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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): H11/HLL
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1831-2002
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 390.87 linear metres
Name of creator(s): St Bernard's Hospital | 1938 - 1980 x Middlesex County Asylum, Hanwell | 1831 - 1889 x London County Asylum, Hanwell | 1889 - 1917 x London County Mental Hospital | 1918 - 1928 x Hanwell Mental Hospital | 1929 - 1937


Administrative/Biographical history:

Hanwell was the first pauper lunatic asylum for the county of Middlesex. Its official name was the Middlesex County Asylum, Norwood, but the institution was commonly known as Hanwell Asylum.

It opened in June 1831, originally to take 500 patients, but the building was enlarged in 1831, 1837, 1857 and 1879 to cope with the increasing demand for beds. In 1888 the Asylum had 1891 patients. Hanwell achieved great prominence in the field of psychiatric nursing due to the work of two of its first Medical Superintendents. Dr (later Sir) William Ellis, the first Medical Superintendent at Hanwell (1831-1838) introduced his idea of "Therapy of Employment", which encouraged patients to use the skills and trades which they had acquired before entering the Asylum, to occupy themselves, for the benefit of the Asylum and as an aid in their treatment by restoring their self respect and by reviving an aspect of their lives from before their illness. This was the forerunner of occupational therapy and industrial therapy. In time the system was somewhat abused and patient labour was used to provide some of the essential services of the Asylum, so reducing its running costs.

Dr John Conolly, the third Medical Superintendent at Hanwell and later its Visiting Physician (1839-1852) abolished all use of mechanical restraints to control patients at the Asylum. Although he was not the first to use more humane methods of treating the insane, the abolition of mechanical restraints at Hanwell was the first time that the idea had been applied on such a large scale and on so many different types of patients. It was a huge success and attracted visitors from all over England and encouraged the abolition of mechanical restraints in other Asylums. By using Ellis's system of employment for therapy, and with padded rooms and periods of seclusion or solitary confinement, and some sedatives, Conolly was able to control even the most violent patients without resorting to mechanical restraints. Protective clothing was sometimes used to prevent patients tearing their clothing or breaking crockery etc, but these never restricted their movements. No mechanical restraints were used at Hanwell between 1840 and 1890.

Hanwell's full title was the Middlesex County Asylum at Hanwell. In 1889 the Asylum was taken over by the newly formed London County Council and became the London County Asylum, Hanwell. In 1918 it became a County Mental Hospital. In 1937 its name was changed to Saint Bernard's Hospital. From 1948 to 1974 it was part of the North West Metropolitan Region with its own hospital management committee. In 1974 it became part of North West Thames Regional Health Authority and was within Ealing Health District. In 1980 it was absorbed into Ealing Hospital and is now known as the Psychiatric Unit, Saint Bernard's Wing, Ealing Hospital. It had 950 beds and functioned as a psychiatric and psycho-geriatric hospital for long stay patients. The hospital fell under the Ealing NHS Trust in the late eighties and then the North West London Mental Health NHS Trust in 2001.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Hanwell Asylum, 1831-1960, including draft minutes and presented papers, 1845-1891; indexes to resolutions of the Committee of Visiting Justices, 1845-1895; indexes to resolutions of the London County Council Asylums Committees and Hanwell Sub-Committee, 1895-1936; annual statements of account, 1856-1866; annual reports, 1840-1889; reports from officers of the Asylum, 1832-1948; reports of visiting Justices and remarks of Boards of Guardians, 1862-1918; rules and regulations, 1844-1930; annual and half-yearly returns of lunatics, 1860-1872; quarterly returns of lunatics, 1869-1870; returns of criminal lunatics, 1841-1867; correspondence of the Clerk to the Committee of Visitors, 1869-1889; correspondence of other officers of the Asylum, 1839-1945; building plans, 1831-1843 and minutes of the Medical Advisory Committee of St Bernard's Hospital, 1962-1966. Legal records including case papers and inquiries, 1858-1876; contracts and tenders, 1860-1886 and divorce papers, 1938-1961.

Patient records including registers of female admissions, 1831-1845; registers of female admissions, 1839-1877; registers of male admissions, 1831-1845; registers of male admissions, 1839-1877; registers of admissions, 1853-1906; registers of admissions of private patients, 1894-1906; civil registers, 1907-1948; registers of criminal lunatics, 1831-1949; discharge books, 1840-1954; registers of discharges, removals and deaths, 1845-1906; registers of female discharges and removals, 1865-1954; registers of male discharges and removals, 1880-1955; registers of discharges and transfers, 1907-1922; registers of female deaths, 1839-1948; registers of male deaths, 1839-1948; registers of deaths, 1907-1922; inquest papers, 1861-1872; female casebooks, 1831-1940; male casebooks, 1845-1942; clinical journals (male cases), 1854-1873; medical registers (female cases), 1907-1948; medical registers (male cases), 1907-1948; registers of mechanical restraint and seclusion, 1892-1967; tuberculosis registers, 1907-1935; autopsy records (female cases), 1861-1908; records of female post-mortem examinations, 1900-1941; autopsy records (male cases), 1863-1904 and records of male post-mortem examinations, 1904-1950.

Staff records, including registers of officers of the Asylum, 1840-1904; letters of recommendation and testimonials for Asylum staff, 1860-1923; Matron's report book, 1839-1852; fine books (female attendants), 1840-1935; fine books (male attendants), 1838-1935 and artisans' wages books, 1912-1923. Financial records, 1831-1960, including parish and union accounts, patients' fees and banking records. Also 'Brief History of Hanwell Mental Hospital From 1831-1931' by Dr A W Daniel, Medical Superintendent (1919-1936).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

These records are arranged according to a classification scheme for hospital records: General Hospital Administration (A), Patients' Administration (B), Staff Records (C)Finance Office (D), Endowments (E), Related Documentation (Y) and Prints and Photographs (PH).

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:

Acquired from Saint Bernard's Hospital Museum and Chapel, Uxbridge Road, Southall. Additional deposits received in 1985, 1986 and 2004.

Allied Materials

Related material:

In 1827 a Committee of Visiting Justices was appointed to arrange the building of the Asylum. Their minute books 1827-1831 survive in the records of the Middlesex Sessions (Ref.: MA/A/J1-J2). Land in several places was offered as asite for the Asylum (Ref.: MA/A/J3) but the Committee chose land in Hanwell owned by the Earl of Jersey (see also Acc/436 Bdle 40). A mortgage of sixty-three thousand pounds was raised to finance the building (Ref.: MA/D/A1/79-80). Contracts and Contract plans survive for the original building and later additions (Ref.: MA/DCP and MA/D/A1). Account books for county grants of money for later building work survive in the Hanwell records (Ref.: H11/HLL/D15) and files concerning the grants survive in the additional deposit of Middlesex Sessions records (Ref.: Acc/1154/19-20).

From 1831 to 1839 the Asylum was administered by a Committee of Visiting Justices, also known as the Committee of Visitors. These were Justices of the Peace and were elected at the beginning of each year. The Committee considered all aspects of the Asylum's administration. Draft minutes and presented papers, reports, legal records and correspondence are listed in Section A. Amongst the records of the Middlesex Sessions there are several classes of records which relate to the administration of the Asylum. There are reports by the Committee to the General Court of Quarter Sessions (Ref.: MJ/OC for manuscript copies, MA/RS and H11/HLL/A5 for printed reports); copies of returns of lunatics, notices of discharges and deaths (Ref.; MA/A, see also H11/HLL/A/10-A/11, and H11/HLL/B/09-B/17); superannuation allowance claims (Ref.: MF/485); financial records including ledgers and county rates (Ref.: MF/1-272, 321-326 and MF/A); and records of property owned by Hanwell Asylum (Ref.: MA/D/A1). In the additional deposit of Middlesex Sessions records there is also a record of provisions supplied to the Asylum (Ref.: Acc/1154/21). Only one minute book (Ref.: LCC/MIN/1068) survives for the Committee of Justices' meetings and this is in the records of the London County Council, which took over the Asylum in 1889 and administered it until 1948 and the formation of the National Health Service. The LCC Asylums Committee (later the Asylums and Mental Deficiency Committee and from 1922 the Mental Hospitals Committee) with the Hanwell Sub-Committee administered the Asylum. Minutes of their meetings can be found in the records of the LCC Committees (Ref.: LCC/MIN/544-669 and LCC/MIN/1069-1116).

Other records of the administration of the Asylum during this period are listed in Section A. Other records of the Asylum, which are held in LCC classes are registers of staff 1900-1914 (Ref.: PH/STA/5).

There is also a financial history of the Asylum written between 1841 and 1842 (Ref.: Acc/977). Saint Bernard's Hospital Museum has retained some staff photographs, the roll of honour and Saint Bernard's church burial registers 1832 - 1848. Also, many artifacts from the museum are with Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital Museum. Saint Bernard's Museum artefacts relating to medical treatment were transferred in circa 2004 to the Wellcome Institute. Remaining artefacts were transferred to Gunnersbury Park Museum.

Publication note:

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

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