3. The Holloway Sanatorium

‘Barely speaks to anyone except to abuse them. She seems to be happy and contented.’

Holloway Sanatorium was supposed to be only for short-term curable patients but some people stayed there for many years; it was in a sense their home.

Miss P., a ‘high class private governess’, was admitted in 1885, aged 52. She was diagnosed as suffering from mania meaning that she was sometimes excitable and irrational or unmanageable. She remained in the Sanatorium for the rest of her life, until she died of cancer in 1900.

She did not leave any direct comments on her feelings but the doctors notes on her case give us glimpses of her life.

She did not get on well with the doctors, often refusing to speak to them. And she seemed to dislike her fellow patients, with whom she had to share living space, ‘talking about the other ladies as though they were the dirt beneath her feet.’ At first she was able to have a single bedroom of her own, which she kept immaculately clean and tidy. She was distressed when she was made to move into a shared dormitory.

But Miss P. formed a great attachment to the cats in her ward. In 1889 the doctor reported that she continued to show ‘great affection for the cat, bringing away the choicest morsels from her dinner for it. A few days ago she bought a dozen oysters from Egham for it.’


Extract for 20 March, 1886, from the doctor’s notes about Miss P., Holloway Sanatorium female case book 1885-1889, case number 53. Surrey History Centre, 3473/3/1.

From the doctors notes on Miss P., Holloway Sanatorium female case book 1885-1889, case number 53, May 6 1895. Surrey History Centre, 3473/3/1.



Photographs were sometimes included in a patient’s notes. This one shows Miss P. with one of the ward cats on her lap. Holloway Sanatorium female case book 1885-1889, case number 53, Surrey History Centre, 3473/3/1.


Illustration in a publicity brochure of about 1905, showing one of the galleries, probably for patients who were getting better, in the women’s part of the Sanatorium. A gallery was part of the shared space in a ward. Some Views of Holloway Sanatorium, St Anne’s Heath, Virginia Water. Surrey, about 1905, Surrey History Centre, Ref 725.5 S1x.

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