The History of Hill End Hospital

174 acres 3 roods 4 perches of land

By Gary Moyle, Archivist at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

Gary Moyle and Paula Mumford with the exhibition on the history of Hill End. Trestle Theatre, 2009

There is not yet a full published history of Hill End Hospital. An unpublished history by Brian Anderson is held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies (ref: Acc 3959). The following, by Gary Moyle, is taken from the introduction to the archive catalogue of the Hill End records.


Hill End Hospital, on the outskirts of St Albans, operated from 1899-1995, caring for people with mental health problems.

Historical context

Before the late eighteenth century, there are only infrequent references to lunatics in the Quarter Sessions records, as they were often simply confined in Houses of Correction with rogues and vagabonds (Le Hardy, 1961, pp. 125-132). The involvement of the Quarter Sessions increased when, in 1774, they took over the licensing and oversight of private madhouses (14  Geo. III, c.49), for example that of Nathaniel Cotton at St Albans, where William Cowper was held from 1763-4. Fees were charged for these licences, which were renewed annually. In 1828, private asylums were further regulated and Commissioners appointed by the Secretary of State (9 Geo. IV, c. 41).

Local authorities were given powers in 1808 to establish asylums for pauper lunatics (48 Geo. III, c. 96). Justices of the Peace for Hertfordshire held an inquiry into the situation in 1811, but nothing came of it. Under an Act of 1815 (55 Geo. III, c. 46), Quarter Sessions required the Overseers of each parish to submit returns of lunatics, but few of these survive (documents: QS Misc B1-B2b). This requirement was further enforced in 1828 (9 Geo. IV, c. 40), and thereafter records survive for most parishes (documents: QS Misc B3-B5; LMisc 1033-4; DP107/18/2). After 1842, the returns were made through the Clerks of the Peace to the Boards of Guardians (documents: QS Misc B3-B4, B6).

Under the 1828 Act, the County and Liberty of St Albans had both made provision (sources listed in Le Hardy, p.129) for their pauper and criminal lunatics to be received in Bedford County Asylum  (Cashman, 1992, and documents: QS Misc. B13, B15-18, B111/1-4), and were joined, in 1846, by Huntingdonshire (8 and 9 Vict. c. 126).

The 1853 Act (16 and 17 Vict. c. 97) gave local authorities wider powers for the provision of asylums. Under this Act, the Three Counties Asylum at Stotfold, Bedfordshire (near the Arlesey parish border) was established in 1860 for Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire. This was later known as Fairfield Hospital. By 1876, it held 1000 inmates so enlargement was being considered, but the decision was made to build a new asylum for Hertfordshire patients only (documents: QS Misc. B12, B14, B16, B20, B23-24, B111/7, 12-14; QS Var. 14; DEL4169/1-19; BG/WAR 89; DDE142). The Local Government Act 1888 placed upon County Councils the care of lunatics, this function having previously been discharged by Quarter Sessions. The new asylum would therefore be the responsibility of Hertfordshire County Council.

Site history

On 20 April 1894, the Secretary of State approved the purchase of an area on the south-east edge of St Albans, central in the county in terms of population spread. Subsequently on 15 June 1894, Hertfordshire County Council purchased 174 acres, 3 roods and 4 perches of land from Captain Gaussen, including  96 acres, 3 roods and 31 perches of Hill End Farm and 77 acres, 3 roods and 13 perches of Beastneys Farm in the parishes of St Peter and St Stephen, St Albans. About 10 acres more were bought on 20 March 1895 from the trustees of Mr Kinder. Later, October 1899 saw the purchase of land from Mrs Hart, 5 acres and 28 perches bought from Mrs Croft in January 1900, and 1 acre and 9 perches gained by the diversion of an old lane. It was thought 2 acres, 1 rood  and 26 perches were lost to make a new road. The nett area was 184 acres, 3 roods and 12 perches – 8.5 acres of which would be occupied by the main building.

Hill End Asylum: beginnings

On 23 October 1893, Hertfordshire County Council appointed a Visiting Committee to provide an asylum. George Thomas Hine (1842-1916) was appointed architect on 18 June 1894. The hospital was based on his first primitive echelon pattern (as used at Claybury Asylum and Kestevan County Asylum). The plans were approved by the Council on 11 July 1895. It was built using bricks made on the site by Joseph Fenwick Owen, whose brickworks continued to operate there until 1940. The first phase of development was completed by January 1902, although building work was ongoing for a number of years. In October 1895, 2 acres of land had been sold to the Great Northern Railway. The railway line was built by 5 March 1899, opened 1 May 1899 and was eventually closed to passengers on 1 October 1951, with freight deliveries continuing until 5 October 1964.

The institution opened as the Hertfordshire County Asylum on 7 April 1899 and 100 males were admitted. Although primarily for pauper lunatics, from the beginning a few paying private patients were admitted. The first Medical Superintendent was appointed on 11 November 1898. Dr Norman Boycott, who retired in October 1925, stated that his aim was to achieve a cure, or at least to secure sufficient improvement for the patient to be returned to their relatives. He wanted to offer a calm supportive environment with non-stressful activities such as handicrafts, supervised country walks, entertainment in the recreational hall, the choir and band, and football and cricket teams. But progress was slow, which Dr Boycott attributed to many of the first patients having been confined, untreated, in workhouses or prisons. For example, in 1904 although there were 43 recoveries, 600 remained there. The success rate improved, but not enough to forestall the rise in numbers, and by 1939 the Hospital held 1260 patients.

The Mental Deficiency Act 1913 was the first since the Idiots Act 1886 to acknowledge the distinction between those with learning difficulties (and learning disabilities from birth or an early age), and those who had otherwise become mentally ill and might be treatable. The mentally deficient would remain amongst those at Hill End until Cell Barnes opened on the adjoining site in 1933. An innovative patient category was the outpatient, mentioned as early as 1925 and presaging the development of community mental health provision.

Hill End Hospital and the Cell Barnes colony

Patients at the ‘Hospital’ (now no longer the ‘Asylum’) were categorised as certified, voluntary or temporary. Voluntary patients submitted themselves of their own free will, while temporary patients were those incapable of volunteering themselves, but who were thought likely to benefit from a short stay. In 1934, the first outpatient ‘Nerve Clinics’ were started at Hill End and at St Albans City Hospital, and a Child Guidance Clinic was set up. In 1935 occupational centres opened, and also a new Pathology laboratory.

Cell Barnes Colony opened in 1933 on the adjoining site. In the 1920s, Hertfordshire County Council had bought 93 acres from the Earl of Verulam, to be developed as a ‘colony for mental defectives’. It was opened on 2 March 1933 and was to care for the mentally defective, being those with learning difficulties or disabilities from birth or a young age, whose recovery was not expected. Records of the hospital are held at Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies and are catalogued under the reference HM2.

World War II and St Bartholomew’s Hospital

In the summer of 1939, when war seemed inevitable, plans were issued by the government to make provision for the care of air-raid casualties, and for the continuation of the treatment of the sick in the event of hostilities. These plans constituted the Emergency Medical Service (EMS). EMS hospitals were basically civilian hospitals, but they were also used for large numbers of service patients, particularly those requiring treatment in specialised units, and also when demands for hospital care suddenly increased. London was divided into five sectors, with one or more teaching hospital per sector. These central hospitals were to deal with emergencies due to either acute illness or to injury, including those resulting from enemy action.

At the edge of each sector a large hospital, usually a mental health hospital, was taken over by the government as a base hospital. Hill End was the base hospital for the St Bartholomew’s (Bart’s) sector, and new units for the surgical care of patients with head and chest diseases were established. Cell Barnes was also used for Bart’s patients, and both hospitals had the services of Bart’s nurses.

With war imminent, and fearful of the arrival of large numbers of war and air-raid casualties, the Government requisitioned Hill End in 1939 as an Emergency Medical Service Hospital. On 31 August 1939, 5 sisters and 18 nurses arrived at Hill End as the Bart’s advance guard. The majority of the mental patients were discharged or removed to other hospitals – 302 to Wallingford, 316 to Napsbury, 346 to Three Counties, 198 to Narborough, 38 patients discharged or released on trial – except for about 60 useful ones, and Hill End was taken over by St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. Most of Bart’s staff moved to Hill End, joined by many of the former Hill End staff. As the Government’s fears were not quite realised, the hospital ended up treating mainly civilian cases. An exception was the flood of servicemen wounded after the Dunkirk evacuation of 1940 (see HM1/Pa2/6).

There were important medical advances made during this period, such as the early introduction of penicillin, and the plastic and reconstructive surgery carried out by the pioneering surgeon, Rainsford Mowlem. The work of this Plastic and Maxillo-Facial Unit was recorded by the artist Dickie Orpen (Diana Orpen), and her rediscovered drawings are now deposited with the Royal College of Surgeons. Treatment of mental patients continued at outpatients clinics in St Albans and elsewhere. After the war ended, the Bart’s units gradually began returning to London, freeing the Hill End wards for their original purpose. As the bomb damage to their London premises had to be repaired, it was not until 1961 that the last of the Bart’s staff finally left.

Encouraged by art therapy theorist Adrian Hill, Dr Kimber appointed Norman Colquhoun and patients’ work was exhibited from the late 1940s.

Hill End Hospital: NHS

On 5 July 1948, Hertfordshire County Council surrendered the hospital to the new National Health Service. Hill End came under the Mid Hertfordshire Group (No 7) Hospital Management Committee, and the hospital would be administered by the Hill End Hospital House Committee. Dr Harold Palmer was appointed in 1951 to re-establish Hill End as a mental hospital. He aimed to treat patients more humanely, referring to them as men and women, rather than males and females. A mixed ward was set up where elderly men and women could sit, eat and watch television together. In 1959, the year the Thackeray Siamese twins were separated, wards were given names rather than numbers, and patients’ correspondence was no longer censored. Nursing staff were integrated rather than being organised into male and female hierarchies. The number of in-patients rose to 745 in 1965, but gradually fell after this due to increasing use of outpatient clinics. By 1982, the number of in-patients had fallen below 400, and by 1994, it was down to 132.

A year after the hospital’s farms were closed down, the Mental Health Act 1959 abolished the distinction between psychiatric and other hospitals, and encouraged community care. A groundswell of anti-institutionalism dominated the 1960s, from the anti-psychiatry of R D Laing to Government policy such as that voiced by Enoch Powell. In the midst of this, in 1964, a young poet named David Chapman (1944-1976) was admitted. Upon his release his account of his experience was published under the title, Withdrawal, and included photographs of the patients and hospital that he had taken with a smuggled-in camera. A film was planned by the publisher, George P Solomos, but never made. The buildings were, though, later used for at least two episodes of the television series, Inspector Morse.

Hill End Hospital: care in the community and closure

The NHS policy of care in the community, rather than in large institutions, came to be more fully implemented with the Community Care Act 1990, and a year later, the new Horizon Health Trust (1991-2001) began its winding down of Hill End, Cell Barnes and Harperbury hospitals.

In 1995, Hill End closed completely. The widespread closure of such outdated institutions was the culmination of decades of NHS and Government policy drift towards community care, fuelled by public outcry and anti-psychiatry, and enshrined in legislation such as the Mental Health Act 1959 and the Community Care Act 1990. This was encouraged by the proven success of outpatient facilities, a better acceptance and understanding of mental health, and increasingly effective self-medication.

Elderly patients were transferred to geriatric wards in St Albans City Hospital and elsewhere, whilst other patients needing permanent care moved to new small units that had up to 24 beds each. Just before Hill End’s closure, a ceremony was held on 29 November 1995. The contents of the buildings were then cleared by Hilditch Auctions of Malmesbury in November 1995, but the company has no surviving records concerning the sale. The site was then sold for housing. Highfield Park was formally opened on 13 November 1997. St Albans District Council currently (in 2009) owns the freehold, and it is run on a long lease by the independent and charitable Highfield Park Trust ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of existing and new communities in the area’.

This page was added on 26/03/2010.

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  • There is rather a large gap in this history, 1960 to 1975. My experiences there and the surrounding event that lead me there are vivid if a little chronologically confused around the period of ECT treatment. Mostly psychedelic drugs and over indulgence of cannabis were blamed for my mental breakdown. They didn’t help but the route causes were stressful expectations from school, betrayal in love and a pile of misunderstanding. Nativity played its part too.
    Fortunately my mental problems were shallow and within ten years I had ‘recovered’ from those traumas. If anything my experiences were enpowering, when exposed to everest ward at 17 only an inner strength can get you out and through life afterwards. At the time I could not comprehend how parents and doctors could treat me in that way, I was not abused by them. The system just drove them that way. I even gained a respect for my psychiatrist there, Dr Dalgleash, and she too for my when I described a truly Jungian episode with the collective subconscious.
    There is also the power of place and objects to somehow hold traumatic events. The science in me rejects this yet experience has taught me that strong emotions remain around traumatic sites. Château de vercore, flavell cave (in that region), a particular weggi board, a spoon used by a drug dealer who burnt his car with his girl friend in the boot. Hill end was full of horrors both real and imaginary. There were pleasant places there too the gardens, the entertainment hall, the show I viewed was so full of compassion yet very weird reactions from the patients.

    My father convinced himself that I remembered nothing of that period, self protection really. Yet it is all still so vivid. I call walk though it all like a lucid dream, the building the spatial layout the pictures on the walls the corridors with the barbers, the dentist, the art room, Caine’s ward the I escaped from into the courtyard and over the roof, to be taken back and placed in everest ward where I could only escape in my mind.
    The warders/nurses had to be brutal to control the dangerous patients held there. “We’ve see your sort before, you’ll be here the rest of your life” only hardened my resolve to be released. I had to pretend I felt better and yet returned twice more because nothing had been solved. I learnt later that I had been exemplified at school, which explained partly the strange interaction with my peers. I met someone who had similar treatment so realised how changed I was made. I studied at home for the final year.
    Of cause when events grow stressful the same feeling arise yet life goes on and I would say in many ways I live a blessed life.
    In my youth nuclear weapons were going to destroy the world, now its global warming. So I know how many young people feel threatened by a seemingly uncaring human world, yet they too are part of it, they too will experience has he helplessness and hopefully will overcame their nativity and realise that in every little way they can change the future.

    By Robin malkavich - his is my artistic pseudonym (08/12/2021)
  • My great great grandmother Emily Archer b.1859-1939 was admitted to Hill End and stayed approximately 15 years. She had been a teacher at a girls school – a very clever woman. She was also a very good needlewoman-and had very many attributes. It seemed unfair that she was placed in an asylum because they didn’t quite know how to treat her. My mother was taken to see her several times when she was a child by Emily’s sister Rhoda Archer who lived in Cheshunt Hertfordshire.

    By Sally Kelsey (09/08/2021)
  • My mother’s father Dr Arthur Norman Boycott was medical director of Hill End. I gather from this and other records that he was in post from its founding in 1898 to retirement in 1925. I visited the place once probably in the 1960s with my mother who showed me the superintendent’s house in the hospital where she grew up. There were still several of the buildings and it was in use and mum said that creating a kind and humane atmosphere was a very important ideal of my grandfather’s. He died during the war I think. He and granny Lota his wife retired to Gombards House on Verulam Road St Albans which was a lovely victorian villa but was turned into a carpark with lock up garages. Granny had been trained as a Nightgale nurse at St Thomas’s Hospital and later ran Bricket House in Central St Albans a nursing home caring for wounded WW1 soldiers and later it was a maternity home where I was born in 1947!

    By Rev Dr Dick Rodgers (10/10/2020)
  • I was in the adolescent unit in 1990, place still haunts me today, the sedation, the abuse, I’m glad this had come to light.

    By Darren Waldron (04/09/2019)
  • I know it is long shot but I am wondering if anyone can help me trace my Aunty Ellen (Nell) Smith. She was born in 1897 I believe and was sent to St.Albans Asylum when she was very very young. She was a young child. She was sent to the Asylum because she was profoundly deaf. I know she was alive in 1967 (August) as I have a photo of her with my parents. I am trying to find out when and where she died and where she is buried.
    If anyone can help it would be greatly appreciated.

    By Mrs Jennifer Holland (28/07/2019)
  • Dear Mrs Holland, thanks for your comment. I would suggest contacting Herts Archives and Local Studies to pursue your research. You can email or just drop in if you’re near Hertford. (Ed.)

    By Marion Hill (06/08/2019)
  • I was at Hill end, I think 78 . Sedated like you guys and the stupid meetings upstairs . I remember a black girl who had run away to London and brought back and sedated.

    By Robert Haynes (23/12/2018)
  • I was aged 13 and was admitted at Hill End 1977 and resided there for six months. It was awful. It was run by a dysfunctional staff.

    My life should not be what it is today. My experience at that hell hole still haunts me

    By Angela (18/12/2018)
  • I was there in 1985-1986. I remember being sedated all the time and if I refused to drink it I would be sat on by several staff and injected with it. They would pull my trousers down to inject me in front of everyone. I also remember the group sessions in the padded room and the three way glass. I remember my bed very clearly and being in it most of the time. It was a small sleep space but I think there was a divider between bed spaces with a wardrobe or something in it. I cannot remember exactly how long i was in there. Does anyone remember me?

    By karen Garner (04/12/2018)
  • Hi.
    I am trying to trace a lady called Mary Barbara Bagley, who may have been admitted to Hill End Hospital late 70’s after being deported back from South Africa due to mental illness. She left behind a son whi was born 1973 and was about 5 when she was sent back to the At Albans area to an institute.

    Editor’s note:
    If you have any information, please send it to and it can be forwarded.

    By Amanda Mollentze (22/10/2018)
  • A major police investigation has been launched into abuse at Hill End Adolescent Unit. It is called Operation Meadow as you may already know. It will not succeed unless all former adolescents complain about the physical, emotional or sexual abuse they suffered there. Please contact Hertfordshire Police and ask to speak to the investigating team. This is probably your only chance to see justice served.

    By Fred Jones (31/01/2018)
  • Hi I was sent to Hill End in 94 I was 13 at the time I remember very little about it other than the sedation the padded room with cameras …. I also remember being strip searched when coming in and all my belongings being searched, I actually asked the local council for any information held on me from my youth when I was in care and I did state I was more interested in records from Hill End ….. I did get my referral and discharge letters amongst other paper work but none of it really relating to my time in Hill End
    I think I have blocked a lot of it out but I just remembered feeling like the whole time I was there was a mute like literally you couldn’t talk “until in the circle “ or I funnily remember everyone being laid out on the floor in a room with pink floyd type of music playing and being made to talk about sexual abuse in front of everyone in there …. and one boy said something on the lines of you must of deserved it ….. and he was quickly sedated by the staff there

    By Chantel Wrapson (28/11/2017)

    I’ve just read Hill End Adolescent Unit is being investigated by Police due to abuse allegations during a 26 year period 1969-1995
    This is shocking, and having read a number of awful comments here, it’s clear this investigation is long overdue. I do hope people who has posted will have the strength to contact the police. Bad Care is still rife in mental health units, and it must stop.

    By Lesley Kaigg (21/11/2017)
  • I’m very saddened but not all that surprised to read all the shocking accounts of ill treatment and abuse that took place in this hospital. I was in Fairfield in Bedfordshire in 1995 and that too was a Hell Hole. All the abuse was covered up and brushed under the carpet by the Authorities.

    By TOMMY (12/11/2017)
  • For everyone commenting in this thread can I say that I am hopeful something may come of your complaints. I have heard that there is an investigation underway by Hertfordshire Police regarding allegations of sexual abuse. I have not heard of any such complaints up to now but anything is possible.
    However the physical abuse of adolescents happened on a daily basis and I hope that this comes out into the open as well. Time is marching on and I think that short of chaining yourself to the railings of No 10 Downing St this issue may never come into the open. I have seen more and more people contributing to, or writing their own articles online. If you were a victim of this abuse dont let it rest. There are Nurses who will back up your claims including those who have contributed to this blog I am sure.

    By John Dickinson (10/11/2017)
  • By Mindful (09/11/2017)
  • To Wendy anonymous
    I Read your words from 2014. I think i do remember you, but i was there in 1979, and was there when they filmed Horizon. i still have nightmares about Hill End, and don’t think i have ever totally recovered from the experience of it, i am today still being treated for mental health and am on medication. I remember those wierd groups, do you remember one every day between 4 till 6 where you had to punch mattresses, and be`rocked by the rest of the group? I was sedated three times, it was the worst thing i ever experienced, i just slept,and slept,and slept, it was like a living dead.
    I was also abused regularly by one particular staff member who clearly had it in for me,and abused me badly on my first weekend,when i was not allowed to go home. I am very sorry to hear about your time there, but i know exactly how you must be feeling. I wish you well.
    Alan ( at the adolescent unit in 1979)

    By Alan Shanley (14/07/2017)
  • Please can anyone tell me anything about david Clark from about 1985 .

    By Amanda (07/06/2017)
  • My mother was a teenager at Hill-End in the late 1940s. She was admitted for reconstructive plastic surgery after an explosion left her with severe burns to her lower face and upper body. Without the skills of surgeons Mowlem and Rouillard, and the care of the nursing staff she would almost certainly have died. Instead she continues to live a rich and active life almost 70 years later.

    By Robert Watson (07/05/2017)
  • I was admitted to Hill End adolescent unit in 1989/1991 three times by Social Services for running away from my children’s home. I also was sedated by drinking liquid and forced by restraint for the smallest things. I was once put to sleep for 3 days. Every time I woke they made me drink the sedation again. After the third time I begged for them crying not to send me asleep again and I was allowed to stay awake. This was definitely the worst thing you could do to a child that needed love and support.

    By Sarah Rajput (06/04/2016)
  • I noted that you mention a film that was never made at Hill End. However. during my period as an Admin. Officer at the final stages of the Hospital I was involved in ‘supervising’ two film units that made part of INSPECTOR MORSE, and a large part of THE YOUNG POISONERS HANDBOOK using some of the closed wards.

    By Frank Miller (15/07/2015)
  • In 1981/82, aged 13, I attended many appointments at Hill End, with a view to being “sent” there by my very convincing but very obviously mentally ill mother, the interviews were video-taped. I remember watching another girl my age being rolled in a mattress, she was clearly in a state of fear and panic, crying and begging to be let go, whilst a huge member of staff sat on top (i am struggling to breath as I write this), she was then given an injection and she went quiet! It was believed that I should be sent there because I was a little argumentative and wore eyeliner to school, like every single teenage girl then and now! I was lucky I was never fully admitted. When I was 18, I was desperate to see my files to understand how this was even a consideration for me. After months of fighting I was eventually allowed to sit in a council office with my “file”. Basically every piece of paper would confirm name, d.o.b. and all that but everything else was blacked out, I was not entitled to read what the issues had been, which could have been very healing and extremely beneficial to my mental wellbeing. It just proved to me that all us children who were tormented, goaded, drugged and beaten at this place, were just being disposed of, or hidden as quietly and easily as possible in lieu of proper parental care and a decent education!!!

    By Anon (30/05/2015)
  • Having read all these comments about the Adolescent Unit one thing that strikes me is that no member of staff responsible for this appalling regime is mentioned by name.

    Why, one wonders, is this?     Surely not website censorship? There must be another explanation, hopefully.

    By Robert Oakhill (15/05/2015)
  • Unfortunatly due to legal reasons we are required to remove specific names in conjuction with any allegation.

    By Llinos Thomas (15/08/2019)
  • I was there in the early 80s I remember the meeting at 2 in the morning and [name redacted] was rolled up in a sheet and sat on while they injected him to sleep months and weeks at a time. Some of the girls I managed to help escape  

    By georgina hamm (19/01/2015)
  • I remember being there and thinking iam never get out 

    By Miss Georgina Hamm (17/01/2015)
  • These stories are very interesting I have no connection with this place, but feel strongly about exposing the ways of the employees as I have been doing research on the history of these places and would also like to know if the original site is still standing today 

    By EssBee (04/01/2015)
  • I was wondering if anyone knew Sally Griffiths or Sally Pearson, she was there in the early 90s. She would have been in her late 30s.

    By Rosie (01/12/2014)
  • unbelievable but yet believable!

    My Mother worked as a nurse at Cell Barnes Hospital, St Albans in the 1960’s to 70’s.  I also had an uncle  and auntie who worked at Hill end Hospital as nurses.

    I had a half brother called Willy Healy or O’dwyer who I believe was an inpatient either at Hill end or Shenley hospital in St Albans in the 70’s.  My parents kept him a ‘secret’ from us, although he lived with us at home when we were little for a while.  He was treated awfully by my father (my mothers son, not my fathers) 

    Willy was taken away, to either Shenley or Hill End in the 1970’s. So sad, as he attempted suicide before then, by running across a railway line in Hatfield(? about 15 yrs of age) He lost his legs. 

    Willy remained as an in patient at ? Hill End or Shenley until he died, must of been late 70’s.

    I need to find out what happened to my brother; it was kept such a dark secret and i now need to learn more as to what happened. I need to grieve for my brother; I don’t even know where he is buried, ? North London with an unnamed tomb stone; He deserves much more than that.  Can anyone help me?

    By bernie havenga (28/09/2014)
  • Hi Wendy – I’m sorry to hear what you had to experience, but you are not alone, many others had the same treatment.  It is possible to see the video they made in 1979, it is on the needle blog web site – just try googling this.

    By Helen anonymous (18/06/2014)
  • I was in Hill End adolescent unit around 1977 or 78 around the age of 14. This was the most terrifying time in my life. I still think about it to this day. Put in the adolescent unit because family were unable to take care of me because of my behaviour. Sent there by my GP, and I guess social services, because I dared to fight back – I was being sexually abused from the age of 12. Talk about social services and your GP letting you down. Nothing was done to the abuser in any form and life carried on as if nothing ever happened, whereas I was admitted to a mental hospital. I also remember daily sedation and that pathetic sitting in a circle rubbish discussing your feelings. The hut where everyone went for lessons. There was a programme made when I was there – I believe it was for Horizon. We were all put in the padded room and told to show our feelings and how things were done. Shame they never showed how things were really done and how people were really treated. I also ran away with another girl from the unit, but sedation was never far behind. All I can say is if young girls are treated this way (put into mental institutions) when they report sexual abuse to professionals, no wonder they say nothing. If anyone thinks they may remember me, I would like to hear from you.

    By Wendy Anonymous (04/06/2014)
  • Thought people might be interested in this Horizon programme which featured the Adolescent Unit at the hospital. It was aired in 1979

    By Anonymous (06/04/2014)
  • I was at Hill End between 74 -75. I stayed on 2 occasions for about 6 week , I remember we had a riot on the last time I was there, forever on sedation.

    By ANDY (23/03/2014)
  • I was also there in 1984 I can relate to all these horror stories. Is there anything we can do about our suffering (Which is ongoing nightmares etc) We should all band together ‘United we stand divided we fall’ How do we get hold of medical records, video films etc Anon

    By ANON (13/01/2014)
  • I was in hill end in 1984. I had a terrible experience I was 13 years old. Please contact me if you were there at the same time.

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

    By Craig (11/01/2014)
  • I’m the wife of someone who was in hill end in the 80’s and have heard some really awfull stories about the things that went on in there I’m sure if you were sent there by social services they would have your files in their archives which I know they do not destroy I hope all of you get some sort of closure I know from my own experiences with my husband that the effects from being there has destroyed a part of your lives

    By Nicky (10/01/2014)
  • If you remember me get in touch , 1983/4 I was there , I was 13 , I’m 43 now , Kim if you read this , contact me I remember you more than anyone else. Craig Webb

    By Craig (10/01/2014)
  • Kim ,is that half cast Kim if it is I remeber you 1983/1984 I’m Craig I was 13 ,I think you was about 15 ,it would be good to get in touch take care Craig webb

    By Craig Webb (10/01/2014)
  • I was locked up in the adolescent unit at hill end , sedated a lot of the time , I was 13 and in there in 1983. For about a year , terrible place , I still have nightmares now . 43 yrs old .

    By Craig Webb (10/01/2014)
  • I was a patient at Hill End adolescent Unit throughout the summer of 1995. This unit was very much part of Hill End hospital.. Why no mentioning of it on this site? After taken a overdose at the age of 13 year old I was very confused about my sexuality and admitted at this horrible unit where I was sedated ,video recorded in “action group” meetings and this was the mid 90’s !!! I remember the unit was short staffed and MR Mason the unit manager decided to sedated all the patients on the unit. Thank god .. I am over this I am in my early 30’s and a secondary school teacher working with troubled teens. The school attached to the unit was even terrible too .Sadistic teachers who would encourage sedation and restraint to teens. I would also remember being constantly searched by staff even after visits with my social worker . The searches use to be conducted and video recorded in the two way mirror “therapy” rooms on the ground floor.

    By Year 95 patient (05/01/2014)
  • Found some newspaper articles on forced drugging and seclusion in the adolescent unit from 1991……

    By Anonymous (05/10/2013)
  • I was a student at Hill End Hospital in the early 80s and later a staff nurse. On the whole the staff at Hill End were very professional and provided a high standard of care to patients on acute, long stay and rehabilitation wards. My experiences there were positive and rewarding with one exception. The Adolescent Unit. This was a dreadful place populated by vulnerable adolescents and dysfunctional staff. I felt so sorry for those young people who were sedated on a whim with IM chlorpromazine and liquid chloral hydrate. The only requirement for an adolescent to be sedated was that a member of staff “felt anxious”. Meetings were called and the member of staff would say “I feel anxious and in order to relieve my anxiety I need that adolescent to be sedated”. Sedations happened on a daily basis. Sometimes the whole group were sedated. I remember contacting Community Care Magazine and trying to get what was going on exposed. Nothing came of it. I am surprised that no one has tried to sue the Units consultant or some of the staff that worked the. In the end I refused to work at the Unit and was told that this would be a blemish on my professional record. To hell with them. They treated those young people in a way that would have seen them imprisoned had they done the same to adults. To any young person who contributed here I can only say that I am personally sorry for what happened to you. It was not all bad at Hill End. Just that awful Adolescent Unit.

    By John Dickinson (10/09/2013)
  • My mum was sectioned there in the early 80s and as a child I visited and saw terrible things, even being interviewed myself by her psychiatrist! The mention of the place fills me with dread even now living in New Zealand! I think the stories should be heard .

    By V field (26/08/2013)
  • Hi Steven Guthrie, and all those who have commented, please could you please contact me by email, we have set up a support group for the Survivors of Hill End.

    By Patricia (25/08/2013)
  • Has anyone got any photos of staff who worked at the Unit in the 1970s. I would be interested to see them or where any pictures taken of the children?

    By Anonymous (23/08/2013)
  • I was in there in the early 80’s I still have nightmares to this day.

    By penny (15/08/2013)
  • This is the 3rd time I have tried to get my comment posted. I was an inmate at H E O U in the early 70`s I was sedated forceably by injection for not talking at the daily meetings & on other accassions when I was feeling to ill to play basket ball. I was often woken during the night by screams of someone being sedated by injection, I have been in many institutions & my time in Hill End has never left my thoughts, I would not wish this time in my life on my worst enermy.

    By bob (06/08/2013)
  • My grandfather, Ernest John Pratchett died in this hospital on 27th July 1917. From his death certificate, it seems he had epilepsy and died after an epileptic seisure which lasted for 4 days! His death was certified by A.N. Boycott MD, but was not registered until 12 days after he died!! Very, very odd! My father never spoke of him and I really feel for my grandfather. His last 8 years in the asylum must have been awful and the manner of his death quite horrific. Now days they would have been able to control the seizures.

    By John Pratchett (06/08/2013)
  • Thought I had buried that hell hole to the deep recesses of my mind. Like most of the comments on here I also spent some time in hill end in the late 70s, and yes the sedative for no reason and those stupid circles, I remember having to vote if some one should stay on sedation, We children voted no but as usual they were sedated and this could go on for weeks.

    By robert haynes (06/08/2013)
  • What happened to David Clark – did he commit suicide. There have been a number of these recorded after young people visited the Adolescent Unit. My brother also remembers a TV programme about Hill End in the 1980s. COuld anyone find it please.

    By anonymous (03/08/2013)
  • My brother said there was a TV programme about the unit in the 1980s, but I don’t remember it. I would really be interested in seeing it, if anyone knows about it.

    By Anonymous (01/08/2013)
  • I am surprised to see nothing about the Hill End Adolescent Unit. If anything or anybody was “out of sight, out of mind” it was the teenagers who were held/treated here. I look forward to you updating your site with a fuller history of Hill End.

    By Russ (24/07/2013)
  • There was a report about the adolescent unit published in the early 1990s.

    By Anonymous (11/07/2013)
  • I would like to go to the ploice about Hill End with my son who I admitted in 1991 to recover from a previous abuse but had far worse treatment in Hill end than the original abuse. If any of you are well enough and able to corroborate the evidence please mail me on this site and I can give you my address through the site editors.Please don’t let these people get away with such horrendous behaviour any longer.

    By Madeline anne (02/05/2013)
  • I was in Hill End 1994/1996. I still remember a few people from there. When we were in our circle having meetings someone “trumped” and I couldn’t control my laughter and I got sedated with injection on bum cheeks… I’ve tried finding that facebook page that you suggested but nothing’s showing up… If you do get a fb page please could you post the link on here so we can all join 🙂 thank you…

    By Gemma (29/04/2013)
  • Hi Steve, I have mailed re my son Jon who was in Hill End but if you are interested in his story and my proposals as to where to go now with it please mail me, I have a great deal of can reply on this site as I read frequently as my sons’ life was ruined by The Unit.

    By Anne Madeline (28/04/2013)
  • I am the mother of an adult in his early thirties who was admitted to Hill End in the early nineties, at present he is too ill mentally to write but hopes he will improve soon and tell his own story, he has these massive ‘breakdowns’ intermittantly because of his time in The Unit, My main regret in life is agreeing to send him to Hill End which was supposed to help him recover from a previous abuse but from the accounts he has given me that place is the cause of his severe problems in life. I know this time when he improves he would like to go to The Police and he would have my backing and that of family and friends and I wondred if any of you would feel strong enough to support him. Thank you for listening and starting this site, it is the only item I have ever found on the internet that The Unit ever exsisted,

    By madeline (28/04/2013)
  • Steven Guthrie I was in hillend in 85 I was 1 of 2 girls there at the time I remember a boy called Steven in there at the same time as me and there was a boy called Robert who was autistic , the staff constantly putting in isolation and sedating him  I can’t understand why there’s no info on this place any where

    By Michelle (26/04/2013)
  • I was in Hill End in the 80s, I was there for 5 months, for apparently being aggresive and abusive to the staff in the care home I was in. I didn’t get sedated but remember the meetings in a circle and it was guaranteed someone was gonna be sedated. I even ran away, but after I went back to the care home the social services said I shouldn’t have been there, half of us shouldn’t have been there, it was a horrible 5 months. Never got a sorry from social services.

    By Kim (16/04/2013)
  • reading this has brought some afull memories of being at hill end adolescent unit where i was places three times in the mid 80s, i was phisacally abused and sedated for three days basically because they felt i was going to be a problem i am so angry about the way i was treated no child should be trated like that, this has followed me throughout my life and has had negitive conciquences in my life….it makes me angry the fact i didnt even get a diagnoses from them..i was a child who kikked off because i diddnt want to be there is sedaton the answer

    By daniel rankin (24/03/2013)
  • I would really like to know why none of the adolescent unit members of staff members have commented on this website??

    By anonymous (09/12/2012)
  • I too was in the adolesant unit when I was 13/14 in the mid 80’s am tryin to find out more on the hospital

    By kelly (juliette) elliott (23/10/2012)
  • I write for my son not myself, he has been very ill several times after admission to Hill End since 1991

    By mads (10/10/2012)
  • Something I’ve wondered over the years is whether or not it is still possible to get hold of your medical records if you were in the unit in the 1970s or 1980s. It’s probably too long ago. Just wondered if anyone would know?

    By anonymous (05/10/2012)
  • I was at hill end when I was 13 in 1993 the abuse was so bad I was sent there by social services because of my behaviour I can relate to everything being said hear about all the meetings being called sitting in circles I was there 5 months and was sedated most days the first time I was sedated was when I saw my mum come in on the first day to drop my clothes of I started to cry because I wanted to go home with her I was dragged into a room that looks like a prison cell and made to drink that horrible stuff after a while I started to refuse to drink it and ended up being stabbed with needles I saw another person sedated one night who had a bad reaction and there heart stopped in front of everyone they just used CPR got it started and put him to bed I’ve never been able to talk about this as people would not understand I still have flash backs that make me feel sick what happened there I think we should all get together and speak out about the things that happened there people need to be held accountable

    By Scott (22/09/2012)
  • I had a boy friend who got put in hill end , he was treated bad by his parent . It was around 1985 he was 15 or 16 . He would nt talk about it and i dont know what he was there for or what place was about . They filmed a tv programme but i have never see it has any 1 got i?, i sure it was called 60 minutes , His name was David Clark he is no longer with us . Can any one tell me anythink about him please ,

    By dac4 (02/09/2012)
  • Is this “Hill end adolescent unit” also called St.Albans Psychiactric hosipital?? If so,I was a patient there in 1987. I was there against my will. In state custody. I was in the adolescent unit when transported there from another state.. But because i hated the place i tried too escape and was taken to unit C-3,the locked unit. If anyone may remember me or if this Hill end is the same place then please contact me via this website . Thank u!!!

    By Jerry Young (22/08/2012)
  • I was at Hill End adolescent unit(concentration camp) in 1985. My only crime in life was that I was used and abused by my parents and I had witnessed someone burn to death and people murdered in front of me. I went into the care of social services at 11 and because I felt constantly threatened at the institutions I was put in I fought these people physically on a daily basis. I am talking about 6-7 grown men putting me in the stress position with a knee in my back where I would find it hard to breathe. So to cut a long story short I was put into Hill End. I was tricked into going there, I was told it was a new school and a fresh start but my nightmare had only just begun. My first minute and a half in the building I was fighting with doctors who pushed me to the ground and held me there and pulled my trousers down, I thought I was going to be raped. I heard lets get the liquid cosh and was sedated.This was the first of many times. The meetings in circles were there to intimidate and abuse all, to stunt the growth of delicate young minds. My story , I thought my story was a one off but it is not. I have recently obtained material from social services, in my records it is it was like Hill End did not exist. This will be difficult to say but social services have not shown one ounce of compassions, no sorry, no compensation for a life that they completely ruined. I have been in some of the hardest prisons in this country, I am not proud of it but thats the way it is. Yes, I did have altercations with the screws and a beating to me was easy to take but I was NEVER treated a bad as I was in Hill End. PLease remember I was with the worst of the worst, and when I was often in solitary confinement I would always think of Hill End. I have never stopped thinking of Hill End. Not a days goes by when my heart doesn’t break because I had dreams and aspirations of being a productive person in society. I became institutionalised and very, very angry. To all the survivors of Hill End please contact me as I would love to hear from anyone who was there 1970-1995. Leave a message on this website so that I can contact you. I hope we can get this brought out of the darkness and into the light. I love you all and I hope that life has treated you better than me. Yours sincerely Steven Guthrie.

    By Steven Guthrie (02/08/2012)
  • I was at Hill End for 3months in mid 1979, just before I hit 16 and could then no longer be imprisoned by social services for no reason. I remember Aidan D, who was my friend, and a tall thin kid called Johnathon, who was sedated for all but a couple of days, for all the time I was there. I remember how bloody awful it felt to be on Largactol, and unable to finish a thought, or read a sentence, or stop yourself dribbling. I remember the circle of hell, with staff badgering the weaker kids to emote, and secluding and sedating any who wouldn’t give up their privacy. I remember going up through the main hospital once a week to the hospital shop to buy sweets, and seeing all the old people, drugged up on Largactol, and feeling so bad for them, because they had no one to fight for them. I had my mum (I was taken into care against my parents wishes), and I am glad, because the kids who had only social workers didn’t stand a chance. The other kids I met there seemed perfectly normal to me. But they were all trouble makers, inasmuch as they fought the system, and as such, hill end was the perfect place to hide them away. I don’t feel that Hill End did anything good for me, except to teach me that psychiatric staff were mostly less intelligent than their patients, and shouldn’t be let anywhere near kids, that John Peel’s radio show’s music really did save my life emotionally speaking, and the other kids made the whole hideous experience bearable – especially Aidan. So love to you Aidan, wherever you are, and good thoughts to all of you who suffered at the hands of the cretins who think they know best. X

    By LeahD (18/07/2012)
  • I would like to see videos of it too, if they exist. Also what about the case notes? I remember one of the many weird therapies was to videotape you sitting in a room on your own.

    By anonymous (03/07/2012)
  • I remember Georgina Hamm, Mary and David Shadbolt of the paitents there when i was

    By angela mctigue (25/05/2012)
  • I know some of you have added comments of the horrendous abuse you experienced at Hill End Adolescent Unit, apart from Sedation. I have therefore created a facebook page on “Hill End Adolescent Unit” as I think it would be nice if we can chat and share our experiences. Go onto facebook and search for Hill End Adolescent Unit. Email me at if you wish to join. Thanks, Patricia

    By Patricia Mattson (22/05/2012)
  • I was there around 93 was 12 years old. Didn’t kick off but always sudated just for whispering! They’d call a meeting make us sit in a circle then say we are going to sedated you because you were whispering and we think you are planning to run away. we were in a secure unit how could we of escaped??? Mad times, wake up have breakfast put to sleep i always had the liquid or they’d restrain you and inject you in the bum.  i thought it only happened in the 90’s turns out i was wrong. I was messed up people don’t understand if you tell them about it glad i found this site x

    By louise (19/05/2012)
  • Hi sheila I was in there too in the 70s, it was horrific. I remember getting picked up by my hair and dragged across the room. I was also heavily sedated – not sure why.

    By Anon (17/05/2012)
  • Hi – I had a similar experience in 1974, it was quite horrible and I even remember it very very occasionally to this day. I wonder what other children in the same situation did with their lives afterwards.

    By Heady Hop (09/05/2012)
  • I was there in 1993, horrible place rife with abuse, and most of the poor kids in there didn’t even belong there. Why the hell would you need to sedate someone who has had a troubled upbringing but is otherwise normal?

    By Dave (07/05/2012)
  • The information on this page is incredible. One of my friends went to Hill End and he was telling me about it. I cannot believe some of the comments – that people were just sedated. The mental health institutions nowadays seem to treat things differently – but I’m not sure how they are in “sectioned” institutes – do they still do the same things? Gemma

    By Gemma (05/05/2012)
  • I remember if you spoke or made a noise at night time to shut you up, you would be isolated and given a yellow syrup liquid to drink which sent me to sleep. I don’t know what it was, but it knocked you out more or less within minutes.

    By Patricia Mattson (22/03/2012)
  • msg for Patricia Mattson, I was in there in the summer of 1977 as well, I dont recall you ,probably as I was normally sedated ! If you google Pitsea pirate blogg, theres plenty of comments from other “Residents” there. I am trying to Find a Chinese/Japanese nurse that only worked the night shift, if you read comments of Lewsey25 you will see why, thank you if you can assist. Paul

    By paul lewsey (04/03/2012)
  • I was an inmate at the brushed-under-the-carpet adolescent unit around 1982, subjected to routines that would have us condemning other countries for doing to kids today. I’m not surprised that there is no mention of that unit anywhere. The staff must be ashamed of themselves for treating vulnerable and troubled kids like that – maybe they were just ‘following orders’ like the concentrqation camp guards they successfully emulated. I managed to break out of the front door twice, and onto the gym roof from hallway by bathroom once – my last escape attempt actually got me out properly and I never went back. I hope the site is condemned .

    By James Ellis (25/02/2012)
  • I was there in the late 80’s and my nightmare of an experience was the evil Dr forcing me to take my clothes off to be examined, forced sedation for no reason, daily meetings in a circle where you were forced to ‘share’ with strangers or be punished with sedation. If you refused to drink the disgusting sedation drink you would be held down and injected. 10 minutes to gobble down your meals or go without, forced to go swimming at a local pool once a week or be sedated. Watching the other children being injected/abused. Awful times, still have nightmares about it.

    By Anonymous (17/02/2012)
  • I was in the adolescent unit in 82 it was  awful there the staff were horrible. One of hte teachers forced my head under the water when we went swimming and another forced me to have a bath when I couldnt use it but worse of all i put my radio on and Mandy one of the patients said i wasnt allowed to have it on. I shouted at her then the staff told me to drink this stuff which sent me to sleep.

    By angela mctigue (12/01/2012)
  • Was there in 1991? For few months,thinking about it more and more lately,scary lonely isolated time 🙁 x

    By Nadine (17/06/2011)
  • Hi this message is for Sheila Read – I don’t have a twin, but do have a sister. I was at Hill End Adolescent Unit around 1977 where sedation was part of the daily ritual even if you did not misbehave – if you did not answer questions and stayed silent, because you did not want to speak, they forced sedation on you, perhaps for a quiet life for themselves. There were daily meetings in a circle, where you were forced to tell total strangers about yourself and I witnessed many other people being injected/abused. It was horrific.

    By Patricia Mattson (07/06/2011)
  • Ref the film WITHDRAWAL, based on David Chapman’s booklength poem. It was indeed produced & directed by George Solomos, and funded by a grant from the British Film Institute – around 1969. We shot at Hill End. We got in a dispute with the Head of Short Films at the BFI, who was Bruce Beresford, who later went on to become famous for directing “Driving Miss Daisy”. The BFI mysteriously “lost” the original film negatives and audio files, and refused any requests for them from myself or George. They *might* still be languishing in a BFI vault somewhere. The post-experimental jazz group The Spontaneous Music Ensemble made original music for the film, and this was released by them – can likely still be found online.

    By Andrew Lovatt (10/11/2010)
  • I was a patient (age 6/7) at Hill End hospital during 1940/1. There were many servicemen on the ward during the time I was there and they made quite a fuss of me buying toys and sweets. As I was a fairly long term patient, I even had some school lessons there, the teacher being a Miss Selick.

    By Peter Lambert (24/09/2010)
  • I was in the adolescent unit around 85 /86 would love to find out more about the unit is there any archive any where on the net ??

    By michelle hallissey (05/09/2010)
  • Just to add I was a patient on the Adolescent Unit over the Summer of 1995 at Hill End Hospital. I was 13 year old and remember the grounds and some of the adults from the main hospital acting out . Very surprised it had no mentioning at all as it was very much part of Hill End till it closure . The unit has now been relocated to claybury hospital.

    By Clifford Beese (29/08/2010)
  • yes i was in the adolescent unit in the 70s and i cant find anything relating to this on the net. patricia do you have a twin?

    By sheila read (30/07/2010)
  • Nothing is mentioned about the Hill End Adolescent Unit which was there in the 70s its as if it did not exist.

    By Patricia Mattson (24/07/2010)
  • I wondered if you had any videos of the Hill End Adolescent Unit or if you know what ward was it called? I was in Hill End when I was 14.

    By Patricia Buckland (24/07/2010)