Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mental Heath and Lunatic Asylums in Hertfordshire

Issue 18 of Herts Part and Present includes an article Unfit for General Society: a history of mental health care in Hertfordshire by Gary Moyle. The abstract reads:
As Gary Moyle remarks, Hertfordshire is notable for the many mental hospitals within its borders. Here he offers an overview of the care of mentally ill from the fourteenth century to the present, showing how responsibility has passed from the Crown to the community, via the parish and private asylums. Along the way he notes those humanitarians, such as William Tuke, whose efforts improved conditions for the afflicted.
This site already has several pages relating to mental health including Early Mad Houses in St Albans and Harpenden,  The Long Stay Hospitals of the St Albans Area, and Hill End Asylum.  Some of you will already have made a donation to the Herts Mind Network, read what happened to Lucy and Belinda, and understand my personal interest in the subject.

Hill End Patient, 1902
So on to the article - Gary works at HALS and has been actively involved in sorting out the information on Hill End and has produced a very useful summary of the sort of information available at HALS.  It would seem that until about 200 years ago all but the most unmanageable mental cases would have been looked after in the community, although licensed asylums were available for those who could afford to pay. The County Asylum Act of 1808 lead to Bedfordshire opening an asylum for pauper lunatics and Hertfordshire joined in in 1828. The Three County Asylum was built in 1860 and Hill End opened from Hertfordshire patients in 1899. Perhaps the main lesson from the paper is that if you have a Hertfordshire ancestor who ended up in an Hertfordshire asylum the place to start is at HALS

However I should add a rider - as there were also a number of asylums built in Hertfordshire for Middlesex/London patients and their records are not in Hertfordshire - See The Long Stay Hospitals of the St Albans Area


  1. Can you vist hill end and look around the old buildings or are they off limits?

    1. All the buildings - except the chapel - have been demolished - and the chapel is now a theatre.

      The graveyard also remains

      The name "Hill End" was deemed unacceptable because the developers believed that some people would not but the new houses if they discovered that they were on the site of an old asylum so the area is now called "Highfield" - although "Hill End Road" retains its old name.

  2. My great great Nan was sent to Hill End in 1902 .. where she passed in 1920 believed to be still a patient in the asylum . Where many patients buried in in marked graves ?


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