Memories of Leavesden Hospital

Victorian design and durability

By Alan Thurston

Thirty years of my working life was spent as an employee in the works department of Leavesden hospital in Abbots Langley.  It was built by the Metropolitan Asylums Board in the late 1860’s and opened in 1870 as a home for imbeciles and other socially vulnerable people mainly from London and surrounding areas.  The site where it was located was at the time of its construction very rural and planted with a vast collection of trees, thought to be one of the finest in Hertfordshire.

An attempt was made by the Victorians to make it as self supporting as possible.  It contained its own bakery, laundry, kitchens, church, recreation hall, pig farm, chicken farm, orchards and cereal and vegetable crops.  Many tradesmen were employed, for example engineers, carpenters like myself, plumbers, bricklayers, painters, upholsterers, tailors, shoe menders, tinsmith, blacksmith etc.  Encouragement was given to staff who wished to be actively involved in sport and to that end the hospital contained its own football pitch, pavilion and changing rooms, cricket field and pavilion, two enclosed tennis courts and bowling green.  There were county leagues for these and other sports in which many cups and trophies were won by Leavesden hospital over the years.

My memories of Leavesden hospital are many and varied but in particular a tremendous respect for the Victorian design of the buildings, of the strength and durability that lasted 125 years and more if it had been allowed.  Unfortunately the hospital was closed and knocked down in 1996 two years after I left.

This page was added on 24/06/2009.

Comments about this page

  • I worked at Leavesden Hospital for 10 years. I started as a cadet nurse in 1969. Then trained from 1971 to 1974. I worked as a staff nurse and ward sister until 1979 when I left to complete my General Nursing training. I also have such happy memories of my time there.

    By Maree O'Sullivan (nee Batten) (17/10/2017)
  • My mother worked there not sure what dates her name is Sheila briers could of been been known as Sheila Joyce Meredith she was a repetitionist as I know , my dad Toni also worked there don’t know much so would be nice to hear if someone knew about them and there working life at the hospital,thanks 🙏

    By John (07/08/2017)
  • Rob Aldred
    I knew your family quite well. I was a friend of Gillian’s. My Dad was Vic Rands. He was matron from 1967-1983??? and was very fond of your dad. I do remember seeing your mum in later years, she used to work in the OT department, one of the bottom blocks of the hospital I lost touch with Gillian, did I hear she went to USA? We had another friend; Anne O’Sullivan.
    I am also now i Australia (Central Queensland)

    By Annette Felix (Nee Rands) (19/07/2017)
  • I have fond memories of the hospital as a voluntary helper in the late 1970’s. I was only 16 at the time and had just started work, I guy I worked with persuaded me to come along, he subsequently left this job to work full time at the hospital (Mick Andrews) I would get a bus early Sunday morning and once reaching the hospital the first thing was to take patients to the Chapel. After lunch I’d visit various wards, just talking to people and trips the pets corner. It was quite an experience of me with all the interesting characters and those amazing buildings, I remember it so well.

    By Clive Hooley (06/03/2017)
  • my mum and dad worked at the hospital not sure about dates but there names might ring a bell to others. Sheila Joyce briers and Antonio pellgrino Diblasio know as Toni , I think this is the work place they met I can remember attending the social club many times and there was sub way leading to it from the hospital didn’t know about them days so if anyone has a little story to tell about mum and dad it would be lovely thanks .

    By John briers (Diblasio ) (08/01/2017)
  • Hi I am trying to find out about my great aunty Florence may bunnage D.O.B 1901 she died at leavesden hospital in 1990.i think she may have been a patient there from birth as I cannot find her as being recorded anywhere else.would be fantastic if anyone has any information regarding her and possible photos would very much be appreciated
    Thanks to everyone to has taken the time to read this

    By Marilyn (19/12/2016)
  • Does any one remember Vilna Christopher a student nurse in the 1960s . Vilna came from the island of Dominica and was my mum. I know she did her nurse training her in the 1960s

    By Jennifer Cummings (16/10/2016)
  • Can anybody tell me about the hospital’s functions during WW2? I am asking on behalf of a lady whose father, a serving soldier, spent some time there and she would like to know why. He was in Ward M2 and it was apparently known as the ‘Leavesden Advanced Base Hospital’
    Many thanks

    By AF Judge (27/09/2016)
  • My mother was born in Abotts Langley in 1922 her father, Alfred Walter Purnell, was a tailor I think in Leavesden has anyone got any knowledge of him

    By Maureen (12/06/2016)
  • Hi Marion

    Just a quick line, was your brother Pip on Cedar ward as a child, I remember a Pip Ellis there. 




    By Henry (19/02/2016)
  • Hi, my brother was an inmate at Leavsden Hospital, I am not sure about the years, but he died there. He was on Foxglove Ward. His name was Joachim Ellis. he was generally known as “Pip”. I was hoping that someone reading this knew him. I would love to have some pictures of him and also would like to know where his ashes were scattered? All I remember is, my mum was told about a special place, where ashes would be scattered around a rose bush. Does anybody know where that might be?

    Yours hopeing


    By Marion Jansen (01/09/2015)
  • My mother was nurse at leavesden 30 years. The old church is near my house. I am trying to trace any old pictures of St Salvadoris Convent, Kitters Green in 1952 onwards. It apparently burned down. I attended the convent in 1956 at the age of 4. Any info. Thank you. 

    By Barbara skrzypek (21/03/2015)
  • I did perform in Leavesden once; with a concert party. I remember the stage was slightly sloped. Possibly so that people could see more of what was happening. There were some other hospitals decades ago that I also performed in with more than one concert party. Any person visiting such hospitals, would need a stone heart not to be emotionally moved by what they saw. Therefore I was upset and disgusted when Leavesden and similar homes and hospitals were closed for the purpose that they were built for. Alan French.

    By Alan French (25/02/2014)
  • Both my parents worked in abbots langley hospital from about 1955-1971, dad became matron, mum worked with the elderly, weaving and such, I remember the micthells, the evans, naylors, leatherbarrow, hewitts greens,my dad died in 1977, mum in 2009, my brother phil in 2010, I live in australia were I have been since 1971, I have been back alot and miss the old place, hope this stirs some thoughts among others who remember, cheers rob

    By rob aldred (20/01/2013)
  • I am very interested to find out any information about my late father and grandfather, both I believe worked at Leavesden Hospital. My dad, Michael Willis Turley, known as Mick and nickname of chink recieved his registration in 1956, my grandfather, Hubert Turley, known as Bert, was in the royal army medical corps but I believe he later worked at Leavesden. I would be very grateful for any help you can give me. Thankyou.

    By Heather Turley (11/10/2012)
  • just a quick note about the grave yard . there are actually two graveyards . the older of the two is on the other side of the road to the left hand side of silver birch cottage . some of the head stones are still there against the back wall . I spent my childhood playing in around the grounds as my parent worked there and we got to know the grounds better than most of the staff.

    By antony o' reilly (06/02/2012)
  • Ms. Demarco You may want to look up the 1881 or 1901 census from the hospital to locate your great grand father. We have a 1887 payment ledger and a 1898 Stewarts record book so I will do some checking in there. The old cemetery is located north of East lane, just north of the Leaveden Country Park, and a few of the head stones are still visiable.

    By Martin Brooks (30/08/2011)
  • I am trying to obtain information regarding my great grandfather who was at Leavesden, I am not sure when but from 1878 or so until 1906 where I think he died. He was a tailor. with thanks

    By alison demarco (09/12/2010)
  • I am trying to gain information regarding my great grandfather Louis Flatau who was at leavesden Hospital and died I think in 1906, please contact me if you know of anything about him with thanks

    By alison demarco (09/12/2010)
  • I worked at Leavesden Hospital from 1981 until 1994.I have three sisters who also trained at this hospital.I have so many fond memories of this place.Oh for the good old days.I lived in the nurses home and have so much tales of the mischief we got up to…late night parties,dancing down the corridors after a late night in the Social Club,Christmas meals in the canteen.I could go on and on.Oh how I miss those days when people worked with the patients and was not bogged down by paper work.Certainly times have changed.

    By judy mohamed (02/07/2010)

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