Leavesden Hospital History Association "The Act of Caring is Heroic"
Leavesden Hospital History Association"The Act of Caring is Heroic"


1 Samwaise Court

Bedale, North Yorkshire


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Chronological History

Updated - 14 December 2021



Metropolitan Asylum Board purchase 84 acres of the Woodside farm from William Teotter of Mayfair, Middlesex, for £6850 for the purpose of constructing an Asylum. The farmland is bordered by Asylum Road, Woodside Road and East Lane and includes Coles Farm.



16 May: The Metropolitan Poor Act was signed for the purposes of “combining all the parishes and unions in the Metropolis into a single Metropolitan Asylum District "for the reception and relief of the classes of poor persons chargeable to some union or parish in the said district respectively who may be infected with or suffering from fever, or the disease of small-pox or may be insane.”


31 October: The asylum's foundation stone was laid by William Brewer Esq., MD, Chairman of the Metropolitan Asylums Board and William Henry Wyatt, J.P., Chairman of the Leavesden Asylums Management Committee. The stone was a block of Portland with a tablet of Sicilian marble laid into it bearing the names if the committee of the board. With the stone there was a sealed bottle with coins, a list of managers, a copy of the Act of Parliament and the Times Newspaper. The Coldstream Guards played at the opening ceremony.

Senior staff initially appointed were:

            Medical Superintendent: Dr T. Claye Shaw

            Steward: Mr Blake

            Matron: Jane Renwick (succeeded by Miss Middleton in November 1870)

Inspector: Mr Williams (suspended in October 1870 and succeeded by Head Attendant: Frederick Galbraith).

Chaplain: Rev. J Finch Smith

Clerk to the Asylum: Mr J Barrett, until March when he was given six months hard labour for absconding with the staff’s wages.


April: Contractors, Messrs. Nicholson & Herbert were required to speed up the work under threat of a penalty clause.



June: New contractor, William Henshaw, had taken over to complete the building, erect the gas works, water and sewage systems (located on the far north side of the park by the old cemetery), and lay out the gardens.


December: Mr. Buckingham appointed as gardener and paid 25s per week and the use of the farmers cottage, to “crop the kitchen gardens and ensure a supply of vegetables for the Inmates” He serve until 1884.The following year, cows, pigs and horses were purchased.



March: Advertisements were being drawn up for staff for the new institution. For Male and Female Attendants, laundry maids, kitchen maids, and cook, the only requirement was being able to read and write but if you were accomplished in sports or music, your chances of employment were much better.


27 September: The asylum was officially opened by the Bishop of Rochester who preached a sermon in the chapel and then led a procession through the main corridors of the building to the Leavesden Hospital “Chapel of the Good Shepherd” cemetery located along East Lane where he consecrated the 1950 square yard site.


9 October: The hospital admitted its first patients and one-week later Dr. T. Claye Shaw, Medical Superintendent, reports to the committee that there were 100 patients.  At the time of its’ opening, Leavesden Asylum was considered to be the largest mental health facility in all of Europe.


21 October: Recreation was considered an important part of the patients’ day so £15.00 was provided to purchase playing cards, bagatelle and draughts boards. Pianos were brought into some wards.



14 April: There are 739 male and 899 female patients, a total of 1,638, well above the 1,500 estimated. To cope with the numbers, storerooms on some wards had been converted to bedrooms.



64 patients were employed in the gardens and farm work.



The census for the population of Abbots Langley Parish was recorded as 3,643. This included 2,085 in the Metropolitan District Asylum (both staff and patients in the Leavesden Asylum), 639 in St Pancras Workhouse and a parish population of 919.


8 October: Neighbours of the Asylum have been complaining about smells that they believed to be emanating from the boiling of food to be given to pigs on the estate. Jesse Willaim Filler, Gardener, testified that he had caused the smell by spreading manure on the gardens and the case was dismissed.



Mr. J.H. Leurcas was appointed as the farm bailiff and a subcommittee formed to oversee the 42 acres of farmland and kitchen gardens.



MAB makes request to Diocese of St Albans to extend cemetery by 3117 square yards. Request approved and cemetery extension is consecrated on 27 July 1887.


Mr. G.W. Smith was appointed as the hospitals first trained fireman and paid a wage of 30s a week. All male attendants and staff were required to act as firemen.


16 July: The annual inspection of the Leavesden Asylum by the managers of the Metropolitan Asylum District took place on Saturday. A number of the members of the Asylum Board proceeded by train to Watford, and thence drove to the asylum, Abbots Langley.



26 October: The new Recreation Hall, locate just to the East of the Main Adminstartion Building, is opened with an evening dance for the patients. 



April 19th: Aaron Kosminski, the most likely suspect to be Jack the Ripper, was admitted to the hospital. He is housed in the secure block A.



July 31: A new method of drying clothes by means of driving heated air through during chambers and a revolving fan are submitted to the Committee. Estimated cost = £365/10/0.


The Chief Steward reports to the Committee that 2808 dozen bottles of lemonade and 372 dozen bottles of soda water (all made on site) are consumed at the Asylum annually. Cost = £94 per year.


October 9: The Committee approves the extra fare of 1 pint of beer, ½ meat and 1 oz. tobacco to each of the 360 male working patients on the occasion of their Harvest home.



February 12: A fire alarm siren is installed at the hospital as the whistle was easily put out of service and easily mistaken for a railway locomotive.


May 6: Managers of the St Pancras Industrial school sell 7 tons of Mangold Wurzel (a type of beet root) to the hospitals as their supply is exhausted.



Outbreak of fever (cholera) at Leavesden Asylum due to contaminated water being pumped to the hospital from the underground aquafers located next to the sewage treatment plant on East Lane.


A shop keeper from Abbots Langley is given permission to set up a stall in the cricket pitch (north of the children’s play area) to sell eatables and misc. items.


July 18/19: Mary Jane Ansell, London, is hung at St Albans jail after being found guilty of poisoning her sister, Caroline Ansell, who at the time was a patient at Leavesden Asylum. Mary Jane Ansell was the last women to be hung in Hertfordshire County.



The recreation hall and chapel are used for Jewish service and reception of the dead.


A new mortuary is constructed at the end of the male corridor

Where the YMCA is located now.



Tuberculosis Wards, later to be named Redwing and Jasmine, are opened at Leavesden. Tuberculosis causes the death of 30% of the patients at the hospital. 



25 June: An inquest is held into the death of Ernest Edward Taylor, age 39, an engineer at Leavesden Asylum. His wife, Elizabeth Taylor, 39, a nurse at the same hospital was found guilty of poising him at a trial held in November of 1906.



MAB makes formal petition to the Right Reverend, Bishop Edgar, and the Diocese of St Albans, to create new cemetery on the north side of East Lane as the original cemetery has become full. Additional land north of East Lane is purchased from Woodside Farms.



5 June:  New cemetery is consecrated.

Leavesden Hospital Football Club joins the Hertfordshire County League Western Division.



Mental Health Nurses Training is openned at Leavesden Asylum.



 “A” company of the 2 Division, Post Office Rifles is billeted in the Leavesden Asylum on their forward march to France.



24 March: Aaron Kosminski dies in Leavesden Hospital from gangrene. He is removed from the hospital and buried in East Ham Cemetery, London.



Steam generators are installed to provide electric lighting to the hospital.



Mains electrics installed throughout the hospital.



The St. Pancras Orphanage on the south side of the park closed and was annexed by the Leavesden Asylum.


The Metropolitan Asylum Board was disbanded, and its 140 medical facilities taken over by the London County Council. 


Renamed the Leavesden Mental Hospital with 2000 patients in residence.



The Leavesden Mental Hospital annex (former St Pancras Workhouse/School) was designated an Emergency Hospital, where French and Canadian forces wounded in at Dunkirk, were treated. (AA)


Leavesden Hospital Sports and Social Club known as the “Friendly Leaves” formed to foster a friendly relationship between all grades of staff.



September: The Khaki University of Canada at Leavesden is opened by Field-Marshal Montgomery. The total number of students then was 565, including 9 nurses nursing students and 2 members of the CWAC, for the 13-week course - with subjects ranging from biology to languages. The President, Brigadier Edwin Beaumont, was responsible for the planning and development of the scheme at Leavesden.



The Khaki University Closes and the building is taken over by the Ministry of Education and renamed the Leavesden Green Training College.



July 5:   The National Health Service Act 1946 came into effect and created the National Health Service in England and Wales thus being the first implementation of the Beveridge model. Though the title 'National Health Service' implies a single health service for the United Kingdom, in reality one NHS was created for England and Wales accountable to the Secretary of State for Health, and another for Scotland. 


London County Council hands over administration of the Leavesden Mental Hospital to the North West Metropolitan Regional Board. 


Leavesden Mental Hospital becomes part of the National Health Service and is designated as a mental hospital and an institution for defectives. Total number of patients being treated at the main hospital and the annexed buildings on the south side was in excess of 3,000. The NHS changes the name to Leavesden Hospital.



Asylum Road, which ran from the junction of Leavesden High Road/Woodside Road and Horseshoe Lane (where the Tesco Express is currently) to the junction of Tibbs Hill Lane) was renamed College Road in recognition of the Leavesden Green Teaching College, the Nursing College and two industrial schools.



The newly formed Abbots Langley Gilbert And Sullivan Society hold their first performance of “The Mikado” in the recreation hall of the hospital.



Children are admitted to Leavesden Mental Hospital and school classes are provided at the Leavesden School which was within the old St Pancras Workhouse/Orphanage building annexed by the hospital in 1930.



The Friendly Leaves group is formed to support the patients of the hospital.



The hospitals dairy farm operation is discontinued, and milk is now supplied in 1 pint bottles by contractors.



23 June: Leavesden Group Hospital Management Committee makes petition to the Consistory Court of the Diocese of St Albans and Bishop Michael for a grant of faculty to relocate 48 head stones from the cemetery on East Lane for the purpose of levelling the ground to make the mowing and maintenance of these areas easier.


The West Herts Crematorium is opened on High Elms Lane in Garston, Watford. This may have had something to do with the hospitals plans to relocate head stones and make way for less full body burials and more cremations and inexpensive cremation markers.



2 February: Faculty granted and fee of 6 guineas is paid by the hospital for court fees. Headstones are moved to the south side of the old cemetery and now rest next to the wall between the cemetery and the sewage treatment plant.



20 September: Howard Mabbett (16), Anthony Wilson (17) and Christopher Gurney (16) make history by becoming the first male nursing cadets at Leavesden Hospital and the first boys to take the preparatory nursing course at West Herts College of Further Education.



6 March: Two positive carriers of the typhoid fever that killed a young woman have been traced to the ward she occupied in Leavesden Hospital until shortly before her death. But any scare of the dreaded disease spreading outside of the hospital can be discounted. With this assurance, Dr Norman Taylor, Medical Officer of Health for the Watford Rural District said “The search for carriers will continue. And all new patients are being carefully screened’. (W.O.)



19 April:  HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, visited the purposed build Leavesden School on Tuesday afternoon, to open the new £68,000 school building for mentally sub-normal child patients marking the start of another important chapter in the long history of Leavesden Hospital. (W.O.)



The Maintenance staff working at the hospital include: Carpenters (6), Plumbers (5), Drainmen (1), Electricians (6), Fitters (12), Painters (9), Bricklayers (2), Scaffolder (1) and lorry driver (1)


2 May: His Eminence, Cardinal John Heenan, visits Leavesden Hospital and comments “If it is true that young nurses aren’t paid enough to feed, dress and look after themselves, then it is a national scandal.” (W.O.)


Hospital wards are given names instead of numbers with male ward being named after birds, female wards being named after flowers and the annex wards being named after trees.



29 May: 50 resident male nurses at Leavesden Hospital threatened to resign unless immediate action is taken by the management committee to “provide us with habitable accommodation”. They allege that the present buildings are in a state of bad repair, hopelessly equipped and badly supervised. (W.O.)


The Leavesden Hospital’s farming operation, which includes the Annexes on the south side of College Road, consists of cows, pigs, and chickens along with two large orchards with apples, pear and plum trees. There is also an extensive area for rhubarb, cherries, gooseberries, and blackcurrants. The fields north of the main hospital grew corn, which was sold, and flour bought in because the hospital had its own bakery and produced its own bread. They also had their own tailor’s shop, needlework rooms, cobblers’ shop, laundry, kitchen, a bank, two staff cafeterias and three churches!! Many of the wards still had a open fires in the main dormitory.



4 June:19 animals were killed in the recently opened “Pets Corner” located just to the right of the main entrance to the Leavesden Hospital. (W.O.)



The Leavesden School is transferred to the control of the Hertfordshire Education Authority and renamed the Springfield School. It was reclassified as a further education institution in the 1900s because most students were above the school leaving age.



The Friendly Leaves Patient Clubhouse is opened by Lady Bowes-Lyon, Cousin of the Queen Mother.



A horse drawn hearse is still kept in a locked garage at one of the staff houses in East Lane. Most likely Coles Farm.



June: There are 1,500 patients in Leavesden.



The Mental Health Act is the main piece of legislation that covers the assessment, treatment and rights of people with a mental health disorder. People detained under the Mental Health Act need urgent treatment for a mental health disorder and are at risk of harm to themselves or others.


July 9th: The hospital fete is held along with the official opening of Pets Corner.



February 25: Looking after mentally handicapped people has become one of the present Government’s priorities within the NHS and Leavesden Hospital is about to reap the benefit. The North-West Thames Regional Health Authority officers, recommendation that well over £1million be made available for upgrading works at Leavesden Hospital. As a result, Mr Hugh Dulley, the hospital administrator, is looking forward to putting in hand far-reaching improvement to the building, changes that will be noticed even by the casual motorist as he passes by. (W.O.)


The Relatives of Leavesden group joins the Friends of Leavesden and they become the Friends and Relatives of Leavesden Group.



18 October: Three Rivers Council joins forces with Watford in a bid to halt moves that could lead to the closure of Leavesden Hospital. Councillors this week gave unanimous support to a motion, already backed by Watford Council, that calls on Health Minister Barney Hayhoe to take steps to prevent a switch in management responsibilities for the hospital. The North West Thames Regional Health Authority has already ruled that the 1,000-patient hospital for the mentally handicapped should be taken out of the South West Herts health district. Instead it will be lumped in with Harperbury and Cell Barnes hospitals in North West Herts. The move will leave the way clear for the closure of one of the hospitals within the next ten years and many fear Leavesden will be the one to go. (W.O.)



The Adult Education department is moved to the chapel in the annex side of the hospital.


The North West Herts. Health Authority produces the first draft of the "Development Control Plan" in an attempt to save some parts of the hospital. A copy of this document can be found in the "Document Archives section of this website.



June: There are 1023 patients at Leavesden.


July 19: The hospital’s summer fete is held.



25 March: HRH, Sarah Ferguson, The Duchess of York, tours Leavesden Hospital. 62-year-old patient Betty Newman, a regular of the hospital’s daytime elderly care unit, presented pregnant Fergie with a pair of hand-knitted baby’s booties – decorated with blue and pink ribbons to cover all eventualities!


December: Three Rivers District Council produces the first draft of their "Abbots Langley-Leavesden Hospitals Draft Planning Brief."  A copy of this document can be found in the "Document Archives section of this website.



October 13: Mayor of Watford, Cllr. John Watts, describes a mini village being planned for the old Leavesden and Abbots Langley Hospital sites as the “next step towards linking Watford with Hemel Hempstead.” (W.O.)


Adam Faith opened the first video store in the hospital. (RL)



9 September : Hospital worker Steve Snelling and staff nurses Emma Cleevely, Sharon Moss and student nurse Angela Readman cycle 140 miles to Canvey Island and back to raise £350 for the Blue Bell ward where they work.


Jane Reynolds resigns as Hospital Manager.



29 March: The Friendly Leaves and Relatives Social Club moves to the main hospital site and occupies the old Firs Unit.


July: North West Herts. Mental Handicapped Unit becomes the Horizon Trust with Mr Tom Freeman as its first Chairman.


620 patients are at Leavesden.


The annex side of the hospital is officially closed.



1 April: Leavesden Aerodrome closes.  During the Second World War, Leavesden airfield was a hive of activity as mechanics, engineers and other workers feverishly built aeroplanes to help Britain’s collective war effort. Their unstinting efforts paid dividends as the Allies eventually triumphed, but yesterday the airfield finally closed, leaving behind only a wealth of memories for everyone connected with the site. (W.O.)


8 April: A fake Home Office notice suggesting a prison was being built on the Leavesden Airport site was a sick idea of an April Fool’s joke, according to the Leavesden Village Action Group. Home Office spokesman Mr Paul Gurney confirmed it was a hoax.


November: There are 216 residents in Leavesden Hospital. In the past 8 years, over 1000 residents had been moved from Cell Barnes, Leavesden and Harperbury into new homes in Hertfordshire and further a field.



25 January: Miss Florrie Watts, of Daisy Ward, celebrates her 106 birthday. She has been a resident of Leavesden since 1938.


16 June: The hospital holds its last Victorian Fair. You can see many photographs of the Victorian Fairs held at the hospital in the Photo Gallery section of this website.


9 July: The Friendly Leaves Social Club officially closes.


17 August:  The Eric Shepherd Unit offices move to their newly built location alongside Woodside Road and next to Crossways housing.


31 October: Leavesden Hospital is official closed after closing ceremonies held on the grounds. A video of the closing cerimonies can be found on the Leavesden Hospital History Associations YouTube page. 



April: Martin Brooks is appointed as the first Park Ranger for Three Rivers District Council and assigned to Leavesden Country Park.



July: Leavesden Country Park is awarded its first Green Flag Award by Keep Britian Tidy.



1 January: The Leavesden Hospital History Association is founded by Martin Brooks to ensure that the history, heritage and memories of the people, places and events that made up the Leavesden Asylum/Hospitals’ (1870 to 1995), St. Pancras Workhouse/Orphanages (1870 to 1932), the Canadian Hospital (1939 to 1946), the Abbots Langley Hospital (1946 to 1995) and the Springfield special educational needs school (1972 to 1995) are maintained for future generations to appreciate and learn from.



8 October: Money is raised by the Leavesden Hospital History Association for the purchase of a remembrance plaque dedicated to all those who worked and lived at Leavesden Asylum/Hospitals’ (1870 to 1995), St. Pancras Workhouse/Orphanages (1870 to 1932), the Canadian Hospital (1939 to 1946), the Abbots Langley Hospital (1946 to 1995) and the Springfield special educational needs school (1972 to 1995). The plaque is installed on the south side of the park.



Three Rivers District Council’s Leisure Department unveils the Abbots Langley Leisure Project which includes details of the Leavesden Country Park Heritage Project. A steering group is formed consisting of local history/heritage groups, the Henderson Hub, local Leavesden Ward Councillors, and member of the public.


19 April: Russell Edwards, author of the book “Naming Jack the Ripper” tours Leavesden Country Park with Martin Brooks, Founder of the Leavesden Hospital History Association.



9 July: Three Rivers District Council holds the first Leavesden Country Park Heritage Day event to celebrate the history and heritage of the area.



4 February: The new Heritage Information Volunteer Education (HIVE) centre is opened to the public for the first time with displays of hospital related artefacts and memorabilia supplied by the Leavesden Hospital History Association.


26 February: At the request of the Leavesden Hospital History Association, the names on the bus stops along College Road are changed to Leavesden Country Park.


8 December: 15 new apple trees (Brownlee’s Russet, Monarch, Queen Blush, Lanes Prince Albert and Warner’s King) are planted on the south side of the park as part of the new “Little Blossoms” orchard.


6 July: Three Rivers District Council officially opens the new Leavesden Country Park Heritage Trail. Over 1,000 people attend the event with more than 100 visiting the new HIVE centre. Money for the Heritage Trail was donated by Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden.


26 September: Three Rivers District Council and the Leavesden Hospital History Association begin planning the restoration and conservation works to the Leavesden Hospital, Chapel of the Good Shepherd, cemetery along East Lane.



11 January: 16 volunteers from the Leavesden Hospital History Association begin a detailed archaeological survey of the East Lane cemetery. The survey uncovers 510 previously unknown cremation marker stones and results in a list of 570 names of patients and staff buried in all areas of the cemetery being recorded.


11 March: The World Health Organization (WHO) declares the Coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. In, response, Three Rivers District Council closes the playground in Leavesden Country Park and cancels all activities and events planned for the HIVE heritage centre to prevent the spread of the virus. 



14 October: Leavesden Country Park is awarded the Green Flag Heritage Award for its work in gathering and preserving the history and heritage of the park and for the creation for the Heritage Trail.


27 October: The Leavesden Hospital History Association wins the “Gathering and Preserving Community and Heritage Group” category during the Community Archives and Heritage Groups awards ceremonies. They are also recognized as the overall winners and awarded the “Community Archive and Heritage Group, 2021.

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©Leavesden Hospital History Association and Martin Brooks