The Records of Hill End and Cell Barnes Hospitals

Access to the Records

By Gary Moyle, Archivist at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

A page from a Hill End casebook
Haley McHaffie

Working out whether you can have access to medical records can be frustrating and confusing. Unfortunately the law is complex, open to interpretation, and implemented differently by different authorities. I will try to set out, simply, the procedures we have in place at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (HALS), Hertford, where the records of Hill End and Cell Barnes are held. These basics apply to many other records we hold, which may also contain personal or sensitive information. It is worth saying though, that the records you seek may not even survive. If they do, and we have indicated that it may be possible to find information for you, that does not necessarily mean that you will be able to see the original items yourself.

Access to your own information

  • If you want your own medical information, you can apply to us with what we call an Access to Personal Health Records request. You have a right to this information, as long as it does not refer to other people, and is not harmful to yourself or others.
  • If you want your own information which is non-medical (for example, a hospital admission date), you can apply to us with what we call a ‘subject access request’. You have a right to this information under the Data Protection Act 1998. There is no charge.

Access to information about other people

  • If you have a legal reason to apply for medical information about a deceased person, you can apply to us. If the records are still with a Health Trust, they will deal with it under the Access to Health Records Act 1990.
  • If you want medical information concerning a deceased person, you may contact us for advice. Although non-medical information becomes available upon the person’s death, medical information continues to be protected. It only becomes fully accessible when it is 100 years old. You do have the right to ask for this restricted information under the Freedom of Information Act, but such requests routinely fall into one of the exemptions to the Act. These exemptions protect sensitive information, and it is highly unlikely that the information would be released. Please contact HALS for further advice.
  • If you want non-medical information concerning a deceased person, such as admission and discharge dates, you can apply to us specifying that it is only non-medical information you require. Evidence of their death will allow us to carry out the paid research for you.

Access to records for research

  • If you want access to medical records for serious research, it is likely that you are already a registered medical researcher, and that a Research and Ethics Committee would need to consider your request. 

Charges and evidence of identity

You may need to supply us with evidence of your identity or evidence of the death of a deceased person, or perhaps evidence of your legal appointment or relationship to the deceased. Your own information is free of charge to you. There is likely to be a charge for other research that you ask to be done on your behalf.

Data protection

Medical items wholly over 100 years old are freely available to consult in the Archive Reading Room at Hertfordshire Archives. What was the ‘100 year rule’ is now simply a 100 year rule of thumb, so that medical information has some ongoing protection even after the death of the patient, and their health professional. Occasionally information will be freely available, but if contained in an otherwise restricted item, paid research will be required to extract that information.

Archive catalogue

The new archive catalogues relating to Hill End (HM1) and Cell Barnes (HM2) will indicate, item by item, what records can and cannot be consulted by visitors to the archive reading room.

This page was added on 24/03/2010.

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  • hi i am looking for my brother trevor ely who was a patient at cell barns in the early 1970

    By steven john ely (24/03/2022)
  • I am looking for my husbands aunt Caroline Bash (born 1941) we believe she was in Hill End she would be 77/78 now she had a brummy accent as she was born in Birmingham and we believe she was transferred from forest house, mapperley in Nottinghamshire

    By Gemma Edwards (27/07/2019)
  • I am trying to find the date of my Aunty Helen Victoria Smith death. Her year of birth is believe is 1897. I know she was alive in 1967. If anyone can help it would be greatly appreciated. I don’t need any medical information. Thank you.

    By Mrs Jennifer Holland (05/06/2019)
  • Hi. I am keen to find information about my aunt Hilda Hearn who I understand was a patient at Cell Barnes probably in 1930s.

    By Tina Smith (06/02/2019)
  • Tina, you may able to view material. Please send your enquiry to Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies to
    Thanks, Ed.

    By Marion Hill (15/08/2019)
  • I am trying to trace my second cousin Sheila Mackenzie. I know she lived with her parents but was sent to Cell Barnes as a teenager probably early 1960s. Parents were Annie and Donald.

    Editor’s note:
    If you have any information, please contact

    By Ann Downs (25/06/2018)
  • I was also taken from a children’s home in watford and sent to that hell hole for no apparent reason , sedated most times padded cell straight jacket, I managed to break out with another girl N(redacted) was on the run for several weeks until the girl grassed me up she wanted to go home, I still have flashbacks now I’m 45 I was only 12/13 .

    By Beth (07/12/2017)
  • I am trying to trace the whereabouts abouts of my brother Graham Mark Black born 22/8/64. Graham is still alive, all we know is he may be in residential care on the old Cell Barnes site. Both our parents are now deceased and due to a breakdown in family communication we have lost all trace of Graham. Your help would be much appreciated.

    By Julie (03/12/2017)
  • Hello I’m looking for information about my uncle Arthur goddard who was a patient at cell Barnes at a very young age.. Born early 1900s..
    Ended up at Fairfield hospital herts…
    He was first hospitalised when young due to having epilepsy….
    How can I obtain his records etc..
    Any information welcomed.

    By Sasha (03/10/2017)
  • Hello Sasha,
    You may wish to contact Hertfordshire Archives to see if they have any records or are able to help you find further information.

    By Emma Pearce (10/11/2017)
  • I was a young person at Hill end around 1986.
    I’ve always wanted to know why I was taken (forcefully) from rufford house children’s home Watford .I spent a few months,I ran away a lot was sedated and remember thinking “Why was I here?)
    Can you help?

    By Jeffrey Steven Eddowes (07/08/2017)
  • I am trying to find out if medical records still exist and are obtainable for my uncle, Jack Peter John Davis. He was resident at Hill End around 1953-55. He also spent time as a patient at Claybury. I would dearly love to understand what life was like for my uncle. My Father, his brother, is now the only surviving relative but does not remember much of his brother’s life due to the effects of a stroke. Uncle Jack’s date of birth was 18-8-1927. Please can anyone help me with this?

    By Sandra Davis (28/01/2017)
  • Hello there , I am in search of information about my 3x great grandmother Margaret Fortnum, maiden name Lecouter. She was a patient at Hill End from 1901- April 23rd 1923 when she passed. She lost her children to the Watford workhouse, then they emigrated to Canada a few years later. Any information would be great, or to even know if records still exsist of her time spent there. Thank You 🙂

    By Rebecca Challis (06/11/2016)