Napsbury Hospital

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Napsbury Hospital
Established 1898
Opened 1905
Closed 1998
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Echelon Plan (Compact Arrow)
Architect(s) Rowland Plumbe
Location St. Alban's, Middlesex
Alternate Names
  • Fourth Middlesex County Asylum
  • Napsbury Mental Hospital


When the new London County Council was established in 1889 it took over several asylums for its own pauper lunatics and the Home Counties were left with fewer places for their patients. As the Middlesex County Council was no longer able to send its patients to the Hanwell or Colney Hatch institutions, it decided to build its own asylum and, in 1898, purchased the freehold of Napsbury Manor Farm, consisting of 412 acres, for the erection of a county mental asylum.

Designed in the standard compact arrow echelon-style by Rowland Plumbe (who also designed the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, in 1897), the Asylum could accommodate 1,205 patients. The foundation stone was laid in 1901 and the Napsbury Asylum opened in 1905, a gold key being presented to the Hospital by the architect.

The main building closely resembled a country mansion, such as Sandringham House. It was two storeys high, as were the associated echelon buildings. They contained a mix of architectural styles - neo-Jacobean with Arts & Crafts embellishments - gabled roofs, decorated chimneys, spires, turrets, cupolas, clock towers and porches. The water tower was topped by a turret, with wrought iron railings around a viewing platform. There was a separate building for acute patients. Allowance had been made for future blocks to be added - staff accommodation, administrative buildings, stores and a laundry.

The Asylum was surrounded by informal gardens designed by the landscape designer, William Goldring, in 1902. There was even a cricket ground. It was intended that the Asylum be self-supporting; it had a home farm, kitchen gardens and glass houses. A branch of the LMS railway ran from Napsbury station to the yard of the administration block to collect produce from the farm and to bring in supplies and coal. In 1908 Plumbe designed a 600-bedded extension to the Asylum.

During WW1 it became a military hospital - the County of Middlesex War Hospital. Some patients were retained to work in the wards, kitchen and workshops, and 350 of the 1,520 beds were reserved for mental patients. Entertainments were laid on the troops, including cinema shows, and theatrical and musical performances. In 1918 it was renamed Napsbury Mental Hospital. A Nurses' Home was built in the late 1920s. The Hospital suffered some bomb damage during WW2 but continued in use throughout.

The site of the Hospital is now a housing estate - 'The Arboretum' - set in 72 acres of mature woodland and containing a mix of converted and newly built 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments and 3-, 4- and 5-bedroom houses.