Early Private Mental Asylums

The first proposals for many later improvements in the care and conditions of lunatics are to be found in writings relating to the broader issue of better provision for the poor and sick in general. A suggestion was put forward as early as 1700 that each county should erect ‘one General Hospital’ for lunatics, idiots, the blind, crippled and chronically sick to be regulated by county visitors, but it was not until the passing of the County Asylums Act in 1808, a century later, that this idea received official recognition in Parliament.

For Surrey an Act for Regulating Madhouses, passed in 1774, empowered Justices of the Peace to grant annual licences to keepers of private houses for the reception of lunatics and to ensure their inspection by two visiting justices and a physician. Other legislation followed but it was the Lunacy Act of 1845, that established a central supervisory authority, titled the Commissioners in Lunacy, and ordered that no person should be admitted to a licensed house without an order of the committing person and a medical certificate. The system of licences and visitors was retained.


  • Great Fosters, Egham.  Active c.1774 c.1866
  • Lea Pale House, Stoke next Guildford.  Active c.1774 c.1879
  • Frimley Lodge, Frimley.  Active from c.1799
  • Weston House, Chertsey.  Active from c. 1815
  • Church Street, Epsom.  Active c.1846 – c.1933
  • Timberham House, Charlwood.  Active c.1856 c.1861
  • Canbury House, Kingston.  Active c.1879 c.1895
  • Woodcote End, Epsom. Active c.1880 c.1882
  • Croshams, Sutton.  Active c.1881 c.1889
  • Sutherland House, Surbiton.  Active c.1884 c.1897
  • Chalk Pit House, Sutton.  Active c.1889 c.1908
  • Abele Grove, Epsom.  Active c.1908 – 1914


Under the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 ‘to make further and better provision for the care of feeble-minded and other mentally defective persons’, institutions certified by the newly established Board of Control might receive those deemed idiots, imbeciles or, if under 21, suffering from a lesser degree of mental deficiency, on application of their parents or guardians supported by medical certificates.  Other mental defectives might be admitted under a reception order of the judicial authority.  As an alternative to being placed in an institution a mental defective might be placed under guardianship.

The visitors of licensed houses appointed under the Lunacy Act of 1890 were also to act as visitors of mental defectives in institutions or under guardianship.  Such visitors were to examine each defective at periodic intervals (one year from the reception order; thereafter, if the order was continued a further year, at the end of that year; thereafter at five yearly intervals) and were to report to the Board of Control whether the defective was ‘still a proper person to be detained in his own interest in an institution or under guardianship’.  Those persons originally placed in an institution or under guardianship when they were under 21 were also to be examined on reaching that age to determine whether they should continue to be detained.

Some records for private asylums are held at Surrey History Centre, click here for more information.

Introduction to Mental Health Hospitals in Surrey

The Epsom Cluster

Long Grove Hospital, Epsom, History

Manor Asylum, Epsom, History

St Ebba’s Hospital, Epsom, History

West Park Hospital, Epsom, History

Holloway Sanatorium, Egham, History

Netherne Hospital, Coulsdon, History

The Royal Earlswood Asylum, Redhill, History

Springfield Asylum

To find out more about the history of Disability and Mental Health in Surrey click here.