gc-database.co.uk/recipients/WolseyHE.htm | accessdate = 2006-10-02 ]

County Mental Hospital, Hanwell 1918 - 1937"'

Under the administration of the London County Council, was renamed the County Mental Hospital, Hanwell.

Taken in the first half of the 1920s this image shows that the nurses' home has still to be built in the top right corner of the frame. It has since been demolished. Further to the top right is the Iron Bridge at the junction of Uxbridge Road (A4020) and Windmill Lane (A4127) which runs south to the left of the frame. Running down the left-hand side is a section of the 'Flight of Locks' on the Grand Union Canal. For overhead aerial view of Hospital today take external link to Google Maps: [http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=w7+hanwell&ie=UTF8&om=1&z=16&ll=51.5072,-0.349213&spn=0.007199,0.021629&t=h&iwloc=A]

Also, by the 1920s there were sufficient beds to ensure that no person too ill to keep within the laws of the land (or avoid getting misled by others into transgressing the law) need be sent to gaol. The prison population subsequently fell. [cite book
last = Bynum
first = W.F
coauthors =Porter, Roy; Shepherd, Michael
title = The anatomy of madness: Essays in the history of psychiatry. Vol III; The asylum and its psychiatry.
publisher = Routledge
year = 1988
location = London
pages = pg 266
id = ISBN 0-415-00859-X

St. Bernard's Hospital, Hanwell 1937-1980

Under the administration of the London County Council until 1948 when responsibility was transferred to the new National Health Service - North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board, which was reorganised to became the North West Thames Regional Health Authority with local power invested in the Ealing District Health Authority in 1974.

War years (1939-1945)

The hospital had one ward turned over to act as the local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) centre, to cater for the extra casualties of war. [cite web
last =
first =
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = Emergency Medical Services (1939-1945)
work = NHS History
publisher =NHS History Net
date =
url = http://www.nhshistory.net/ems_1939-1945.htm#The_London_sectors
doi =
accessdate = 2006-10-07

The hospital and its grounds received several bombs during the Second World War. This was mostly due to the proximity of two strategic targets: the AEC factory in Windmill Lane which built fighting vehicles and the Wharncliffe Viaduct which carried the Great Western Railway (GWR), a vital transport route. As some of the UBXs fell wide and into the soft sediment of the River Brent, they are possibly still there. However, a V1 was not so obliging and hit the laundry causing many casualties. This event is mentioned in a personal account by Simon Tobitt in "WW2 Peoples War." [cite web |url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/stories/75/a5096775.shtml |title= What Irene's Father Did During The War |accessdate=2006-10-07 |last= Tobitt |first=Simon |authorlink= |coauthors= |date= 15 August 2005 |month= |format= |work=WW2 Peoples War |publisher= BBC |archiveurl= |archivedate= |quote= ] The Gatehouse also received some bomb damage.

Dr. Max Glatt (1958)

Dr. Max Meier Glatt, (born January 26, 1912; died May 14, 2002). [cite news
last = Benaim
first = Silvio
title = Max Glatt: Pioneer in the treatment of alcohol and drug addicts
work = Guardian Unlimited
pages =
language =
publisher = Guardian Newspapers Limited
date = 2006-10-05
url =http://www.guardian.co.uk/drugs/Story/0,2763,721888,00.html
accessdate =
] One of the pioneers in the treatment of people with an addictive personality trait. Appointed as a consultant in 1958 he set up an alcohol dependency unit in a female ward. Overcoming many managerial obstacles; his approach of creating a therapeutic community was found to be a great success. In 1962 this was moved and became a drug and alcohol dependence unit; now known as the Max Glatt Unit and situated in 'A' Block, and next to the Tony Hillis wing. Run currently by the Central North West London Mental Health NHS Trust; "Substance Misuses Service" [cite web
last =Max Glatt Unit | title = Substance Misuses Service
publisher =Central North West London Mental Health NHS Trust
url = http://www.cnwl.org/Substance_Ealing_The_Max_Glatt_Unit.html
accessdate =2006-10-01

Psychiatric Unit 1980 - 1992

North West Thames Regional Health Authority via the Ealing District Health Authority

The local District Health Authority, following Government edict to close the smaller cottage hospitals and maternity units, and bring health services together on one multi-disciplinary site, changed the name of the grounds to 'Ealing Hospital.' However, the new nomenclature given to describe the new layout and various buildings was found to go against all natural intuition and so forced people to keep resorting to the name St. Bernard's Hospital to make it clear that they were referring to the psychiatric parts run by the WLMHT and 'Ealing Hospital' when referring to the District General Unit building - which is administrated by a totally separate public sector corporation or Trust. Even by 2006 the old name is often used in internal communications and in-house publications and some National Service web sites still give the address as St. Bernard's Hospital. This approach has proven an effective Coping mechanism against the Petronius syndrome. Likewise, its geographical attachment depends on context. For postal communications it is in Southall, for non clinical administration it is referred to as the 'Ealing site' and to the people to whom it serves it remains in Hanwell.

t. Bernard's Hospital, Hanwell 1992 to present day

Between 1980 and 1992 the site complex was referred to as 'Ealing Hospital' but it had no legal existence, it was just the site address. Each medical unit reported straight to the Ealing District Health Authority and not to any board called Ealing Hospital.After 12 years of being host to the Ealing District General Unit and for 4 years to the Ealing Maternity Unit (which opened in March 1988) the latter two amalgamated into a new hospital named Ealing Hospital (NHS) Trust and the Psychiatric unit regained its name of St. Bernard's Hospital once more. Ealing Hospital (NHS) Trust did not become fully autonomous immediately however, as for many years St Bernard's Hospital remained responsible for the other Hospital's site maintenance.

Three Bridges Regional Secure Unit - opened 1985

Run by the Forensic Directorate, this unit was named after Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Three Bridges that lies only a few hundred feet away to the west.One of the wards has been named after the rastafarian dub poet and mental health campaigner Benjamin Zephaniah.

West London Healthcare NHS Trust 1992 - 1999

West London Healthcare NHS Trust achieves 'Trust' status and becomes a public sector corporation.

24 July 1992
John Conolly Wing (JCW) opened. Incorporating the Adult Acute, Rehabilitation, and Elderly Mentally Ill (EMI) wards. The ground floor also has a room each for Art and Music therapy, plus a dinning area, whilst on the first floor is a Post room and on the north-eastern quadrant is the ECT suit, Phlebotomy and some administration offices. The first floor lobby is connected to the near by general hospital to the north by an enclosed aerial corridor which spans an intervening service road. Supported upon slender concrete posts, it is some one hundred and twenty feet in length. The feature was inspired by the then government dictum that " 'local psychiatric units should be an integral part of the district hospitals.' " Policy had changed again by the time the new wing had been built - still remains locked and un-perambulated.

North West Thames Regional Health Authority abolished 1994
New authority: North Thames Region until 1996 and the Ealing District Health Authority is also abolished.
Replaced by NHS Strategic Health Authority (SHA): Ealing & Hammersmith & Hounslow (EHH) .

Major refurbishment (1998)

Started in February 1998 St. Bernard's main building under goes a major refurbishment. [cite web
title = Inner space
work = Hospital Development
publisher = Wilmington Media
date = 1 March 1999
url = http://www.hdmagazine.co.uk/story.asp?storyCode=5403
accessdate = 2006-01-05
] It costs in excess of four and a half million pounds sterling and takes about eight months. Finally the exterior brickwork gets cleaned and netting is strategically placed to deny the local Rock Pigeons a roost.

Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham Mental Health NHS Trust 1999 - 2001

Ealing & Hammersmith & Hounslow Health Authority (EHH)

West London Mental Health NHS Trust 2001 - present

Ealing & Hammersmith & Hounslow Health Authority (EHH) until 2006
Existing Strategic Heath Authority amalgamated with other London SHA's to become The 'London SHA'. cref|t

Tony Hillis Wing (2001)

Named after the late Tony Hillis, OBE, RMN, RGN, Dip MS. Formerly the Deputy Director of Nursing on this site. He was a great supporter of patient involvement. He also took the position of being very much non-judgemental towards those he cared for. Opened September 17, 2001, this unit serves as the local medium secure. The catchment area consists of the London boroughs of:
*Kensington Chelsea
*Barnetplus the counties of:
*West Hertfordshire,
*East Hertfordshire
*North Hertfordshire

Wells unit (2006)

Wells is a new medium secure unit opened in June 2006. It has been designed to accommodate up to ten adolescents between the ages of 12 to 18 years. Statutory education is provided to those still of school age and other educational pursuits are offered.

It is named after an artesian well to the west of the site in an area now called the Orchard Centre. The application for Planning Permission for the Orchard had to be resubmitted in order that it could be built further south to avoid chance of damage due to possible future subsidence. This is quite apart from it being considered a wonderful example of fine Victorian engineering of significant archeological interest and thus worthy of preservation.

Here is a description of it published in 1854:
The asylum is supplied with water from an artesian well, which is considered to be the best in the kingdom. The shaft, to a depth of convert|31|ft|m|abbr=on., is convert|10|ft|m|abbr=on. in diameter, and thence to a further depth of convert|209|ft|m|abbr=on., 6 ft. in diameter, together, convert|240|ft|m|abbr=on.; the whole of which is constructed of brickwork in cement. The boring was commenced at the bottom of the shaft, with pipes of 14 in. Internal diameter; these are carried down about convert|50|ft|m|abbr=on., into the stratum of flint stones overlaying the chalk formation, making the whole depth from the surface about convert|290|ft|m|abbr=on., whence the water rises into a tank, convert|20|ft|m|abbr=on. above the ground-floor of the asylum, without the aid of pumps, at the ratio of 90,000 gallons per diem. [ cite book
last = Weale
first =John
title = The Pictorial Handbook of London
publisher =H G Bohn
year =1854
location = London
pages = pages 606 - 607
url = http://books.google.co.uk/books?vid=OCLC01387135&id=hMGiEpY0RQcC&pg=PA605&dq=%22william+ellis%22&as_brr=1

In passing: This source of water is still considered economically viable today: Only just back in September 2002, Brixton PLC applied for water extraction license from the Environment Agencyin Hatfield for its site on the opposite side of the hospital's boundary with Windmill Lane.

The Orchard Centre (2007)

Opened on 21 August 2007 the Orchard Centre is a 60 bed medium secure psychiatric unit for women.

Although there has been some new building on the St. Bernard site over the years, this may be the most significant addition since the end of the rapid expansion of the hospital back in the 1800s.

Of the 60 beds total, 15 are standard medium secure and 45 'enhanced' medium secure (WEMSS) (30 of these are for women from London and 15 beds for the south east of England), making it the largest unit of its type in the UK.

It is solely for and staffed by women, with emphasis on the environment and therapy being gender-sensitive. This will be especially useful for patients who have suffered long periods of trauma as children and as a consequence, have been unable to go on to integrate normally with other people as adults. Victims can repeatedly come to the attention of other areas of the health service as the frustration and anger they feel at this isolation, express itself as suicide, self-harm or aggression and other types of challenging behaviour. Also, there is a tendency or drive to seek some respite and shut off these feelings. This is often by self-medicating with drink and drugs. Such activities may have brought them to the attention of the law courts frequently. The new unit provides both a safe physical and emotional space, in which they can discover normal responses. The 24/7 enhanced nature of the service also promises to give a chance for new and more beneficial behaviour to be discovered and explored, and to practice these new ways of interacting with other people until it becomes established in a variety of every day situations (which the design of the building and intensive therapy endeavour to provide). There is some good evidence to suggest that this significantly reduces the chances of re-offending once discharged from hospital and the staff will be aiding further research to improve outcomes still further.

"Raison d' être"

As a participating member at the Fourth World Conference on Women, the United Kingdom ( represented by Baroness Chalker ) signed up to the Beijing Declaration. [United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (1995). [http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/thu7.htm Fourth World Conference on Women] . Accessed 2007-05-27]

In response the Department of Health conducted a consultation and found that women experiencing mental health problems were poorly catered for. [Department of Health (sept 2002) [http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_4075487.pdf Women's Mental Health: Into the Mainstream] . Accessed 2007-05-27] This led to new guidelines being drawn up and published. [Department of Health (Sept 2003). [http://www.dh.gov.uk/prod_consum_dh/groups/dh_digitalassets/@dh/@en/documents/digitalasset/dh_4072069.pdf Mainstreaming Gender and Women's Mental Health] . Implementation Guidance. Accessed 2007-05-27] Part of this guidance called for women who suffer mental problems, and for whom only medium secure accommodation was needed, to be treated in way that was sympathetic with their gender.

The WLMHT found itself in an almost unique position in both location, facilities and experience, together with a close working relationship with the London West Mental Health R&D Consortium. All this enabled it to construct a successful business case for a purpose for a medium secure women only unit to be built on the St Bernard's site. The proposal, also overcame some long-standing administrative, funding and legal duty problems between regional health authority and the trust that surrounded the maintenance of some of the 'listed' historic structures of the old hospital.

The building

To meet this end, the design details and layout of the unit has been thoroughly researched to provided those features which are hoped will aid recovery to sustainable health. This work was undertaken by Tuke Manton Architects LLP of Clapham. [ [http://www.tukemanton.co.uk/index.htm Tuke Manton -Architects] . Accessed 2007-05-30] This was undertaken in partnership with Kier Group PLC, who were chosen by the West London Mental Health Trust to be the building contractors. [ [http://www.kier.co.uk/kier_group/default.asp PLC Kier Group] . Accessed 2007-05-30]

Care has been taken to avoid both ligature points (beams, banisters, door knobs, hooks, shower curtain rails, etc.,) and 'blind spots' where suicide and other self-harm can happen without the knowledge of the staff. Trouble has been taken to give the décor and layout more of a domestic quality rather than normal, bland, utility austere, clinical, NHS look. All the facilities needed are contained within its perimeter so there is no need to use other parts of the hospital site unless it's to help with social re-integration.

To avoid the exterior of the building from looking like one monolithic block, it has been designed as two square units of equal size and a total of convert|263|ft|m|abbr=on wide in the east-west axis, with the west block offset by some convert|23|ft|m|abbr=on and the two joined by an atrium. Sporting a glazed roof, the atrium also serves as the main way into the building. Apart from through the glazed atrium, more light can ingress by way of a courtyard in the centre of each of the two units. Both blocks measure from front to back some convert|148|ft|m|abbr=on. Imaginative design alteration to the interior layout (brought about by council planning committee consultations) and sinking the ground floor has reduced the total high by convert|5|ft|m|abbr=on. This bring the building proportions more into line with those around it and preserves the well known scenic view along the Hanwell Fight of Locks. [Ealing Council. Unitary development plan: [http://www.cartoplus.co.uk/ealing/text/sheet6.htm Designated view number 22] ; Map 6. Accessed 2007-05-27] Yellow bricks have been chosen for the exterior walls, which harmonize with the golden yellow handmade stocks of the Victorian buildings to the north and east. cref|br Large saplings have been planted to provide an instant screen, which also soften the overall effect, all combining to help this new facility to take its place in the existing landscape - unlike the grey concrete carbuncles of the 1960s. Also adding character to the surrounding hard landscaping is a freshly renovated Victorian canopy or shelter (a listed Grade II structure). The canopy has shallow pitch, formed by radial timbered spares going out to twelve wooden fascia boards secured from behind by an iron ring. The ring is supported by twelve round and ornate cast-iron columns, with another column at its centre. It was at one time just one of many around the hospital. Erected in the airing courts, their purpose was to keep rain off of wooden seating. It was acknowledged, even back then, that fresh air and light is essential for the well-being of patients. Moreover, staying outside helped discourage the spread of the white plague caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which was unfortunately only too common when the wards became overcrowded. When the NHS took over running the mental hospitals, they started to do away with these airing courts, and so the seating was no longer maintained. For a short time it had a chicken wired frame constructed within it, in which was kept some budgerigars until about 1982. As the number of beds shrank, this part of the hospital and its aviary became abandoned. Today, whilst the rust and guano have successfully been all removed, the name 'aviary' still sticks to it. The original finish was white oil paint, but under the NHS, almost all the ironwork in the hospital has now been painted black. Security lighting, in the form of round flat lozenge-shaped luminars have been unobtrusively fitted to the underside of the canopy. It now provides shelter to a staff bicycle rack.

The planning

As the Orchard Centre is a completely new purpose built structure, it had to be subjected to a full public consultation process. There was some opposition, mainly from a mid-1990s housing estate which boarders the west edge of the new site, together with concerns regarding environmental pollution being released during the site clearance stage. During the consultation: it was argued that the unit's planned for height above ground, would unduly impose upon the view along the Hanwell flight of locks. This is a renowned scenic view. Others felt unhappy that it would also allow the patients to see over the perimeter wall and observe people on the outside. To meet both these objections the foundation was lowered to reduces the overall height and planning permission re-applied for. Planning permission was finally granted on 28 September 2005 but not before police removed some protesters from the public gallery. [ West London & Bucks (Friday, September 30, 2005) "Gazette -Southall edition"; page 1.]

The development of the new site as a whole required some of the existing Grade II structure of the hospital to be demolished. This was allowed on the account that these parts were not of significant architectural or historical interest to justify preserving. However, the south boundary wall (a registered ancient monument) had to under go some renovation work to make it sound again. The old artesian well (referred to as an underground reservoir) however, was considered an important Victorian artifact and thus left intact. This required the foundations of the new unit to be built a little further to the south than originally intended. The Horticulture Therapy Centre which took up one quarter of the developed area also had to be relocated to the far south east corner of the main grounds.

Demolished too, was the boiler facility and storage tanks for the thick tarry 'heavy heating oil' which provided all the hot water for both St. Bernard's Hospital and Ealing Hospital. To this end, portable natural gas boiler units had to first be placed in the Maternity car parking area and plumbed in to the existing heating system as a makeshift temporary solution, so avoiding delays to the main development. This led to even more pressure on the car parking space already lost to the building program. Therefore, all staff parking is now, by fee-paid permit only. This lead back in May 2007, to the introduction (by the two principle health Trusts on the site) of a bus shuttle service that visits the local train stations to encourage commuting by public transport. cref|c Moreover, one of the stipulations, made in the granting of the planning application was that parking would further be reduced on site. Overall, the number of cycle racks have been quadrupled to further encourage 'green travel'.

Despite the afore said issues arising, the building's completion, together with the new service road and landscaping, only slipped from the tentative finish date of March, made at the very start of the project to June.

In popular culture


The hospital was used for shooting some scenes of Stephen Poliakoff's film She's been away (1989). Dame Peggy Ashcroft stared as Lillian Huckle; a women who was institutionalized 60 years before whilst still a young girl, simply because she did not conform to social norms.

In the film The Bargee (directed by Duncan Wood 1963) which starred Hugh Griffith and Eric Sykes, the two charters go down the flight of locks with the Hospital in the background.

In literature or prose

"...my eye caught an omnibus on which was written "Hanwell." "

"Men deny hell, but not, as yet, Hanwell."

G. K. Chesterton is inspired to question: Who really should be -considered mad? [Chesterton G K (1908). Orthodoxy, Chap 2: [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/chesterton/orthodoxy.v.html The Maniac] Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Accessed 2007-05-19]


Hanwell Insane Asylum was mentioned in George Bernard Shaw's 1914 play "Pygmalion". Phonetics Professor Henry Higgins after successfully telling strangers where they were born by their accent, was jokingly told he came from Hanwell Insane Asylum.


Reverend H A Norris, (a former chaplain to the hospital) realized in the early 1980s that there were still old records at hospital which were historically important and should join the others in the Greater London Council Records Library (now part of the National Archives). He feared these would be thrown out by staff who did not appreciate their historical value. Getting little cooperation from the then hospital management, a dedicated band of volunteers formed the 'Museum Committee' to help. They searched out, recovered and thus saved much of the hospital heritage. This also included mechanical restraints, ECT machines, some of the old fixtures and fitting. The largest item by far was an original 'seclusion room' with leather-covered straw padding walls and floor. Also on display was a letter written by Arthur O'Connor. He had been committed to Hanwell on May 6, 1875 for firing an unloaded pistol at Queen Victoria earlier on the 29th February. [cite journal
last = Geary
first = Laurence M
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = O'Connorite Bedlam: Feargus and his Grand-Nephew, Arthur
journal = Medical History
volume =
issue = 34
pages = pp125–143
publisher =
year = 1990
url = http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1036066
doi =
id =
accessdate = 2006-10-07
] The purpose of writing was to petition for his release; which was granted on 16 November 1876. He never came to the attention of the authorities again.

Mention should here also be made of the work of long time administrative staff member Pauline May, without whose tireless work in the 1990s, much of the museum artifacts would have been lost for ever.

Despite its growing reputation and size (taking up the whole of the available space in the disused church), the lack of any fiscal recognition made it impossible to provide staff to assist the many visitors who wished to view and study the collection. Therefore, it has now been dispersed to, and can be seen at:
* Bethlem Royal Hospital Museum. [http://www.bethlemheritage.org.uk/acquisitionpolicy.html]
* London Metropolitan Archives
* Wellcome Trust
* Gunnersbury Park Museum. [http://www.wlmeg.org/gunnersbury.php]

External links


* The local voluntary [http://www.cppih.org/forum/westlondonmentalhealth0473.html Patient and Public Involvement] (PPI) Forum. Retrieved on 2006-10-05

*Transport for London: [http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/gettingaround/maps/buses/pdf/hanwellandealinghospital-2114.pdf Bus services to and from Hanwell] . Accessed 2007-06-05

* National Rail Station: [http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations/HAN.html Hanwell] . Accessed 2007-06-05
* [http://www.glensidemuseum.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/museum.htm The Glenside Hospital Museum] . Accessed 2007-06-05 (a Bristol psychiatric hospital museum)

*cite book
last = Weale
first = John
title =The Pictorial Handbook of London: Comprising Its Antiquities, Architecture, Arts, Manufacture
publisher = H.G. Bohn
year = 1854
location = London
pages = pages 601-
doi =
id = OCLC: 1387135

* Martineau, Harriet [http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/study/xmad1834.htm The Hanwell Lunatic Asylum] Description of the Ellis system; published in "Tait's Edinburgh Magazine. June 1834" Roberts, Andrew (1981)"The asylums index." Middlesex University, London, England. Retrieved on 2006-10-07


cnote|t|The current West London Mental Health (NHS) Trust was established 1 October 2000 under order number 20002562, took over administration 2001.Currently the Trust management is exploring the possibility of becoming a NHS Foundation Trust. This will give it more flexibility to better meet the needs of the people who live in the locality that it serves, and to whom it will become accountable.


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