Surrey County Asylum, Brookwood Hospital

With over-crowding becoming an increasing problem for the 1st Surrey County Asylum at Springfield, the Surrey Magistrates started the plans to build a second Asylum within the County. In 1863 plans were drawn up by the consulting architect to the Lunacy Commissioners, CH Howell for the new asylum to be built in 150 acres of land between Knaphill and the Basingstoke Canal. The total cost of this land was £10,500. The Asylum was designed to the corridor plan and it admitted its first patients in 1867, taking 321 males and 329 females; with the females to the left of the building. By 1872, the hospital was extended again by Howell to include to further wards to the rear of the main building. However, this did not alleviate the population increase that the Asylum was experiencing, and in 1888 a female annexe, known as Florence House was built to the north of the main building and included a beautiful clock tower, with the male wards being extended to the east. During this extension, a recreation hall was also built for the patient use.

In 1893 Howell retired from his position as County Surveyor and Consultant to the Lunacy Commissioners, GT Hine took over his role with the Commissioners and Frank G Howell succeeded his position with the county. This saw the site be extended again in 1903, within this extension saw the annexe be extended further and the smaller chapel being demolished to make was for a much larger chapel next to the mortuary. A fire tower (more commonly known as a water tower) being built on the previous site of the chapel. This chapel is very similar to the one found at Cane Hill. By this time the patient population had risen to nearly 1300.

In 1919, the Asylum changed its name to Brookwood Mental Hospital, along with many other Asylums throughout the country. During this time, and up until its closure, the hospital continued to expand and develop. By the end of the 1930’s, the nurses accommodation were built to the north and many recreation, therapy and general buildings were also built around the site. During World War Two, along with Hospitals such as Horton and Park Prewett, Brookwood was commandeered as an emergency war hospital. Annually, the hospital held sports days and fairs within the grounds which became very popular events with the local people. Since the Asylum opened, plays were held within the buildings that were also open to the public. When the care in the community act came into power in the mid 1980’s, there were plans to close as early 1986. However, this did not happen and the Hospital eventually closed in 1994.

Since then the site has been extensively developed, the area surrounding the gas works has been redeveloped into a super market, Florence House and its attached acute ward have been converted to luxury apartments. Sadly the original hospital building was demolished, and the locally listed Water Tower was also taken down. The chapel has been converted into a Buddhists Monks Temple, with the mortuary being converted to the Monks residence; whilst the recreation hall is currently being used as a crèche. The records available for the hospital are very extensive and can be viewed at the Surrey History Centre.

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Modified: 21st Feb 2015