The creation of the county of London in 1889 and the passing of the Lunacy Act in 1890 profoundly affected the provision of care for the mentally ill within both the new county of London and the counties surrounding it. The new London County Council took over responsibility for the mentally ill in its area and for the hospitals which had already been established by the former Metropolitan Asylums Board: Hanwell in Ealing, Colney Hatch in north London and Banstead in Surrey. These asylums were, however, woefully inadequate for the tasks they faced.
These pressures led the LCC to purchase the Horton Manor estate in Epsom where they established the Epsom Cluster of mental hospitals, the largest cluster of such institutions in the world covering a square mile in area. The Manor opened in 1899, Horton in 1902, Ewell Epileptic Colony, later St Ebba’s, in 1904, Long Grove in 1907 and West Park in 1924. Between them they catered for people with mental illness, mental handicap and epilepsy which was still classed as a psychiatric condition.
Each of these huge hospitals was set in spacious grounds, with its own chapel, theatre and other recreational facilities. Food was supplied by the hospitals’ own farm and each hospital had its own workshops, laundry, dentist, hairdresser and other services. The hospitals had their own light railway, to transport building supplies and there was also a central cemetery where the dead of each hospital could be buried.
The number of patients treated at each of these hospitals rose steadily until the late 1950s. At Long Grove Hospital in Epsom, one of the largest hospitals designed on a semi-circular plan and with a main block of twenty-eight wards complemented by nine outlying villas, there were by 1950 some 2,500 patients drawn principally from the east end of London.
The records created by the Epsom Cluster hospitals are similar to those of other hospital records the problem is that not all of these records survive for each hospital and so if you are looking for a particular person or studying a given topic it is usually necessary to examine a range of sources and fit the data together rather like a jigsaw puzzle.
Although Surrey History Centre rescued many thousands of records from the Epsom Cluster hospitals when they closed, there are significant gaps. If you are researching a particular person or topic you may find it necessary to look at many different records and re-assemble the data, rather like a jigsaw puzzle. We are happy to provide advice about what survives and how to access it.
For more information please visit http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/
Other Mental Hospitals in Surrey
Access to mental health records
Due to the nature of these records there can sometimes be access restrictions. For more information please read the access to mental health records page.
To find out more about the type of mental health hospital records we hold see the mental health hospital records page.