Report - St Bernard's Hospital - London, May 2015 / July 2017

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28DL Regular User
Regular User
Dec 1, 2013
This place really should have been looked at a long time ago, the history behind the place is literally insane. Thanks to zombizza for putting the lead up, it was still just about worth a look inside although practically everything has been stripped already. I went inside with workers present which made it a fairly tense explore, lots of patiently hiding around corners and sneaking around expecting to get seen at any moment, eventually that moment came and I had to scarper quick sharp. I decided to go back at night and finish off seeing the place assuming there would be nobody present. Surprisingly this turned out to be an impossible mission due to previously unlocked doors being locked and an annoyingly active pair of torch waving security guards with way too much energy. During the day was better. Onto the lengthy history, take a deep breath, there's a lot to read if you can be arsed.

Originally known as the Middlesex County Asylum, this was the first pauper lunatic asylum built in England following the Madhouse Act of 1828, which allowed the building of purpose-built asylums. It went on to become the largest asylum in the world at it's peak.

When it opened in 1831 the Asylum accommodated up to only 300 patients. The building was enlarged in November of the same year and by 1841 90 staff were looking after 1302 patients. Extensions were added in 1879 and by 1888 there were 1891 patients and the Asylum had become the largest in Europe. Patients were looked after by members of their own sex and there were two gatehouses at the entrance - one for males and one for females.

It achieved great prominence in the field of psychiatric care because of two people, Dr William Ellis and Dr John Connolly. Dr (later Sir) William Ellis encouraged patients to use their skills and trades in the Asylum. This 'therapy of employment' benefitted both the Asylum and the patients themselves and was a precursor to occupational therapy. Dr John Conolly became Medical Superintendent in 1839. He abolished mechanical restraints to control patients. This was a great success and encouraged other asylums also to do so. Padded cells, solitary confinement and sedatives were used instead.

The extensive grounds were cultivated for produce. The Asylum became self-sufficient, with a farm, a laundry, a bakery and a brewery. Local artisans - tailors, shoemakers - worked at the asylum. There was a gasworks and a fire brigade and even a burial ground for those patients whose relatives had not claimed their bodies. Water was taken from the nearby Grand Union Canal and the Asylum had its own dock for barges delivering coal and for taking away produce for sale.

Several name changes took place over the years. In 1889 the Asylum was renamed the London County Asylum, Hanwell. In 1918 it became known as the London County Mental Hospital. In 1929 it was renamed Hanwell Mental Hospital. In 1937 its name changed again, to St Bernard's Hospital, Southall.

During WW2 the Emergency Medical Services commandeered one ward for war casualties. The Hospital and grounds received some bomb damage and later the laundry was destroyed by a V1 flying bomb, which caused many casualties. A gatehouse was also damaged. It joined the NHS in 1948 as part of the North West Metropolitan Region, with its own Hospital Management Committee.

By the 1960s the Hospital in its 74 acre site held 2200 patients.

St Bernard's Hospital was merged with the adjacent Ealing Hospital in 1980 and became the Psychiatric Unit. It was then known as the St Bernard's Wing of the Ealing Hospital. By this time it had 950 beds for psychiatric and psychogeriatric patients. In 1992 the Ealing Hospital General Unit and Maternity Unit split off to form a new Trust and the St Bernard's Wing regained its previous name of St Bernard's Hospital. The Hospital underwent a major refurbishment in 1998. The exterior of the buildings still in use were cleaned, revealing the yellow colouring of the bricks.

Scenes from Porridge were filmed in the courtyard here and also scenes from the 1989 Batman movie with Jack Nicholson.

Much of the site has been demolished already, and other parts converted into flats. The current hospital has decided that the asylum buildings can no longer be refurbished in such a way as to support a modern hospital so the remainder of the asylum buildings are being refurbished for private housing. The extensive modern buildings at the back (canal-side) of the hospital will remain in use and will be supplemented by further new buildings away from the historical asylum.

I didn't know it at the time but the screws on my wide angle were completely loose so the majority of my shots were out of focus unfortunately. These are the shots that came out good enough.

1. How the exterior of all the buildings looked....


3. I spotted this stuck onto the skirting board in a corridor, I assume this was the adolescents ward...

4. Most rooms had cartoon characters painted on the walls in here



7. Not sure what this old hall might have been used for


9. At this point the place became a little more interesting, this was the busiest area of work so I didn't hang about long




13. The last few shots were all taken on the top floor.

14. The ceiling in here was one of the only remaining features left





EDIT: July 2017 revisit ....

19. Chapel and Hall, the only two buildings that haven't been converted yet. The chapel was locked and appears to be in use as a site office.

20. Large backstage area behind the hall, difficult to capture the size of it due to the scaffolding and temporary flooring above.

21. Some glimpses of former grandeur with these columns.


23. Temporary flooring below the ceiling



26. The Hall, amazingly still untouched in July 2017 despite the remainder of the buildings being completely stripped or converted.





Thanks for looking.

Last edited:


Regular User
Sep 30, 2010
Well done. Nice pics.
Do you reckon you got it all covered now? I feel the derelict parts now sprawl quite a bit of the hospital.
This probably looked great a year or so ago.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Dec 1, 2013
I poked my head into the other end of the buildings but got busted by a worker straight away. He showed me how far gone it was in there already, nothing to see in there whatsoever. I got round the rest of the connecting buildings pretty much. There were a few other buildings that haven't been touched yet but they're all proper sealed with metal panels. One in the grounds of the chapel, one at the back of the site, the original gatehouse, abd the Grade II listed chapel itself which surely has to be the best thing left.


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Dec 1, 2013
Here's a couple of shitty filtered phone pics of the other bits worth keeping an eye on

The gatehouse

The chapel


There are 2 other buildings panelled up, both separate from the rest and neither particularly big. One is in the grounds of the chapel and the other at the back of the site. Would be nice if someone could keep an eye on those, it's miles from me unfortunately​

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