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Leavesden Mental Hospital, Abbots Langley

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Alternative name(s):
  • Leavesden Asylum (Formerly known as)
  • Metropolitan Asylum for Imbeciles (Formerly known as)
Date: 1870-1974
History: The Metropolitan Asylums Board set an asylum for London's pauper lunatics and paupers suffering from infectious diseases in fever hospitals. It was designed in 1868 by John Giles to provide 1500 beds, one of the first "pavilion-plan" asylums, The foundation stone for Leavesden Asylum was laid on 31 October 1866, and the asylum opened for the opposition of "quiet and harmless imbeciles" on 9 October 1870. By 1876 the number of patients had risen to 2116. After World War I the emphasis of treatment changed form detention and segregation to prevention and treatment, with the introduction of occupational therapy and pay for patients in the 1920s. Control of the asylum passed to London County Council in 1929.

An annexe was built for senile patients on the College Road in 1932. In the Second World War it was used as an Emergency Medical Services hospital, with additional huts erected in the grounds. In 1943 it became a hospital for wounded Canadian soldiers. This annexe was not returned to Leavesden Hospital until 1950. The huts in the grounds became the site of Abbots Langley Hospital for geriatric patients. During the war Leavesden Hospital itself became increasingly over-crowded, taking in mentally handicapped children evacuated from Fountain Hospital, Tooting.

On 5 July 1948 Leavesden Hospital became part of the National Health Service. It was run by the Leavesden Group No. 10 Hospital Management Committee, part of the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. It was designated as both a mental hospital and an institution for "mental defectives", as there was a shortage of beds in the North West Metropolitan Region for psychotic and mentally deficient patients. At that time it had over 2000 beds. In 1950 it became an all-purpose mental deficiency institution for all ages, but stopped being a mental hospital. lt was at the start of the period when more liberal attitudes prevailed and there was a move away from isolation and segregation and towards treatment and rehabilitation among the wider community.

In 1974 it passed to South West Hertfordshire District Health Authority in the North West Thames Regional Health Authority, and in 1986 to the North West Hertfordshire District Health Authority, where it became linked with the similar institutions of Harperbury and Cell Barnes Hospital. In 1992 it became part of the Horizon NHS Trust, when it provided beds for 654 mentally-handicapped patients. In the same year the annexe, Abbots Langley Hospital, was closed. With the implementation of government policy to provide care in the community and the re-settlement of inmates in residential accommodation, the number of patients rapidly decreased. Leavesden Hospital was eventually closed in 1995, when the remaining residents were transferred to Harperbury Hospital.
  • Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire
  • Leavesden, Hertfordshire
Functions, occupations and activities: Health and social care > Hospitals
History Links: webpage on Leavesden Hospital
References: Hosprec database; Lost Hospitals of London website; Kevin Brown, The Leavesden Hospital Story, 1870-1005, published 1995
Name authority reference: GB/NNAF/C6802 (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/O51937 )
Number Description Held by Reference Further information
1870-1974: orders for admissions, character books, records of employees
London Metropolitan Archives: City of London
1880s: admission registers
Watford Museum
NRA 35003
1870-1952: admission registers (3)
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
See Annual Return 2009
1970: badge collection
Royal College of Nursing Archives
See RCN accessions 2006
1920s-1970s: patient registers; post-mortem registers (male and female); mortuary register; alphabetical register, register of cases of typhoid, dysentery and diarrhoea; registers of discharges, transfers and deaths
London Metropolitan Archives: City of London
See Annual Return 2019
Related record creators
  Record creator Description of relationship Dates Category of relationship
Leavesden Asylum was under the authority of London County Council
Leavesden Asylum was established and managed by Metropolitan Asylums Board