The Records of Cell Barnes Hospital
By Gary Moyle, Archivist at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
Records of Cell Barnes Hospital are held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS), County Hall, Hertford. The reference number for the catalogued collection is HM2, formed from an accession (ref Off Acc 1346), which came to us from the Health Trust in 2002. Items have also been added to the collection from Off Acc 1025 and Off Acc 1467. Much of the material contains personal, sensitive and medical information, so please see the contribution on this site regarding access, or contact HALS.
The catalogue is split into six sections covering administration, patients, printed material, photographs, plans and miscellaneous. The surviving records of Cell Barnes differ somewhat from those of Hill End, in that they are mainly administrative – for example from committees, the clerk, the shoemaker or the chaplain. The long series of correspondence files is a rich source of information on a variety of subjects from air raid precautions, cases of infection, the 1982 fire, the cinema, scouts and guides, patients’ holidays and the St Albans Potato Club. In terms of patient records, the best we have are the three case books of the 1930s (HM2/Pa2/1-3). There are no admissions registers and only minimal discharge records, and no burials recorded, as there was no cemetery. Case files do survive, but these are still with the Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and may eventually form part of this archive. The series of intelligence tests (HM2/Pa2/4) from the 1930s is a fascinating and sad insight into the minds of service-users, with many of the patients having difficulty drawing a triangle, or writing their name.
There are more photographs in this collection than in the Hill End records, although they are almost all from the 1990s. Although modern, they form a wonderful and vibrant snapshot into the social life of a community in the last few years of its history. In the miscellaneous section is a series of audio cassettes, containing interviews with ex-employees recalling their memories of the hospital. Part of the Out of Sight Out of Mind? project is to digitise these, so that the content can be assessed and transcribed, and in due course preserved and made available for access.
The Cell Barnes archive catalogue (HM2) is now the definitive guide to that collection of records, complete with an introduction and thorough survey of other known records and sources. The catalogue can be consulted at HALS, County Hall. It will soon be available to consult online when our catalogues go live on our website at http://www.hertsdirect.org/libsleisure/heritage1/HALS/