AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): H12/CH
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Date(s): 1845-1993
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 80.53 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Friern Hospital xx Colney Hatch Asylum | 1851 - 1918 xx Colney Hatch Mental Hospital | 1918 - 1937 xx Friern Mental Hospital | 1937 - 1959


Administrative/Biographical history:

Colney Hatch Asylum opened at Friern Barnet in July 1851 as the second pauper lunatic asylum for the County of Middlesex. The first Middlesex County Pauper Asylum, now Saint Bernard's Hospital, had opened at Hanwell in 1831 (see H11/HLL). In 1851 Colney Hatch, designed in the Italianate style by S. W. Dawkes, with 1,250 beds was the largest and most modern institution of its kind in Europe. Within ten years it was enlarged to take 2,000 patients. It had its own cemetery (closed in 1873 after which patients were buried in the Great Northern Cemetery), its own farm on which many patients were employed, its own water supply, and its own sewage works built after local residents complained of untreated sewage from the asylum flowing into Pym's Brook.

On the creation of the County of London in 1889 Colney Hatch Asylum was transferred from the control of the Middlesex Justices to the London County Council, although it remained geographically within the administrative county of Middlesex. The need for more accommodation for lunatics led to construction in 1896 of a temporary wood and iron building for 320 chronic and infirm female patients in five dormitories. This was destroyed by a fire in 1903 with the loss of 51 lives. Between 1908 and 1913 seven permanent brick villas were built, one for behavioural disordered subnormal and epileptic boys, two with verandas for tubercular and dysenteric cases, and the remainder for women who had survived the fire. In 1912 a disused carpenter's shop and stores at the railway siding were converted into additional accommodation for male patients. Brunswick House at Mistley in Essex was leased in 1914 to provide 50 beds for working male patients supervised by a single charge attendant and four assistants. After the First World War Brunswick House became a separate unit for higher-grade subnormals.

Construction of a male admission villa in 1927 and a female nurses home in 1937 freeing 89 beds for female patients brought the number of patients to its highest total of almost 2,700. In 1937 it was renamed Friern Hospital. Patients were admitted from the Metropolitan boroughs of Finsbury, Hampstead, Holborn, Islington, Saint Marylebone, Saint Pancras and Shoreditch. Jewish patients from the whole of the County of London were as far as possible congregated at Friern, which provided special arrangements for the preparation of food and religious ministrations. The staff included nine full time doctors, 494 nurse and 171 probationers.

On the outbreak of the Second World War 12 wards along the main front corridor containing 215 male and 409 female beds were taken over by the Emergency Medical Service run by units from Saint Bartholomew's Hospital. Patients were sent to other hospitals or distributed around the remaining wards. Five villas were either destroyed or damaged by air raids in 1941 in which 36 patients and 4 nurses died. Shortage of accommodation resulted in acute overcrowding.

In 1948 Friern Hospital became part of the National Health Service under the control of the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. It had its own Hospital Management Committee, which was renamed the New Southgate Group Hospital Management Committee on the opening of Halliwick Hospital in 1958. This was a new 145 bed block built in the grounds of Friern at a distance from the main hospital. It was intended to serve as an admission unit to separate recent cases from confirmed, long stay patients. In practice it became a 'neurosis unit' for 'less sick, socially superior, and fringe patients' (Hunter and MacAlpine p.50) selected by the medical staff. By 1972 it ceased to be treated as a separate hospital and, now known as Halliwick House, provided admission and convalescent beds for the main hospital.

By 1973 the official maximum number of patients in Friern had been reduced to 1,500. On the reorganisation of the National Health Service in 1974 the hospital became the responsibility of the North East Thames Regional Health Authority and Camden and Islington Area Health Authority. On the abolition of area health authorities in 1982, Friern was transferred to Hampstead Health Authority, which in 1993 merged with Bloomsbury and Islington Health Authority to form Camden and Islington Health Authority. By 1989 it had been decided that Friern Hospital should close as part of the policy of replacing large long stay mental hospitals with care in the community. The hospital finally closed on 31 March 1993.


Scope and content/abstract:

These records relate to the administration, finance, staff and patients of Friern hospital, 1845-1993. They include minutes, annual reports, visitors books, medical superintendants reports, memoranda, diaries, registers of members, rules and information for staff, plans, inventories, registers of admissions, patients, discharges, deaths, case notes, photographs, medical journals, post mortem books, civil registers, registers of lunatics, reception orders, register of staff, salaries books, TB ward book, applications for nursing posts, accounts, burial registers, chaplain's newsletters, orders of service, magazines and programmes.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

These records are arranged as follows: A = Administration, B = Patients' Records, C = Staff Records, D = Financial Records, G = Chaplain's Records, PH = Photographs, Y = Related Material.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: Depositor

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records of Friern Hospital were deposited under the terms of the 1958 Public Records Act on 27 March 1969 (Acc/1038). Listing revealed many gaps in the series of patients' registers and casebooks. In the 1980s it was hoped to establish a museum at Friern Hospital. As well as medical equipment, clothing, furniture, prints, photographs, books and memorabilia, the museum collection included patients' registers and other archives.

As a result of a survey by the Consultant Archivist to Hampstead Health Authority of records held in the Medical Records Department basement store, a further 150 feet of archives were transferred to the London Metropolitan Archives on 25 March 1991 (Acc/2897). These included medical superintendent's report books, resolutions and orders from LCC committees, admission registers 1851-1967, case books 1915-1946, discharge and death registers 1920-1942, medical journals 1872-1922, medical registers for male patients 1919-1949, registers of officers and staff 1851-1909, salaries and wages books 1904-1919, financial records, and a burial register 1851-1865. It was decided not to take patients' reception orders for 1911-1946 and 1954-1960, which were stored in wooden boxes.

By May 1992 closure of the hospital was imminent and the disposal of 625 feet of patients' case files had become a priority. These dated from 1915 to the 1970's. The older files were tied up in bundles according to the date of the patients' discharge or death. The more recent files, formally arranged according to the case number assigned on admission to the hospital, had been resorted according to the current health authority for the area in which the patient lived. The London Metropolitan Archives decided to take a ten percent sample of the case files, excluding the earlier records which were duplicated by the bound case books or by the later case register sheets which were fastened into binders on the death or discharge of a patient. In fact the other earlier case files of this series appear to consist of the rough notes made on the wards which were later copied into the case books or case register sheets. At the request of the Record Office the staff of the Medical Records Department selected the files for every tenth year i.e. patients died or discharged in 1938, 1948, 1958 and case files for inpatients and outpatients admitted to Halliwick Hospital in 1958 and 1968 (Acc/3058).

Shortly before the closure of the hospital 36 feet of records held by the TAPS Unit (Team for Assessment of Psychiatric Services) were deposited at the London Metropolitan Archives on 15 March 1993 (Acc/3157). To mark the closure of Friern an impressive and comprehensive exhibition illustrating its history 1851-1993 was staged at the hospital. This included artefacts, plans, registers of patients, casebooks, documents, photographs and videos. On the closure of the hospital the archives, plans, photographs and text used in the exhibition were deposited at the London Metropolitan Archives, together with other archives discovered in the general manager's office and other hospital buildings as they were cleared (Acc/3160, Acc/3172, Acc/3253, Acc/3274 and Acc/3303). This brought the total records of Friern Hospital held at the London Metropolitan Archives to 378 feet.

Allied Materials

Related material:

A small amount of material relating to the closure of Friern Hospital is held at the Royal Free Hospital Archives Centre.

Publication note:

For further information see: Psychiatry for the Poor, 1851 Colney Hatch Asylum, Friern Hospital 1973, A Medical and Social History Richard Hunter and Ida MacAlpine, 1974.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2009

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"

Related Placename Search

* To search for other records with similar placenames, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"