Leavesden Asylum

Memories of a young lady student nurse

“I was a student nurse at Leavesden Hospital in the early 1970s. The wards were big, tall, bleak buildings three floors high. They were cold inside with tiled walls.

“While there I met an elderly patient in what they laughingly called an asylum. She had had a baby out of wedlock as a young girl, and had been incarcerated in Leavesden. She had been in there so long that she was institutionalised. No one had thought about what could be done for her. When you spoke with her, you quickly realised that she did not have a mental health issue. She had no contact with the baby, because it was taken away from her. This practice was quite common and when you think about it, it was not so long ago.

“The matron was very strict and we were not allowed to wear a cardigan in the cold weather, but everything was kept very clean in the hospital, and as student nurses we spent a lot of time learning our job on the wards. Our uniforms were very smart with starched white aprons, puff sleeves on our dresses and white hats.

“Among the staff there was a very strong heirarchy. It seemed that the higher up the heirarchy you were, then the less work you did.” – Jolie.

This page was added on 09/11/2009.

Comments about this page

  • I worked at Leavesden Hosp from 1970-1973 as a student nurse and remembers Ron Cansfield very well He had a friend call Gilbert a student from Ghana

    By Seth Page (13/07/2018)
  • Can anyone please tell me where ward 14 was situated within the grounds of the hospital. My uncle William George Melton died there in 1956. I have a photo of him sitting up in bed on the ward and all the letters he wrote to my paternal grandparents.
    I need as much information as possible, if anyone can help

    By Vanessa Melton (07/09/2017)
  • My parents were amongst many of the Spanish migrant workers at the hospital. My father worked for 20 years as a cook and my mother worked for 20 years in the staff cafeteria. During school holidays, in the 1970’s, my mum would take me to work with her rather than leave me at home alone. I would spend the day wandering the grounds making friends of both patients and staff. Of the patients i remember  “Jimmy” and “Bertram (NOT Bertie!!)” and a lady called “Ruby”. I guessed that they were in their 50s but the interaction with a 10 year old must have been on their level. Of the staff, i used to hang around with the maintenance guys and one in particular. He was a big Jamaican of exceptionally dark skin colour. I cant remember his name but his nic name was Burnt Toast. He called himself “Burnt toast from the land of the bananas”. I made many friends in the six years or so that i spent at the hospital. Ironically after leaving school i ended up working for Group 4 Security delivering cash and wages. We used to park the armoured van by the staff cafeteria and service a branch of Lloyds bank next to the staff common room, behind the chapel. My mum would come running out of the cafeteria carrying cups of tea for the crew in case i was there. One day my colleagues arrived to service the bank. The crew was attacked by three masked men carrying sawn off shotguns demanding the money. My mum, bless her goes running into the middle of the attack carrying a tray of teacups wondering why a guy in a Mickey Mouse mask is threatening to shoot the van! They got away with £30,000. The attackers were hunted down by the police and the money was recovered. It turns out that they were three junior doctors that worked at Leavesden and their dormitory overlooked the courtyard where the attack happened. My mum was never the same after that. My parents retired from the hospital in 1990 and returned to Spain

    By Gerry Rivera (13/01/2016)
  • To Mrs Julie Ann Medori – I worked there in 1988, although I don’t remember your uncle. I can say that at that time the conditions were very good and the residents were well looked after. There was such a range of residents from those that had been there all their lives for minor disability (by today’s standards) – in fact I remember one resident had been born there – to others who were on locked wards and certainly needed to be there. I’m sure your uncle was well looked after – perhaps you could trace any records through the local authority.

    By Chris Murphy (12/10/2015)
  • I only recently found out that I had an uncle called Alfred Grubb who died on Saturday 19/3/1988 at Leavesden Hospital. Is there anyone that can tell me anything about him?

    By Mrs Julie Ann Medori (30/09/2015)
  • Does anyone remember my mum or dad? My dad (Harry) worked on “Kiwi” for many years. My mum (Margaret) worked on a ladies’ ward on the Abbots side. They both worked there for over 30 years as nurses.

    By Emlyn Parry (12/06/2015)
  • You can find more about Leavesden Asylum/Hospital by going to http://www.leavesdenhospital.org. There are 5 of the original buildings still around and tours are given of the site.

    By Martin Brooks (29/04/2015)
  • Anyone looking for info about Leavesden hospital could try Abbots Langley parish council. They had an interesting exhibition in the memorial hall once.

    By Diana Whitney (29/04/2015)
  • i  worked i the leavesden Hospital in the year of 1973 in ward lime villa. i had a friend called Ron cansfield and if any one knows about his where about please be kind to let me know. 

    I heard and saw some bad news about him but he is/was a helpful friend and a dear friend to me. hope some one who knows about his where about please send me an email to my given address. he must be around bedford as per to the news papers. please be kind to let me know where i can locate him.

    thank you so much

    CYRIL FERNANDO

    By cyril navaratna fernando (18/03/2015)
  • Howdy! I remember Leavesden Hospital well as I went past it everyday on my way to school. Previous comments have made reference to people who should not have been there, however my question is: With the Winterbourne scandal in mind, has anyone any specific examples of abuse of inmates in Leavesden on a par with this? Particularly thinking of the modern era (i.e. after 1960s), were these very large institutions (taking Leavesden as a random example) really such havens of abuse as we were told?

    By Keef (07/08/2014)
  • My dad recently died and never knew his birth mum. Have copy of his birth certificate and looks like his mum was at Leavesden – she was a single mum and he was taken from her. Anyone know any info, would be so grateful. Ann or Ada Harriett Todd around 1947 onwards. Thanks Wendy

    By Wendy Brooks (03/02/2014)
  • Does anyone have any idea of how I would go about gaining access to files relating to my sister who was in the “hospital” in the 70s? Any advice would be appreciated.

    By Julie Anslow (14/11/2012)
  • I live 2 minutes away from this place – it’s sad to think the only buildings left are the chapel, main reception building and the sewage/water pump. Also it’s scary to think I went camping not so long ago on the land which used to be part of the graveyard.

    By Kieren Lee (01/09/2012)
  • I am trying to trace my great grandfather Louis Flatau who I beleived to have been at Leavesden and died in 1906.. Any ideas how to trace..

    By Alison Demarco (06/05/2012)
  • My information was not sourced from a forum  I worked there. I found my own information out from charge nurses and sisters on the wards.  I am still in contact with one of the sisters of the wards who worked there for 30 odd years and she told me many good and not so good stories.

    By Chris Nightingale (13/11/2011)
  • My mum worked as a nurse at Leavesden Hospital as a young girl and what she saw there led her to have mental health issues herself for the rest of her life.

    By Liz Murphy (04/09/2010)
  • I worked in Leavesden Hospital in the 1980’s and there are many stories I could tell you about the forgotten patients who had spent most of their lives in this hospital due to committing a small crime when they were young. One man had spent over forty five years in this hospital…his crime taking someone’s pushbike. Also many of the single women were put away for getting themselves pregnant.Thank god times have changed. Chris Nightingale, Watford, Herts

    By Information sourced from a forum by Bob Houlston. (09/06/2010)

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