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.

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  • I worked at St Andrew’s Unit in Dollis Hill 1981, 4 bungalows. The teenage children living there had been moved from Leavesden Hospital. They attended an onsite school. Aged 19 some moved to a house or others to Kingsbury Hospital. One of them Saskie Forde was visited occasionally by her mum, who lived at Leavesden Hospital.

    By Julie Dawes nee Rodgers (18/03/2022)
  • l know Maree O’Sullivan nee Batten ,l was in the same class with her from 1971 to 1973 whren l left for America.Maree please write back
    Seth Tagoe

    By SETH TAGOE (05/02/2022)
  • Fantastic memoirs here, does anyone know of the link between Cart Path and Leavesden Hospital? I had been told that the houses in Cart Path were built for some of the staff. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

    By Martin Wakefield (01/01/2021)
  • When living with my brother and sister in law, Mary my SoL made friends with an eldlerly man resident at Leavesden Hospital. Seems he had lived in Brixton as a child and was forever running away so he was confined to Leavesden for the rest of his life. He visited her daily and she bought him colouring books and pencils and gave him his tea. She was always a good soul.

    By Judi Rivers/Jackson/Bonney (08/10/2020)
  • hi I am trying to find any information on my great grandfather who was a patient for around 20 years and believed to have died at leavesdon his name was George Dye…. Thankyou for taking the time to read this..

    By kim law (10/05/2020)
  • Anne, youngest sister of Helen Violet Church (31/10/2018).
    I have information about your Sister, Helen Church. Please contact me at
    Also looking to contact anyone on this page who may be looking for relatives or have stories to tell about their time at Leavesden.
    Thank you,

    By Martin Brooks (20/03/2020)
  • My great Aunt Florrie (Florence Edith Short) was an inmate there for many years….I know she was there in 1939 due to a census record and she died there in 1983. My sister and and I were taken to visit her as very young children and my memory of her although somewhat vague is that of a happy gentle lady. Would be great to learn more about her and her life there should anyone remember her.

    By Martin Short (20/02/2020)
  • The Leavesden Hospital History Association has just completed a detailed survey of the East Lane Cemetery and collected 534 names of former staff and patients who at rest there. Please contact me at if you are looking for relatives or more information. Thank you

    By Martin Brooks (23/01/2020)
  • Lynda Coles. We have found the cremation marker stone for Frank Brand. Contact me at for more details and location.

    By Martin Brooks (23/01/2020)
  • The Leavesden Hospital History Association is collecting personal stories of the people, places and events that made up all of the Leavesden hospitals from 1870 until 1995. Please contact us at if you have any stories to share. You can also visit us at the HIVE heritage centre in Leavesden Country Park. Thank you
    Martin Brooks

    By Martin Brooks (06/01/2020)
  • My Mother Dorothy Pridgeon worked as a nurse at Leavesden Hospital.
    I used to help her in the kitchens.

    By Denise Newman nee Pridgeon (02/01/2020)
  • Jennifer – was your mum
    Known as Nurse Cummings – if so e Mail me at

    By Jamie (12/10/2019)
  • My great aunt Grace Pohl was a resident until 1985, would there be anyone who could tell me anything about her. We unfortunately did not know of her existence which is terribly sad.

    By Sarah (11/10/2019)
  • Three of our Great Uncles were residents of The Leavesden Hospital, Albert Brand dob 12 March 1897, admitted on the 4th March 1924, age 27; Arthur George Brand dob 29th January 1900 admitted on the 22 March 1918 aged 18, died 29th March 1981 in the Leavesden Hospital. Frank Brand dob 20th Feb 1892 died 1972. Their existence was kept secret from the majority of the family and our fathers Alan & Donald Mowatt their nephews, both died in their 90s without any knowledge of their existence.
    In 2014 a cousin to Alan & Donald provided information on these brothers but only that they were all three admitted to The Leavesden Hospital. Its an on going search to find out more about them and the reason for their admittance. As cousins now in our 60s we were horrified to think they were alive when we ourselves were adults and would like to ‘know them’.

    Lynda Coles on behalf of The Mowatt/Brand family.

    By Lynda Coles (10/09/2019)
  • I played briefly in local league soccer and twice for leavesden as my father played motorcycle football for Watford and knew players that had helped their team inc.jimmy day and denis mccrystal.It also helped that I delivered newspapers there father told me that inmates were allowed to go to vicarage road on their own recognisance and were given tokens for this.If they felt unwell they had to make their own way back.There is now strong evidence that jack the ripper is buried there under the name of aaron kosminski

    By paul sealey (12/04/2019)
  • The Leaveden Hospital History Association is looking for stories and oral histories from staff and volunteers who worked at the Leavesden Hospitals. The stories on this page are fantastic and we would like to include them in a book we are publishing. Please contact us at for more information and to include your stories. Thank you

    By Martin Brooks (20/11/2018)
  • Helen Violet Church was my eldest sister and I believe that she was at Leavesden Hospital from the early 50s till she passed away in 1983. Sadly, as was the case in the 50s, we were told that she had died around the age of 6 but this was not the case. We have recently learnt that, although maybe quite handicapped, she lived till she was 38 years old! Our parents denied us the chance to give Helen the love she deserved. By any chance at all, is there anyone reading this that might have cared for her. We would love to know more about her. I know it is some years ago now. We feel she was let down by her family. So very sad.

    By Anne, youngest sister of Helen Violet Church (31/10/2018)
  • I worked at Leavesden from 1980 -1990,they were the best days of our lives,I worked on gladioli ,bluebell,kiwi,kestrel and ESU,lived in the bungalowes,beech house
    We had amazing socials (parties galore!)
    Miriam Smith

    By Miriam Rai (25/10/2018)
  • I did my training in 1984 -1986. Fantastic memories. Lived in shepherds house (I think it was called) happy times working in Oak House then moved with the patients onto Osprey Ward the pay day discos at the social club where something else !!! After the disco back to Shepherds house to carry on the party. Getting summoned to the matrons office the next morning due to complaints about the noise, denying any knowledge… Those where the days. Would love to hear from anyone who worked there between 1984 – 1987. Jackie Wallace xx. (I remember Pip)

    By Jackie Wallace (01/10/2018)
  • Having lived in Silver Birch Cottage up East Lane from the age of 2 to 13 years leaving there around 1976. My Father used to work on the farm and part of his duties were to dig the graves in the main cemetery on the side of the Litch gate by hand. It was a hard but great place to grow up in and around living off the land with my father growing much of what we ate with me catching some of the delights that used to adorn our dinner table. I have recently visited the cottage which is now privately owned and although the front is similar to how it was when I lived there is so different around the back. The Litch Gate is pretty sorry looking now as there used to be 2 gates and bench seats inside. I used to sit in the rafters when I was a nipper as the coffins were brought in for the ceremonies. It s a shame that all the pictures I can find are of the structure as it is now and not what it was like then. I recall spending many hours talking to those patients that would walk up the lane or work on the farm and looking back now and thinking that many were there because they may have no where else to go. It is such a shame this institution had to close and so little of its building / history is left. So people have written posts about Grave Stones, yes there are some up against the back wall but it not accessible as the land is all now private. There used to be a road from where the hospital incinerator was located. It now seems that an entrepreneur has use of the space for their log business. From the front this is all now private. The main cemetery is in such a poor state, I would have thought that the council would smarten the place up, cut the grass and sweep the paths. I used to help my father do these tasks and more. Although the place is a place of sadness it should be made for people to walk and enjoy. the memories I could share of the place are as clear as yesterday. Its a shame the place has been left to fall apart and that no -one thought to preserve more of the old hospital than they have. Good to see that some of the grounds have been made available to the public.

    By Perry Batchelor (15/03/2018)
  • hi i was wondering if anyone could help me im a carer to an old patient at leavensden hospital he was born in 1964 and his mother left him there after his birth im desperately looking for information about him and possible family if anyone one could help me that would be great

    By victoria (07/03/2018)
  • I worked at leavesden from 1981 to 1987 I lived in the bungalows f the last 3 yrs got some v find memories but also I done alot of drinking in them yrs + later yrs met some nice people I moved away from south east (thankfully) my mum worked there f many yrs (Elsie Carlin) on maple unit regards to all John earle

    By John earle (09/02/2018)
  • 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)