Catalogue description HANWELL ASYLUM

This record is held by London Metropolitan Archives: City of London

Details of H11/HLL
Reference: H11/HLL
Description: A. Records of the Administration of the Asylum: H11/HLL/A/01 Draft Minutes and Presented Papers 1845-1891; H11/HLL/A/02 Indexes to Resolutions of the Committee of Visiting Justices 1845-1895; H11/HLL/A/03 Indexes to Resolutions of the LCC Asylums Commitees and Hanwell Sub-Committee 1895-1936; H11/HLL/A/04 Annual Statements of Account 1856-1866; H11/HLL/A/05 Annual Reports 1840-1889; H11/HLL/A/06 Draft Annual Reports 1869-1877, 1917; H11/HLL/A/07 Reports from Officers of the Asylum 1832-1948; H11/HLL/A/08 Other Reports 1844; H11/HLL/A/09 Rules and Regulations 1844-1930; H11/HLL/A/10 Annual and Half-yearly Returns of Lunatics 1860-1872; H11/HLL/A/11 Quarterly Returns of Lunatics 1869-1870; H11/HLL/A/12 Returns of Criminal Lunatics 1841-1867; H11/HLL/A/13 Correspondence of the Clerk to the Committee of Visitors 1869-1889; H11/HLL/A/14 Correspondence of Other Officers of the Asylum 1839-1945; H11/HLL/A/15 Legal Records: 1. Case papers and inquiries 1858-1876; 2. Contracts and Tenders 1860-1886; 3. Divorce Papers 1938-1961; H11/HLL/A/16 Reports of Visiting Justices and Remarks of Boards of Guardians 1862-1918; H11/HLL/A/17 Records of Classes [1905]; H11/HLL/A/18 Returns of Needlework 1929-1939; H11/HLL/A/19 Plans 1831-1843; H11/HLL/A/20 Minutes of Medical Advisory Committee of St Bernard's Hospital 1962-1966. B. Records of Patients' Administration: H11/HLL/B/01 Registers of Female Admissions 1831-1845; H11/HLL/B/02 Registers of Female Admissions 1839-1877; H11/HLL/B/03 Registers of Male Admissions 1831-1845; H11/HLL/B/04 Registers of Male Admissions 1839-1877; H11/HLL/B/05 Registers of Admissions 1853-1906; H11/HLL/B/06 Registers of Admissions of Private Patients 1894-1906; H11/HLL/B/07 Civil Registers 1907-1948; H11/HLL/B/08 Registers of Criminal Lunatics 1831-1949; H11/HLL/B/09 Discharge Books 1840-1954; H11/HLL/B/10 Registers of Discharges, Removals and Deaths 1845-1906; H11/HLL/B/11 Registers of Female Discharges and Removals 1865-1954; H11/HLL/B/12 Registers of Male Discharges and Removals 1880-1955; H11/HLL/B/13 Registers of Discharges and Transfers 1907-1922; H11/HLL/B/14 Removal Orders 1888-1890; H11/HLL/B/15 Registers of Female Deaths 1839-1948; H11/HLL/B/16 Registers of Male Deaths 1839-1948; H11/HLL/B/17 Registers of Deaths 1907-1922; H11/HLL/B/18 Inquest Papers 1861-1872; H11/HLL/B/19 Female Casebooks 1831-1940; H11/HLL/B/20 Male Casebooks 1845-1942; H11/HLL/B/21 Clinical Journals, Male cases 1854-1873; H11/HLL/B/22 Medical Registers, Female cases 1907-1948; H11/HLL/B/23 Medical Registers, Male cases 1907-1948; H11/HLL/B/24 Medical Journals 1920-1925; H11/HLL/B/25 Registers of Mechanical Restraint and Seclusion 1892-1967; H11/HLL/B/26 Tuberculosis Registers 1907-1935; H11/HLL/B/27 Prescription Books 1938-1943; H11/HLL/B/28 Autopsy Records, Female cases 1861-1908; H11/HLL/B/29 Records of Female Post-Mortem examinations 1900-1941; H11/HLL/B/30 Autopsy Records, Male cases 1863-1904; H11/HLL/B/31 Records of Male Post-Mortem examinations 1904-1950; H11/HLL/B/32 Books of Visitors to Patients 1861-1880; H11/HLL/B/33 Addresses of Visitors to Patients 1860-1910. C. Staff Records: H11/HLL/C/01 Registers of Officers of the Asylum 1840-1904; H11/HLL/C/02 Applications for posts at the Asylum 1837-1842, 1871-1888; H11/HLL/C/03 Letters of Recommendation and Testimonials for for Asylum Staff 1860-1923; H11/HLL/C/04 Matron's Report Book 1839-1852; H11/HLL/C/05 Fine Books, Female Attendants 1840-1935; H11/HLL/C/06 Fine Books, Male Attendants 1838-1935; H11/HLL/C/07 Obligation Book 1936-1940; H11/HLL/C/08 Uniform Book c.1915; H11/HLL/C/09 Tea Fund Order Book 1920-1943; H11/HLL/C/10 Artisans' Wages Books 1912-1923; H11/HLL/C/11 Health Insurance Card 1915. D. Financial Records: H11/HLL/D/01 Parish Ledgers 1831-1874; H11/HLL/D/02 Parish Journals, and Parish and Union Accounts 1844-1930; H11/HLL/D/03 Public Assistance Authority Accounts 1930-1948; H11/HLL/D/04 Private Patients' Ledgers 1914-1936; H11/HLL/D/05 Analysis Book 1947-1948; H11/HLL/D/06 Parish and Union Accounts for the Asylums Common Fund 1891-1896; H11/HLL/D/07 Treasurer's Account 1894-1929; H11/HLL/D/08 Draft Ledger 1901; H11/HLL/D/09 Sundry Receipts Book 1931-1946; H11/HLL/D/10 Sales Account Books 1920-1942; H11/HLL/D/11 Reister of Fees Receivable 1939-1948; H11/HLL/D/12 Patients' Cash Book 1950-1952; H11/HLL/D/13 Day Books 1954-1960; H11/HLL/D/14 Banking Records 1873-1874; H11/HLL/D/15 County Grant Account Books 1872-1888; H11/HLL/D/16 Miscellaneous Financial Material Var.. Y. Other Records: H11/HLL/Y/01 Reports of other Asylums 1869, 1901; H11/HLL/Y/02 Publications 1837-1850, 1938-1940; H11/HLL/Y/03 County Material 1836-1860; H11/HLL/Y/04 Material relating to Colney Hatch Asylum 1851, 1865; Form of Tender n.d.; Various material 1907-1958.
Related material:

See also Committee to enquire into the state of pauper lunatics in Middlesex, 1827, MJ/SP/1827/LC/1-24.


Views of the Asylum and descriptions of events held there can be found in the Print Collection (Reference: Ealing BB).

Held by: London Metropolitan Archives: City of London, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Middlesex County Asylum at Hanwell, 1831-1889

London County Asylum, Hanwell, 1889-1918

London County Mental Hospital, Hanwell, 1918-1937

St Bernard's Hospital, Hanwell, 1937-1980

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records of Hanwell Asylum, later St Bernard's Psychiatric Unit, Ealing Hospital, Uxbridge Road, Southall, Middlesex, transferred to the Greater London Record Ofice, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HB under the terms of Section 4(i) of the Public Records Act (1958) on 14 August 1983 (Acc 1874), on 4 September 1985 (Acc 2171) and on 29 May 1986 (Acc 2283).

Publication note:

In the History Library there are three reprints of Dr Conolly's books, the introductions to which give valuable information about Hanwell Asylum 1831-1852. They are shelved at reference 26.2 CON and are:-


The Indications of Insanity, by Dr J Conolly, with introduction by Richard Hunter and Ida MacAlpine. Psychiatric Monograph Series 4 (Dawsons, London, 1964)


The Treatment of the Insane without Mechanical Restraints, by Dr J Conolly, with introduction and notes by Richard Hunter and Ida MacAlpine. Psychiatric Monograph Series 5 (Dawsons, London, 1973)


The Construction and Government of Lunatic Asylums, by Dr J Conolly, with introduction by Richard Hunter and Ida MacAlpine. Psychiatric Monograph Series 6 (Dawsons, London, 1968)


There is also a history of the Asylum written by a former chaplain to the Hospital, Rev H A Norris (Ref: 26.21 HAN), and two articles about the threat of demolition to the Asylum buildings, both by Katrin Fitzherbert, in Illustrated London News September 1984 and Country Life 22 May 1986.

  • Hanwell, London
  • Hanwell, Middlesex
  • Health services
  • Psychiatry
Administrative / biographical background:

Hanwell was the first pauper lunatic asylum for the county of Middlesex. It opened in June 1831, originally to take 500 patients, but the building was enlarged in 1831, 1837, 1857 and 1879 to cope with the increasing demand for beds. In 1888 the Asylum had 1891 patients. Hanwell achieved great prominence in the field of psychiatric nursing due to the work of two of its first Medical Superintendents. Dr (later Sir) William Ellis, the first Medical Superintendent at Hanwell (1831-1838) introduced his idea of "Therapy of Employment", which encouraged patients to use the skills and trades which they had acquired before entering the Asylum, to occupy themselves, for the benefit of the Asylum and as an aid in their treatment by restoring their self respect and by reviving an aspect of their lives from before their illness. This was the forerunner of occupational therapy and industrial therapy. In time the system was somewhat abused and patient labour was used to provide some of the essential services of the Asylum, so reducing its running costs.


Dr John Conolly, the third Medical Superintendent at Hanwell and later its Visiting Physician (1839-1852) abolished all use of mechanical restraints to control patients at the Asylum. Although he was not the first to use more humane methods of treating the insane, the abolition of mechanical restraints at Hanwell was the first time that the idea had been applied on such a large scale and on so many different types of patients. It was a huge success and attracted visitors from all over England and encouraged the abolition of mechanical restraints in other Asylums. By using Ellis's system of employment for therapy, and with padded rooms and periods of seclusion or solitary confinement, and some sedatives, Conolly was able to control even the most violent patients without resorting to mechanical restraints. Protective clothing was sometimes used to prevent patients tearing their clothing or breaking crockery etc, but these never restricted their movements. No mechanical restraints were used at Hanwell between 1840 and 1890.


Hanwell's full title was the Middlesex County Asylum at Hanwell. In 1889 the Asylum was taken over by the newly formed London County Council and became the London County Asylum, Hanwell. In 1918 it became a County Mental Hospital. In 1937 its name was changed to St Bernard's Hospital. From 1948 to 1974 it was part of the North West Metropolitan Region with its own hospital management committee. In 1974 it became part of North West Thames Regional Health Authority and was within Ealing Health District. In 1980 it was absorbed into Ealing Hospital and is now known as the Psychiatric Unit, St Bernard's Wing, Ealing Hospital. It still functions as a psychiatric and psycho-geriatric hospital for long stay patients. It has 950 beds.


In 1827 a Committee of Visiting Justices was appointed to arrange the building of the Asylum. Their minute books 1827-1831 survive in the records of the Middlesex Sessions (Ref: MA/A/J1-J2). Land in several places was offered as a site for the Asylum (Ref: MA/A/J3) but the Committee chose land in Hanwell owned by the Earl of Jersey (see also Acc 436 Bdle 40). A mortgage of £63,000 was raised to finance the building (Ref: MA/D/A1/79-80). Contracts and Contract plans survive for the original building and later additions (Ref: MA/DCP and MA/D/A1). Account books for county grants of money for later building work survive in the Hanwell records (Ref: H11/HLL/D15) and files concerning the grants survive in the additional deposit of Middlesex Sessions records (Ref: Acc 1154/19-20).


From 1831 to 1839 the Asylum was administered by a Committee of Visiting Justices, also known as the Committee of Visitors. These were Justices of the Peace and were elected at the beginning of each year. The Committee considered all aspects of the Asylum's administration. Draft minutes and presented papers, reports, legal records and correspondence are listed in Section A. Amongst the records of the Middlesex Sessions there are several classes of records which relate to the administration of the Asylum. There are reports by the Committee to the General Court of Quarter Sessions (Ref: MJ/OC for manuscript copies, MA/RS and H11/HLL/A5 for printed reports); copies of returns of lunatics, notices of discharges and deaths (Ref; MA/A, see also H11/HLL/A/10-A/11, and H11/HLL/B/09-B/17); superannuation allowance claims (Ref: MF/485); financial records including ledgers and county rates (Ref: MF/1-272, 321-326 and MF/A); and records of property owned by Hanwell Asylum (Ref: MA/D/A1). In the additional deposit of Middlesex Sessions records there is also a record of provisions supplied to the Asylum (Ref: Acc 1154/21). Only one minute book (Ref: LCC/MIN/1068) survives for the Committee of Justices' meetings and this is in the records of the London County Council, which took over the Asylum in 1889 and administered it until 1948 and the formation of the National Health Service. The LCC Asylums Committee (later the Asylums and Mental Deficiency Committee and from 1922 the Mental Hospitals Committee) with the Hanwell Sub-Committee administered the Asylum. Minutes of their meetings can be found in the records of the LCC Committees (Ref: LCC/MIN/544-669 and LCC/MIN/1069-1116). Other records of the administration of the Asylum during this period are listed in Section A. Other records of the Asylum which are held in LCC classes are registers of staff 1900-1914 (Ref: PH/STA/5). There is also a financial history of the Asylum written between 1841 and 1842 (Ref: Acc 977).

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