'So glad to see it is not being forgotten'

comments on the Hill End exhibition at the Museum of St Albans

During October 2010 an exhibition of material relating to Hill End was displayed at the Museum of St Albans. The following comments were written in the visitors’ book.

What a fascinating insight into a part of St Albans’ history which has been overlooked in the past.  It’s not all about Romans!!

Could have done with 10 times as much – very stimulating and enlightening.

Very insightful exhibition and moving.  I’m sure many people will find this a real revelation about local communities and their history.  I hope more work will generate out of this achievement.

As a former Nursing Assistant at a psychiatric hospital in Surrey, I find this a fascinating exhibition.  Keep up the good work!

Needs much more advertising.  There must be masses of material available as so many people were employed in these hospitals.

Very well done.  I used to work in Hill End laundry back in the 60s.

It was so interesting reading all the books and histories.  My first job in the hospital in the 70s was when “resettlement” was something we were preparing for.  Why did it take so long to achieve, but we must never forget there were many good things about the hospitals, and ex-residents have lots of happy memories about their lives in the “colonies”.

Fantastic insight into the local community history.  Many thanks. R Peters, London Colney

Some parts of the exhibition quite sad and very moving – thank goodness things are much more enlightened today.  I remember visiting Hill End Hospital in 1940 when my uncle was invalided out from France, where he had been a dispatch rider. He was a mental patient – he eventually returned home to Newport, Monmouthshire. M.Butcher

Very interesting.  My husband’s grandfather worked at Napsbury as a nurse during the time Louis Wain was a patient.  I myself work in mental health and have heard many of the older patients look back at their time in these hospitals with great affection and some express a wish to return.

We have found the museum and its stories extremely interesting – having come to show the children, I think we all found something to take with us. Sam

Very exciting and interesting.

Fantastic exhibition and extremely interesting.  I like the hospital old book with a diary of a lady.  I liked the video and effects.  I love the hospital books!!! Lisa Trodden

My partner was a patient at Hill End at the age of 14 approx (1980), spent a year there and said it was one of the best years of his life, having met some amazing people during his stay.  Thank you for the insight into the life of Hill End Hospital.  The downside of his experience was seeing troubled children as young as 9 years, being drugged to the point they could not function.

Very interesting and informative. Dan & Sue Sutton

Extremely interesting and informative. A well managed and worthwhile project. Maureen & Mike Lawton

Thank you very much.  Most interesting. Sue Bebb

There is so much to see that I’ll have to come again. Pam Smith

Lovely – very interesting.  Will have to come again.

Very interesting – thank you so much.

The exhibition is well done, but so much more must have been lost or still hidden somewhere.  The commentator lady on the video is brave to go through the emotional upheaval of “remembering”. Times in mental health “therapy”/treatment hospitals, or indeed in the “community care” are traumatic and very hard work – speaking as someone who has, as a patient, experienced both (in- and outpatient care), I’ve found living with mental ill-health a constant struggle – the care is as good as the kind, or otherwise, treatment by individual staff.  One to one support is so helpful, I found.  Learning to love oneself and accept help difficult.  Hospitals can be both “safe” places and a welcome relief to this ongoing struggle, but they are not easy places to be.  Reconciling what the world sees as “real” life and life in an institution has to be learnt.  Thank goodness, however, there is not such a stigma about having mental illness now.  I “battle on”, but pray that I can “let go” and let God take the strain, working through those who can help.  I am fearful of what the future of mental health care holds.

Although familiar with the work of Louis Wain, I had not keyed into his links with St Albans’ mental hospitals.

I remember Fr John Woolley – Chaplain to Hill End Hospital back in the 1980s.  He was, I now realise, from his writings – especially his meditations I AM WITH YOU , so very astute – his calm approach to his visits to me ( at the time a local shopkeeper) were expressions of unconditional and non-judgemental love – a true channel of God’s peace and love.  The “fellowship” of people he ministered to still exists, even though he now has died.

Important aspects of mental asylums were the settings, the access to the “healing” of the natural world and the ethos of therapy and being useful – doing some sort of creative work, even if chores – to “engage” in something is great therapy.  Heal myself.


Many connections with the place – so glad to see it is not being forgotten.  My great grandfather was a county council representative at Hill End before the First World War.  My daughter Lucy became a patient in 1985 but unfortunately killed herself when on home leave.  I then became involved with the closure through the Community Health Council and Mind in Dacorum.  I now run a website to help people research their family history – and get a lot of enquiries about former patients. Chris Reginald

Brought back plenty of memories. Dave & Jab Russell

Well researched – comforting to know that “normal” people have taken an interest in the “less normal” who used to be “hospitalised” (for whatever reasons) to make them conform and cope with “stressful society”!

ART THERAPY saved my SOUL as did the spiritual silence of the CHAPEL. Delighted that TRESTLE THEATRE has taken over this building.

I came out of HILL END HOSPITAL but I fear for the poor unlucky souls who didn’t!























This page was added on 24/01/2011.

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