Cane Hill Hospital

Remembering the history of Cane Hill Hospital

1. About this Site

37 comments

It is our duty to remember the work of our forefathers, to commemorate their achievements and to learn from their experiences. Time passes us by and society changes, Cane Hill no longer serves a purpose as a mental health facility and is thus lost to us.

Many people contributed to the rich and illustrious history of Cane Hill, and this site attempts to celebrate the work they did by bringing together words and images from people who experienced Cane Hill.

[Photograph by Ernie Townsend, 1986]

Written by Ali

September 28th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

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37 Responses to '1. About this Site'

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  1. Hi Ali,
    was good to chat with you about the hill last night,
    Had a look on flicker for those old cane hill cafe photos, but found nothing.
    Would be very interested to see those shots in the hall you told me about or any links to photos up on flicker when cane hill was in use.
    See you sunday the 20th.
    Regards,
    Phil

    Phil

    15 Dec 09 at 1:10 am

  2. hey Ali, great work documenting cane hill.
    I was wondering if you can help me find patients from the hospital still alive now, or if you know any? seems like there are some anecdotes in your site.
    im working on a film, i can tell you more about it
    thx,
    s

    san

    12 Feb 10 at 3:26 pm

  3. Hi Ali, I work at Cane Hill from 1982 to 1985. I met my wife there. I was led to understand the Mr Townsend was writing a book some years ago? I have been looking for some old Photos of staff who work at Cane Hill. Maybe we should look and find some of the old staff who work at Cane hill. I have a lot of very good memories working at Cane hill. Please email me and keep me inform.

    Thank
    Garry

    Garry Smith

    12 Mar 10 at 7:02 pm

  4. From a newsletter published in 2002, Mr Townsend was indeed writing a book. I don’t know what came of it though. Finding photographs of staff is quite difficult, although the archivist at Croydon Library holds a box of general images from the hospital. I’ll let you know if anything new comes up.

    Ali

    Ali

    15 Mar 10 at 3:20 pm

  5. Ali, I have a scan of a canehill handbook. It’s a sort of recruitment type thing, entitled :
    CANEHILL HOSPITAL
    TRAINING SCHOOL FOR PSYCHIATRIC NURSING
    If you’re interested in adding it to this site I can email you the files. let me know at my email.

    paul

    17 Mar 10 at 5:14 pm

  6. Hi there, I have a full survay of fire equipment on the wards and blue prints of the hospital I took of some of the older sites and made into two PDF files. If your interested contact me via email. (the ‘o’ in nothing being a zero ‘0’.

    Adam

    23 Mar 10 at 8:29 pm

  7. Sounds great Adam, thanks for this.

    Ali

    23 Mar 10 at 9:42 pm

  8. This site is amazing, I am currently doing my Art A-level and Cane Hill heavily features in my coursework unit as I decided to do it about decaying buildings but since then I have become fascinated with the history and tales of Cane Hill. So do you mind if I use some of the articles and photographs in my project? I stumbled across another website and this photographer has some copies of original documents you might be interested in, however I tried to contact her myself but have had no luck and her website was last updated in 2008 so I am not too sure where she has disappeared to. This is the website http://www.amelieriis.co.uk/cane_hill.htm she also looks at other asylums too… the documents are under interesting things.

    Alexia

    Alexia

    18 Apr 10 at 10:09 am

  9. Thanks Alexia, a lot of work has gone into it so I appreciate your comment! You are welcome to use the images in your coursework, however I would appreciate a credit where you do – a link to the site would be nice. There’s plenty of other sites about Cane Hill around too – if you follow the links you may like what you find. Re: Original documents, I acquired some from somebody authorised to salvage at the site – let me know what you’re looking for, and maybe we could sort something out?

    Ali

    Ali

    19 Apr 10 at 8:39 am

  10. amazing site .
    would love to meeeet for a drink with any cane hill lovers and show some of my photographs .Hear stories, that kind of thing :)

    Denis

    10 Jun 10 at 1:45 am

  11. Dear Ali,
    I couldn’t find any other way to contact you but I’m currently in the middle of doing picture research for Bizarre magazine and we are doing a feature on the closure of Cane hill and really need some archive images, everything you have on this site is amazing so if it was possible would you be able to send me some high res examples of what you have and of course the pictures would get credited and the website would be mentioned.
    Also, would you happen to know of any other good places that I can obtain archive images?

    Thank you for your help
    Emma Thatcher

    Emma

    15 Jul 10 at 11:12 am

  12. I have reason to believe that a relative of mine died in Cane Hill in the 60’s, having been hospitalised for about 30 years. Does anyone know how I can check hospital records for patients who died and were buried there?

    I live just down the road from the old hospital site and have found your website absolutely facsinating. If I find anything while researching my family tree which will help you…I will let you know.

    Jackie Tanner

    17 Jul 10 at 6:53 pm

  13. Thanks Jackie, I’d appreciate that.

    Unfortunately the patient records that were left in the hospital were destroyed during demolition. Croydon Archive (above the library) and the City of London Archives may be able to help if further records were kept off site. As far as I know, there is no definitive record of who was buried in the cemetery but individual records may reveal some secrets.

    Ali

    19 Jul 10 at 11:55 am

  14. Hi There,

    I am interested to film a short film segment for TV? Would that be possible…are the buildings still up. Please can you email me a contact number its for Channel Four on Thursday. We hoping to walk around the site and some of the old buildings.

    Tim

    tim burke

    10 Oct 10 at 9:25 pm

  15. Hi Tim, the majority of the buildings are now demolished, but the administration block and chapel are still standing.

    Ali

    25 Oct 10 at 9:34 pm

  16. Hi Ali, fantastic site you have here, I’ve been fascinated by Cane Hill since I first went there back in 2004. I had 1000s of photographs of the place until my HDD went ‘fssst’ now sadly I only have a couple of dozen :(
    I wonder if you have a hi-res copy of the actual site plan at all Ali and if I might have a copy, I plan on enlarging some ofmy photographs as art to use around the house and would love the builing plan from 1883 as a centrepiece, a bit odd I grant you but it was such a magical & mysterious place it has a lasting effect on you. Regards

    Kane

    Kane

    10 Dec 10 at 1:35 pm

  17. As far as I remember from talking to the site security just before demo started, Admin & the Chapel are being kept and renovated.

    Lets hope they are.

    Kane

    Kane

    10 Dec 10 at 3:28 pm

  18. I hope so, although the fire to the Admin Block could see it’s end.

    Ali

    21 Dec 10 at 7:31 pm

  19. Thanks Kane, I don’t have any copies of the site plan, but Simon Cornwell has some hi-res scans. http://simoncornwell.com/urbex/projects/ch/index.htm

    Ali

    21 Dec 10 at 7:33 pm

  20. I was the Personnel and Services Manager at Cane hill from 1981 to 1983 working for the legendary Jim Kiley and Steve Sheath. I ran Personnel, library, Occuptional Therapy, Hairdressers and all staff accomodation. It was quite and experience in which I learnt a tremeddous amount for someone age 23. I drove past it last week and was saddened to see the magnificent buildings and grounds (including the cricket pitch) all lost. It was a place which exuded a strange mixture of happiness and misery for its staff and patients – and was full of history.

    Robert Ingram

    7 Feb 11 at 12:13 pm

  21. Hi,

    Im doing my Family Tree at present and have found that my grandads half brother died in the hospital in 1930, is there any way to found more details about this.

    Nigel Welsh

    15 Feb 11 at 4:40 pm

  22. Hi Nigel, unfortunately records are very sparse, particularly prewar. Have you tried the archive of London City Council, as they were responsible for the hospital in this period?

    Ali

    21 Feb 11 at 4:38 pm

  23. I found the messages on Canehill very interesting particularly as I had an aunt who had a stay in there possibly in the 1950’s?, I recall being driven past it by my father and he told me that one of his sisters was in there, I believe her name was either Doll or Nell O’Brien and her upbringing was in Bermondsey, London. I have no idea how long she was there or if she is alive or dead but I would love to know for family research. Kevin O’Brien.

    kevin O'Brien

    8 Jun 11 at 6:34 pm

  24. Hi Kevin, thanks for the comment. I’m sorry but I have no information on individual patients, except for those famous patients mentioned elsewhere on the site. Hopefully the information that I’ve collected can give you an idea as to what the hospital was like when your father’s sister was there.

    Ali

    12 Jun 11 at 5:54 pm

  25. My mother was a patient at Cane Hill at the time you mentioned and her maiden name was O’Brien. Can you let me know your father’s christian name. It may just be a coincidence as my mother also grew up in Bermondsey.

    Vivian McCann

    2 Nov 11 at 6:38 pm

  26. I was interested to see Kevin O’Brien’s message. I believe he is talking about my mother. All the facts he has given fit. If he would care to post a message back to me I will happily give him more information.
    Vivian

    Vivian McCann

    24 Nov 11 at 6:46 pm

  27. […] If any of this has inspired you the way it inspired me, you can find out endless amounts online. Some of the websites that I used for research include: Epsom’s Hospital Cluster, Simon Cornwell, and canehill.org. […]

  28. I worked at Cane Hill in the eighties as a medical secretary and have found this site very interesting. I have some good memories of Cane Hill and was saddened to see the pictures of the derelict site. My office was at the front of the building which I think is still standing. I lived very near to the hospital so it was only a short journey to work. It is so sad to see the derelict wards with all the abandoned items – beds, suitcases, pianos, etc and even patients’ notes. I loved working at Cane Hill and remember with fondness my colleagues, doctors, nurses and the patients.

    Joan Taylor

    25 Jan 13 at 11:11 am

  29. I am a writer currently doing in depth research on the history, architecture and social impact of British Mental Asylums for my debut novel (can share more on this if you wish.)
    This site is a rich source of information for me, especially the memories section which gives me a detailed impression of what life might have been like in my own fictional Asylum.
    I would love to learn more about Cane Hill; (one of the first British Asylums I discovered during preliminary research)as it seems like a rich and colourful model upon which to base my Asylum. Furthermore, if there are any other sites that are this rich in Asylum history, please let me know!

    best regards,

    Marion Aneira

  30. Hi Marion, thanks for the feedback. For the sake of accuracy, you’d do well to note that there’s no such thing as a ‘mental asylum’. The terms that have been used are ‘lunatic asylum’, in Victorian times, and more recently, ‘mental hospital’.

    There are several other sites with a lot of information on asylum history, and the books that I’ve recommended are well worth reading. Any factual accounts from staff are worth reading, as is ‘Madness in it’s place’, by Diana Gittens, a collection of accounts from staff at Severalls, a hospital in Essex.

    If you want to know more about Cane Hill, there’s a lot of interesting documents at the archive at Croydon library.

    Ali

    10 Feb 13 at 3:49 pm

  31. Hi All, My Grandmother Guiseppina Esposito died there in 1946, i have here death cert. she is also one of the many who were buried in the “Hospital Cemetary”
    Here are the NAMES OF DECEASED & DATE OF BURIAL
    Mary Smith 12 FEB 1946
    Guiseppina Paolillo 22 NOV 1946
    George Röthenberger 03 JAN 1947
    Gertrude Traverso 18 MAR 1947
    Gertrude Gillard 03 MAY 1947
    Margaret Holliman 01 JUL 1947
    James Keating 23 OCT 1947
    The seven persons buried in plot 119 (R/C section) at Cane Hill Cemetery.
    only to be exhumed cremated and DUMPED!!!!
    The cemetery was destroyed in 1981. The remains were cremated and mingled with those of 5,750 other patients and eventually deposited in an unmarked pit at Mitcham Road cemetery, the existence of which was indicated merely as a label on a chart as, “Cane Hill Remains.” The entire operation, from the preparation of a Private Members Bill (which received Royal Assent towards the end of 1980,) to the eventual disposal of the remains, many years later, was a gross breach of both Anglican Canon Law and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on cremation as promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1963.
    I am not aware of ANY family member being contacted.
    The Cane Hill Cemetery Act (1980) published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. According to Simon Gough, (an Officer from the Parliamentary Archives,) the document (i.e. Act) was prepared by Messrs Attersoll-Smith, a firm of solicitors based in Redhill.
    Removing human remains from Consecrated Ground requires a Faculty, which no Diocesan Chancellor would ever grant under such circumstances, (e.g. here in Portnall’s Road, so that the land could be used for commercial purposes; in this case, a housing development costing £1/2 million – £4.5 million at present-day house prices.)

    Paolillo Famigla

    6 Apr 14 at 8:06 pm

  32. Ali
    How did you get to be so interested in Cane Hill Hospital. For me it was because my Mother was a patient there for nearly twenty years. You have set up this really interesting site and I would love to know why.

    Vivian

    4 Feb 15 at 7:03 pm

  33. Hi Vivian, I work in mental healthcare and was interested in the services that were provided prior to those that exist now. I also visited the hospital in it’s abandoned state and was taken by the size of it and the history of the hospital. As there was no online record at the time of the people that worked at Cane Hill or were patients there, I wanted to create a website that would allow people to share their memories.

    Ali

    29 Apr 15 at 7:48 am

  34. My grandmother’s name was Florence Wright. My mother (now deceased) was born out of wedlock in the early 20’s and so far as I can gather, my grandmother went to Cane Hill suffering from depression. Are there any records available?

    catherine irwin

    25 Aug 15 at 5:38 pm

  35. Hi just stumbled across this site as i used to be a nurse in Cane Hill and met my husband there. I remember Ernie Townsend, did the book get published?

    Maureen Reene

    26 May 16 at 11:36 pm

  36. Hello. My grandfather worked here as Chief Nursing Officer from the late 50′ / early 60’s onwards. He had his own home and office in the administration block from what I’ve heard. What a remarkable place to work. Especially in those days,

    Sean Carley

    17 Oct 16 at 1:51 pm

  37. Hi im looking for help to find out what or where did Allan Keith Taylor go when he died in cane hill on April 1St 1951 hw was 61 yearsof age .
    Any help would be very much appreciated

    Shirley jack

    22 Nov 16 at 11:32 pm

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