1. The Holloway Sanatorium

Holloway Sanatorium, Virginia Water, ‘for the care and treatment of the insane of the upper and middle classes’

During the nineteenth century there was a growing concern for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Many new mental hospitals (generally called lunatic asylums at the time) were built for them.

A small number of private establishments or charitable hospitals catered for wealthy or middle-class patients. Holloway Sanatorium, opened in 1885, was one such institution. Thomas Holloway, a multi-millionaire businessman, donated the funds and commissioned the extraordinary gothic-style building and extensive pleasure grounds at Virginia Water. Right next to the railway station, it offered easy access for inmates, visitors and supplies.

Some patients at the Sanatorium paid very high fees for the best facilities. This subsidised the charges for those who were rather less well off.

The Sanatorium continued as a charitable foundation until 1948, when it was transferred to the National Health Service. It closed as a mental hospital in 1980. After a period of ruinous neglect, it was restored and is now incorporated into an exclusive housing development.

This illustration of the Sanatorium is in an early pamphlet for potential patients and shows the grand exterior and the closeness of the railway station. Surrey History Centre, 2620/6/11

This illustration of the Sanatorium is in an early pamphlet for potential patients and shows the grand exterior and the closeness of the
railway station.
Holloway Sanatorium, St Annes Heath,
Virginia Water.

Rules for the admission, visiting and discharge of patients,about 1885,
Surrey History Centre, 2620/6/11.

From the ‘Rules for the admission and visiting of patients and borders’ in Third Annual Report of Holloway Sanatorium, Registered Hospital for the Insane.
For the Year 1888, pp 49-52,
Surrey History Centre, 4761/1/1

A private sitting room for a wealthy patient, illustrated before the Sanatorium actually opened, The Graphic 22 October 1881, p.425.

The cricket pitch in the Sanatoriums extensive grounds, illustrated in a publicity brochure. Surrey History Centre Ref 725.5 S1x

The cricket pitch in the Sanatoriums extensive grounds, illustrated in a publicity brochure.
Some Views of Holloway Sanatorium, St Annes Heath, Virginia Water, Surrey, about 1905.
Surrey History Centre, Ref 725.5 S1x.


Recent picture of the main entrance to Virginia Park, an exclusive housing development, which incorporates the immaculately restored Grade 1 listed Sanatorium building. Photograph, about 1996, courtesy of Octagon Developments.


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12 thoughts on “1. The Holloway Sanatorium”

  1. Heinz Vollmann says:

    Dear all,
    kindly advise of the next open day to visit The Holloway Sanatorium

  2. Yevgeny says:

    I have looked into this matter and from what I can make out, there are no open days planned for the Sanatorium at the moment. The last open day there was held in conjunction with one at the Founder’s Building, Royal Holloway, University of London. This is another large, ornate building funded by Thomas Holloway, this time modelled on a French Chateau. The next open day for the Founder’s Building is advertised for the 13th of September 2015, but there is no mention of the Sanatorium this time. Perhaps the owners of the Sanatorium/Virginia Park will later decide to take part in the day again, or perhaps they will not. Just have to keep checking the web. At the time of writing, the Sanatorium has just been featured on ‘The Art of Gothic: Britain’s Midnight Hour’ (Episode 2; towards the end) on BBC4. If you are based in the UK, you can see this on iplayer for the next month.

  3. Gary Potter says:

    I did a secondment here in 1976 from Guildford. It was an amazing experience supplemented by an extraordinary summer. I was taken to the Great Hall by a senior member of staff and shown the décor that included, if memory serves me, a number of pieces of art with eyes painted into the clothing of the characters. I was also informed that the Hall, and staircase, were used in the filming of Horror films in, perhaps, the 20s and 30s. The grounds were outstanding, and well maintained. I do recall there being a superior car sales showroom opposite that, now and again, a patient nicknamed The Major, was returned from after ‘buying’ a brand new Rolls Royce – or not! I enjoyed the company of some excellent members of staff, some of whom I kept in touch with for a few years afterwards. I remember the name Michael Standing as one. I was also informed that the novelist Bill Bryson worked there at the same time but it appears this was not correct as he was there in 1973 according to notes I’ve seen elsewhere. There was a nice social room and bar and, given the weather, well-maintained tennis courts which we frequently used.Good memories.

  4. Ann Heffernan says:

    I lived with my family on Stroude Rosd as a young child. My father was a nurse there in the 60’s.
    It was a beautiful place , as I remember it, my father tells a few tales, including the hauntings, patients and ‘escapes’!

    1. Julie says:

      I’m at the moment looking after a lady who worked as a nurse at the sanitarium, sadly she has Alzheimer’s, from what she says I’m thinking she was there in the 60’s she came to the uk from Jamaica to study nursing. She told me that a lot royalty visited, how true I don’t know I try to separate fact from fiction, she told me of pictures hanging through big doors of Thomas Holloway posing flamboyantly and one of his wife ‘jane’?

  5. Lisa wadey says:

    I used to work with horses used in tv and films and have been here for shoots. Just wonder if ever open to ghost hunts or nights?

  6. Susan Kingston says:

    Holloway (whose fortune was made from patent pill remedies) had the Sanatorium built before he built Royal Holloway College in honour of his wife (they had no children). My Mum attended the college in the 1930s when the Sanatorium was still open.

    I think the big grounds would have been therapeutic for mental patients (walking, sport and perhaps working e.g. growing plants and veg etc). This facility is sadly lacking in small modern mental health units but I suppose we are too over-populated now to have room for such wide space for this purpose. It doesn’t look as though the present day luxury gated community replacing the Sanatorium is keen on allowing open days for interested visitors. Thomas Holloway hadn’t a say in the disposal of HIS building and I’m not sure he’d be pleased with this costly housing scheme (though at least it preserved the building). Perhaps there have been more open days latterly??

  7. Michaela Nightingale says:

    I was a patient there in the 70’s. I went back when it was being destroyed. All the soul was gone.

  8. Michaela Nightingale says:

    Anyone who remembers that place. We weren’t put there to be cured, we were put there so we wouldn’t be an embarrassment to the Govt.

  9. David Johnson says:

    Offered a place to do psychiatric nurse training here while working at York Clinic Guys Hospital in early 1970s but chose Maudsley instead

  10. thomas says:

    THE CURE directed their video for CHARLOTTE SOMETIMES here

  11. Charles Patrick Goodmurphy says:

    My wife (Aileen McDonald) was a nurse at Holloway Sanitorium in 1962. She would have been a first year student that year, having arrived earlier in the year.
    She was from Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) Ontario, Canada.
    She remembers meeting the Queen Mother, who was attending for the graduating class that year.
    I am wondering if there are nay records or pictures of that event.
    Patrick Goodmurphy – Trenton, Ontario, Canada

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