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Cell Barnes Hospital, St Albans

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Alternative name(s):
  • Cell Barnes Mental Colony (Formerly known as)
  • Cell Barnes Mental Hospital (Formerly known as)
Date: 1932-2001
History: Cell Barnes Mental Colony was founded in 1933 by Hertfordshire County Council to provide care for those with learning difficulties and disabilities ('mentally deficient' or 'mentally handicapped'). The name Cell Barnes may originate from a barn or barns attached to Sopwell Priory, a cell of St Albans Abbey, which was used as a retreat by a 15th century Prioress of St Albans called Dame Juliana Barnes (or Berners). In the 1920s Hertfordshire County Council purchased 93 acres of the Cell Barnes estate from the Earl of Verulam. The hospital was designed by JM Sheppard and Partners of London, architects, with accommodation for patients in 600 beds (400 of them being for those from Hertfordshire). It took its first patients on 2 March 1933 and was officially opened on 5 October 1933. It was located in Highfields Lane, St Albans [later post code AL4 0RG]. During World War II it took in patients from the St Bartholomew's sector of the Emergency Medical Service.

Following the foundation of the National Health Service in 1948 it was acquired by the NHS for the treatment of the mentally handicapped and managed by the Cell Barnes and Harperbury Group No. 8 Hospital Management Committee (later the Verulam Group HMC) under the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. In 1974 it came under the North West Hertfordshire District Health Authority and the North West Thames Regional Health Authority. In the 1980s it had capacity for over 700 beds, including annexes in Tenterden House (Old Lye House) at Lye Lane, Bricket Wood (purchased in 1946), and in Bennetts End Hospital, Hemel Hempstead. With the drive of NHS policy towards care in the community in the early 1990s, the hospital was gradually wound down by the Horizon NHS Trust. The hospital formally closed on 31 March 1998. All the buildings were demolished, with some of the land being used for housing development and rest being part of Highfield Park, run by the Highfield Park Trust 'for the benefit and enjoyment of existing and new communities in the area'.
  • St Albans, Hertfordshire
Sources of authority: Idiots Act 1886, Mental Deficiency Act 1913
Functions, occupations and activities: Health and social care > Hospitals
History Links: webpage for Cell Barnes Hospital
Historical context: The 1886 Idiots Act allowed local authorities to build asylums for 'idiots' or 'imbeciles'. These people were distinct from 'lunatics', who had simply become mentally ill and were possibly recoverable. The Mental Deficiency Act 1913 introduced a hierarchy of categories of mental deficiency, from Idiots at the bottom of the scale, to Imbeciles, the Feeble-Minded, and up to Moral Defectives. All had to be deficient from birth or from an early age. The Act set up a Board of Control, in effect those who had been the Lunacy Commissioners. The objective of such institutions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries largely lay in providing a secure but isolated and segregated environment away from the wider community. From the middle of the 20th century, the emphasis moved away from that concept and towards the idea of rehabilitating, educating and supporting patients not in large institions but in residential homes within the public community. By the end of the 20th very few of such institutions remained open.
References: Hosprec database; Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Calmview Record; Lost Hospitals of London website
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/C73945 (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/O103345 )
  Description Held by Reference Further information
1932-1997: records
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
See Annual Return 2002
1933-1960: further records
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
See Annual Return 2007
1979-2001: trust records, minutes and correspondence
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

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Related record creators
  Record creator Description of relationship Dates Category of relationship
Cell Barnes Hospital was built and administered by Hertfordshire County Council
Cell Barnes Hospital was subordinate to North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board.
Cell Barnes Hospital was under the authority of the North West Thames Regional Health Authority.