HISTORY -Hospital Timeline part 1 -Severalls Hospital
Severalls Mental Hospital
Second Essex County Asylum
~1819 to 1959~
•1819-Essex County Asylum’s first plans are mooted, and a site in the Springfield area of Chelmsford is suggested.
It takes another 30 or so years until building works on Essex’s first Asylum begins,
with the Foundation Stone being laid in May of 1851. Brentwood is chosen instead of the original site near Chelmsford.
In 1849, the Royal Eastern Counties Hospital (Essex Hall Asylum for Idiots) was established next to Colchester’s North Railway Station.
•1845 –The Lunacy Act makes it mandatory for Essex County Council & the Borough of Colchester
to provide Lunatic Asylums for Paupers (the Poor).
•1853-Eight years later, the first Asylum for Essex, known simply as the Essex County Asylum (later called Brentwood Mental Hospital, and finally Warley Hospital), is opened in Brentwood. It is designed by well-known Architects H.E Kendall & R.R. Pope.
•1891-Essex County Asylum is becoming extremely overcrowded, and this prompts calls for a new Asylum to be built.
•1902-The Committee of Visitors from the Commissioners in Lunacy meet to plan and decide how, where and when to provide
a Second Lunatic Asylum for Essex. In 1903, Colchester Borough Corporation offers to sell 295 acres of land.
•1904-Colchester Borough Corporation sells approximately 300 acres of land north of Colchester,
in the Parish of Mile End (Myland), known as The Severalls. The cost of the land is £10,000.
•1906 to 1907 -Architects for Essex County Council; F. Whitmore & W.H. Town, draw-up a design for “The New Asylum”, Myland. Their drawings name the Asylum as “Essex Second County Asylum”, although by the time of it’s opening in 1913,
it was officially known as the “Second Essex County Asylum”.
•1909-Building Company; W. King & Son of Westminster, London, are appointed at Builders of the Second Essex County Asylum,
with their Tender for the building works of just over £188,000 being accepted in March of this year.
However, W. King & Son’s Tender was not the original choice, and some controversy surrounds them being appointed to undertake
the building works, with even the Home Secretary becoming involved, rejecting previous Tender bids.
•1910-Building works officially begin on the 21st. day of June, 1910 (although by now, areas of the Asylum are already under construction, notably the Water Tower and Boiler House chimney, and many of the Ward Buildings nearing completion),
with the Foundation Stone being laid at the Entrance steps to the Administration Building, by Sir Thomas Barrett-Lennard, of “Belhus”, Aveley, Essex, who is the present Chairman of the “Committee of Visitors” from the Commissioners in Lunacy.
A temporary Railway line of about 1 mile in length is constructed to supply the site of the Asylum with building materials.
This starts from North Station, and follows the route of Turner Road (originally Clay Lane).
•1913-The Second Essex County Asylum opens its’ doors for the first time, with the first Patients arriving on the 27th. of May.
The Asylum is designed to hold 2,000 Patients, but currently has a capacity of about 1,500. The Asylum, lead by Mr. R.C. Turnbull
(the First Physician / Medical Superintendent), operates a strict regime of separating the Men from the Women, with the Males occupying the Western side of the Asylum, and the Females on the Eastern side. Even the Doctors, Nurses and other Staff who attended to the Patients were divided by their Gender, with a Male Doctor, for example, not being allowed to enter a Female Ward.
It would not be long however, before this changed. The Wards are divided, based upon the type and severity of the Patients’ mental condition. On the Male side are Workshops for Carpenters, Cobblers, Electricians, Glazers, Painters, Plumbers, Tailors & Upholsterers. On the Female side, there are Workshops for Needlework, Baking & Cooking, and for washing and drying clothes.
•1913 –The Mental Deficiency Act replaces the Lunacy Act of 1890.
•1913 –The Commissioners in Lunacy is replaced by the Board of Control.
•1914 to 1918 -With the outbreak of the “Great” War, also known as the First World War in 1914, the Asylum is commandeered
by the Military powers-that-be, initially as a Military Camp of sorts, and later, as the War progressed & intensified, as a Military Hospital, to care for the Soldiers who are wounded, both mentally as well as physically. Some 3, 600 Soldiers were stationed at the Hospital,
in the Grounds, as well as in the Satellite Villas within the Grounds.
•1919-The Asylum is de-commissioned from Military use, and is returned to its original Civilian role.
•1920’s -The Asylum is also referred to as Severalls Asylum & Severalls Lunatic Asylum, and later, Severalls Mental Hospital.
•1920’s to 1950’s -Sedatives such as Paraldehyde, Somniphine & Phenobarbital are used, together with “Prolonged Narcosis”
or “Sleep Therapy”. Other treatments include Light Treatments such as “Ultraviolet Ray Treatment”,
and Water Treatments such as “Prolonged” or “Continuous” Baths.
•1928-Gamma building is constructed to the north of the Main Hospital.
•1930-The First non-Certified Patients are admitted into the Asylum.
Around the same time, the Asylum is officially re-named as Severalls Mental Hospital.
In addition to the Asylums’ original Farm, a second Farm; known as Whitehouse Farm, is bought.
•1930 to 1935 -Due to overcrowding in the Main Hospital, several “satellite” Villa buildings are erected,
namely Birchwood & Orchard Villas, Eden & Firs Villas, Tamarisk Villa & Building 2 (later Social Club).
These new buildings are in addition to the original “satellite” buildings of 1910-1913 dotted around the Hospital Grounds;
Myland Court, Ivy Villa, Maplehurst & Fernholme Villas.
•1935- Turner Village, named after J.J.C. Turner, who played a key role at the nearby Essex Hall Hospital, is opened by H.R.H. the Duke of Kent, on the 18th. of July, and forms part of the plan to alleviate overcrowding at the nearby Royal Eastern Counties Hospital
(Essex Hall Asylum for Idiots). Located about a quarter of a mile to the south of Severalls Hospital, and designed by Essex County Council Architect; J Stuart in the “Trident” / “Colony” plan, this is the first stage of the building works. However due to problems with funding, and perhaps changing attitudes / views towards the treatment & care of the Mentally Handicapped, the second and final stage of building works never begins. The buildings completed include 8 Villas, laid-out in a semi-circle overlooking a well landscaped lawn,
an Administration Block, a large Assembly Hall –capacity of over 700 persons; containing Dance Floor, Cinema, and Refreshment Room. Another building contains the Kitchens, which also contains Staff Accommodation. Isolation / Dormitory Wards, Workshops, Laundry, Water Tower, Engineer’s Shops and Mortuary also make-up the first stage.
The Kitchens & Laundry are built to cater for up-to 2,500 persons.
•1939 –The Foundation Stone is laid for the Third Essex County Asylum / Mental Hospital, in Margaretting, some 30 miles to the south west of Colchester. However all building works were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War,
and construction never resumed after peace was declared in 1945.
•1942 –Mr. A.G. Duncan is appointed as the second Physician Superintendent of Severalls Mental Hospital.
•1942 -During the Second World War, 38 Patients are killed, and dozens more seriously injured, including two Nurses, when part of the Hospital is bombed by the Luftwaffe (German Air force), early in the morning of the 11th. of August. It is thought that the German Pilots, looking for Military / Industrial Targets, saw the Water Tower & chimney and mistook the Hospital as being a Factory.
•1942 to 1945 –American Servicemen arriving at Colchester by Railway often ask for directions to the Hospital’s Main Recreation Hall,
as it is the largest and most popular / well known in the area for dancing.
•1945 –Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Insulin Shock Treatments are introduced.
•1948 –The National Health Service is established, and the Committee of Visitors
is replaced by the Severalls Hospital Management Committee.
•1950’s –Experimental treatments are carried-out on Patients, including the extremely controversial and drastic Leucotomy & Lobotomy. Some of the treatments had limited success, other treatments led to the deaths of some Patients.
•1957 –Both Hospital Farms are sold.
•1959 –The Mental Health Act ends the legal differential status between General and Psychiatric Hospitals,
and abolishes the “Certification” of Patients, thus returning to the “informal” or “revolving door” admission process.
Also abolished is the use of the title “Mental Hospital”, although the Hospital had already been renamed as Severalls Hospital in 1950.
1960 to 1997
1997 to 2009
Photograph Copyright of
North East Essex Mental Health
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