Brookwood Asylum

Established to complement the Springfield Asylum in Tooting, Brookwood Hospital opened in 1867 as Brookwood Asylum. It was the second County Asylum able to hold 650 pauper lunatics. Brookwood Asylum was the leading mental hospital for the West of Surrey.

SHC_Brookwood

Brookwood Asylum, Surrey History Centre collections

Brookwood was sited on 150 acres of land which lay between the Basingstoke canal and the village of Knaphill, four miles west of Woking.

During the 127 years of its operation, the hospital developed considerably. It was self-sufficient with, among other things, its own dairy, cobblers, sewage farm, fire-brigade and chapel. Later came a reception hospital, then library and conference centre.

Following the opening of the sick hospital in 1938, patient capacity peaked at 1,753.

The hospital closed in 1994.

Useful Links

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About Knaphill

About Brookwood Asylum

19th Century Surrey

Surrey History Centre

Contact details for museums in Surrey

12 thoughts on “Brookwood Asylum”

  1. david spence says:

    i worked here in the early 1990s as kitchen superintendent

    1. Natasha Harper says:

      Soup attendant 😉

    2. Hollie says:

      Hi I’m going to do an art project on this is possible if I could ask you some more questions about your time working here?
      My emails [email protected] if your interested.

  2. Clara says:

    I’ve been indexing from Parish records and have found several people who have died in this asylum in May 1883. It was so fascinating to read about it! I hope people can find their ancestors who were interred here.

  3. Susan says:

    I was here in 1956 as a polio patient. There must have been an isolation wing for epidemics. I don’t know how long it was used for this. Visitors could only look in and wave through the large glass windows. Quarantine was 4 weeks and then we were transferred to the Rowley Bristowe Orthopaedic Hospital at Pyrford. First time today I realised it had been an asylum.

  4. Elizabeth Scott says:

    My grandmother was a resident in 1939 – Adeline Alice Scott – according to a resident list.

    1. Sandra says:

      Where did you find a resident list ? Gg aunt in here age 13

  5. Lynne Villiers says:

    My 3rd great grand aunt died here in 1898 I am trying to find out why she was committed, but I am unsure where to look. Any ideas?

  6. Luke says:

    What state is it now ? Who was the last patient there ?

  7. Mary kelly.nee helm says:

    I used to work at brookwood hospital.and did in fact do my psych training there .I used to live in a hospital house in spavell rd M eldest son was baptised in brookwood hospital chapple

    1. ESP Admin says:

      Dear Mary

      Many thanks for your comment, we have tried to reply directly but there seems to be a problem with the e-mail address. We were hoping to send you the following message:

      Dear Mrs Kelly,

      Many thanks for your comment about Brookwood Hospital posted on our Exploring Surrey’s Past website. My name is Julian Pooley and I was closely involved in rescuing the records of Brookwood and other Surrey hospitals when they closed in the mid-1990s. Brookwood is one of the largest hospital archives in our collections, providing a huge amount of material of value to family, medical and social historians. We’ve also used it as the launch pad for several community projects, especially with Woking Mind.

      I’ve just looked back through my emails and have found links to two Radio 4 broadcasts that featured our work with Woking Mind and the wider heritage of mental health care in Surrey.

      The first one comes from the BBC Radio 4 series called State of Mind which described the mental health system from the 1950s onwards as well as including a recording of our work with former patients of Brookwood: 
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/stateofmind_20090107.shtml

      And the last 10 minutes of this programme of All in the Mind include a feature on West Park hospital in Epsom, which I visited with an artist called Rachel Gadsden and a former nurse a couple of years ago 
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00p8fvb

      You may also be interested in the short piece that I wrote for our newsletter about how we rescued the records when the hospitals closed https://mailchi.mp/aef7e7ab8e9f/latest-news-and-events-at-surrey-history-centre-1887865?e=%5BUNIQID%5D

      Further details about how we have subsequently used these amazing records in a wide range of engagement projects are included in a short talk that I gave at a seminar held at Kingston University a few years ago. The talk and the powerpoint are still available online at
      http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2011/06/providing-public-history-challenges-and-opportunities/  

      It’s very out of date now, but the powerpoint is still useful. I’ve developed it into a talk called ‘Making Archives Matter’ which is now included in the programme of talks which we offer to outside groups across the county, along with a more general talk about the history of mental health care in Surrey since the 18th century. Just before lockdown brought everything to a sudden stop, I had prepared a new talk about the history of Brookwood itself and its place in the community. I was booked to give it at a number of venues in Woking before the pandemic and very much hope to be able to do so again soon. If you still live in Surrey or within easy reach of Woking I would be happy to let you know when any dates come up in case you are interested.

      May I ask if you worked at Brookwood for long? I would be fascinated to hear more about your time there and learn more about your training, your work in the mental health sector and daily life inside Brookwood itself. Perhaps when we reopen and if you live nearby you might be interested to visit us at Surrey History Centre, see some of the surviving Brookwood archive and share you memories of the hospital? You can reach me on this email or on the direct telephone number below.

      Yours sincerely,

      Julian Pooley
      Public Services and Engagement Manager
      Surrey History Centre
      130 Goldsworth Road
      Woking
      GU21 6ND
      01483-518749
      [email protected]

  8. Gill Pledge nee Evans says:

    I did my three months psychiatric Trial at this Hospital while studying at the Royal Surrey and today aged 74 I drove back to have a look.How changed it all was without its beautiful farm land and gardens, spent many hours sitting peeling potatoes! Loved my time there.

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