Borrowed from Goodmayes own history booklet.
In the beginning
Before West Ham became a borough in its own right the 'lunatics' from that area were sent to the Essex County Asylum, situated in Brentwood, or to any other Asylum in the county (or elsewhere) that could take them.
The people concerned were the 'pauper lunatics' - in other words people who were too poor to pay for their own care and who were reliant upon the local 'Guardians' providing them with 'Relief '. Many such people were living at that time in the workhouses, some of which had infirmaries attached to them. However those infirmaries did not cater for mental illness (though it was not defined as illness until some years later).
There were strict rules governing 'pauper lunatics' (in fact governing 'paupers' in general) which comprised part of the 'Poor Law' which was in force. The definition of 'lunatic' was set out in the 1890 Lunacy Act as:
"A "lunatic" means an idiot or person of unsound mind. Imbecility and loss of mental power, whether arising from natural decay or from paralysis, softening of the brain or other natural cause, and although unaccompanied by frenzy or delusion of any kind, constitutes unsoundness of mind within the definition"
Whereas the definition of 'pauper' in the Lunacy Act 1890 was:
"A person wholly or partly chargeable to a union, county or borough....when an alleged lunatic., though not actually in receipt of relief was in such circumstances as to require relief for his proper care, he was a pauper within the meaning of the word as used in the Lunacy Acts ....."
It is worth noting that the last 'pauper' within the Hospital was only relieved from this state in 1988.
"Relief Lists" were published by the respective Unions, which listed the names of every person in each Parish who was in receipt of Relief. This included those in the workhouses, children who attended the Parish schools and, of course, the lunatics in Asylums. The Lists were "affixed to the Church and Chapel Doors of the Parish" and were for the use of Churchwardens, Overseers and Ratepayers. The purpose of publishing such lists is stated on the document itself:
"If Names should be found in the List of Persons whose circumstances are known to place them beyond the need of Parochial assistance , the Relieving Officers should be immediately informed thereof - the leading object of the Guardians in publishing the Lists being to afford to the Ratepayers an opportunity of detecting such cases of imposition as even with the most industrious investigation of the Union Officers, may sometimes escape their vigilance. The Guardians also hope that the publication of the Lists will operate to deter such persons from soliciting relief by their own means or exertions, to keep off the Parish"
West Ham became a Borough Council in 1886 and they decided straight away to build their own Asylum as they did not feel they should continue to use the Essex County Asylum. Permission was sought from Parliament for the right to purchase the necessary land and the Blue House Farm was purchased when its existing tenancy ran out. In keeping with the prevailing custom this was a considerable distance from the catchment area the Asylum would serve (the Asylum which served Ilford was in Brentwood and Waltham Forest was served by Claybury Hospital). Before building began a sand and gravel company came and worked on the site.
Also before the building was begun the Committee/Council members visited several other Asylums, both near (i.e. Warley) and farther away, including one in Scotland, to try and ensure that they provided the best possible facilities in their own new Asylum .
At the time of the purchase of the land, the building and the opening of the Asylum, this whole area was farm land However the Great Eastern Railway had stations at Goodmayes, Seven Kings and Newbury Park. When the Visiting Committee came to the site on the 19th December 1899 they reported: "That they visited the Borough Asylum Works at Chadwell Heath, and found that the contractors had laid a railway from the Great Eastern Line into and over the site in various positions for the purpose of carrying plant and material on the ground" although it is not noted where the railway ran into the site from, the goods yard at Goodmayes was extensive and it is likely that it ran from there. For the opening ceremony many people came as far as they could by train on the main line to be met by train brake vans which brought them up Barley Lane to the site of the Asylum.
It was noted by Mr. Andrew Johnston (the presiding Officer at the Brentwood Asylum) at the opening ceremony that it was:
“Four times three years since the Town Council gave the Essex County Council notice to quit.......he drew attention to the fact, as a warning to all public bodies, of the very long time that those things took from the time they were determined until those determinations were brought into effect. They must look ahead and the fact that it had taken twelve years to provide that asylum should be a lesson to them all".
Open at last
The Hospital, then known as the West Ham Borough Lunatic Asylum, was formally opened by His Worship the Mayor of West Ham, Councillor Abednego Bishop, J.P., on the 1st August 1901 and began accepting patients on the 6th August 1901. It had been hoped to open the Asylum almost a year earlier, but then as now, the building/builders took longer than expected to finish.
The foundation stone had been laid on the 3rd August 1898 by Alderman William Ivey J.P. At the laying of the foundation stone Alderman Crow J.P. gave a speech in which he said:
"The ratepayers often grumbled about the rates and taxes and about the expenditure of the council which made the rates necessary. There was probably nothing that people objected to more than to the paying of rates and taxes, but he ventured to think that if they would consider for a few minutes the amount of good that came through the paying of rates and taxes there would be no grumbling at all. Let them just fancy what would happen in West Ham if the authorities at Brentwood were to discharge the 530 lunatics under their charge and set them at large in the streets of West Ham. What would the ratepayers of West Ham say if these lunatics were wandering about the Broadway to murder and endanger the safety of the people? .......He hoped it might not fall to the lot of anybody present that day to be ever incarcerated in that asylum, but if any of them ever should go a bit "dotty" he knew of no place where they could get better treatment than in a county asylum."
The hospital was "built of red brick on the Pavilion system" with the wards branching off at the sides. The main entrance faced south and the wards were specifically planned to offer a large frontage to the south.
There were 17 wards, 8 male and 9 female, as well as the main Administration Block, detached houses for the Medical Superintendent, Steward, Chief Attendant and Engineer, and 8 semi-detached houses for other married attendants, there were also two gate houses, and the isolation pavilion. The Hospital also had its own artesian well, bakery and laundry complex. The 'Artisans Yard' consisted of accommodation for the tailor, shoemaker, carpenter, plumber, upholsterer, drawing office and the Clerk of the Works.
The hospital had a capacity for 800 patients, with the accommodation split between the various wards.
By the end of December 190l there were already 785 patients admitted to the Hospital which was, therefore, almost full up, with overcrowding on the male side.
The majority of the first patients (667) were transferred to the new Asylum from other Asylums, primarily from Brentwood. The table shown below shows the ascribed causes of the mental disorder in the admissions, discharges and deaths during 1901, and of those still remaining in the Asylum at the end of that year.
By the end of the second year (1902) the male side was, indeed, overcrowded and overcrowding was now threatened on the female side. The Medical Superintendent commented that many of the patients who were being admitted were, in fact, only old and could have been looked after just as economically and quite as efficiently in the workhouse infirmary.
There were 13 'recoveries', 13 'relieved', 5 'discharged not improved' and 28 deaths in the period up to 31st December 1901. 20% of those who died the following year were found to have tuberculosis, most of those contracted the disease in the Asylum.
Alcohol was identified as either a primary or secondary factor in 86 of the new patients. The Medical Superintendent remarked upon the effects of alcohol, and the frequency with which it appeared as a cause of mental problems, and expressed the following hope:
“With regard to the prevention of this evil, it is to be hoped that the legislation which has recently come into force may have some effect, however small, in reducing the numbers annually rendered insane by drink”
The weekly rate, charged to the West Ham Guardians, per patient in 1901 was 14s, but this was reduced to 12s 10d per week for the start of the new year of 1902/3.
The name of the Asylum was changed in 1918 to West Ham Mental Hospital, at the suggestion of the Medical Superintendent. This was some 12 years before the Mental Treatment Act (1930) was introduced, when most Hospitals changed their names.
After the initial intake patients came to the hospital, mainly, from their homes. However the percentage of those who are voluntary patients, as opposed to Certified patients changed very dramatically. Initially all patients were Certified, but the change, begun with the introduction of the 1930 Mental Treatment Act, bas continued so that as the N.H.S. came into existence there were 78% Certified patients and 22%. Voluntary patients eventually became 90% of total amount of inpatients.
The Hospital was, as you will have already read, always full to capacity and beyond, but patient numbers peaked in 1955 when 1342 patients were resident here. However, in later years in-patient numbers gradually dropped. This does not mean that the Hospital serves fewer patients just that fewer people need to be admitted to the Hospital on a long term in-patient basis. This is in some part due to the fact that in the 1950's major advances in drug treatments were developed and to the increased knowledge about some conditions, which means people can be helped in other ways. These developments led to many more patients being treated at home, and not being admitted to a hospital at all, and others needing only short stays in hospital prior to being discharged.
Until the late 195O's the practice was for all wards to be locked, and for patients to be contained on their own ward unless they went to work in another part of the hospital where they would be under the supervision of a member of staff. After the late 1950's this began to change, and by 1962 there were only two locked wards remaining, in which all the more disturbed patients were kept together.
Some of the women who were admitted were pregnant, and any child born in the Hospital was also certified as 'insane' and kept here - often for the rest of their lives. The last 'patient' who was admitted here because they were born on the premises only died a few years ago. The children were kept on the Female wards, although not necessarily with their own mother. Some very young children were also admitted with their mother and were only discharged if and when she was.
Clothing was provided for patients by the hospital, however in 1934 it was allowed that each patient could wear their own clothing (including undergarments) which was to be labelled for them. Nothing was mentioned about arrangements prior to this, but I presume each patient took 'pot luck' when the laundry came back (all the clothing issued by the Hospital up to that date was identical).
Food was provided on a strict diet.
The menu did not vary much from week to week, and there appears to have been no choice whatsoever. It is worth remembering, however, that most of the vegetables, milk, eggs and pork provided, before the farm was closed, was fresh from the garden/farm each morning, and that all bread, pies, puddings and sausages were made on the premises and not bought in. However this did not stop the diet being very unbalanced, with meat, potatoes and bread making up the bulk of the food. Patients received extra food, (in the morning and at tea time), and were on 'staff meals', when they were 'working'.
Many patients did 'work' around the hospital, and some were paid for their labours. Each ward had two patients who were considered to be as capable as staff, and were given their own 'duties' within their ward. They were responsible for laying tables, serving food etc. One patient worked scrubbing the corridor which leads from the reception to the conservatory every night for 5s per week - he saved up for a red waistcoat with shiny buttons, and was very proud of it when he bad finally saved enough to purchase it.
By the end of the war some patients also worked in local companies, and those who did paid for their lodging in the Hospital. Local laundries and Plessey were the largest employers of patients, and the finding by staff of placements was often helped if the people had had some experience by working in the appropriate department within the Hospital. This largely stopped when Selective Employment Tax was introduced in 1967, and when patients were gradually stopped from working in the Hospital itself and could not gain enough experience to take to an outside employer. At the height of outside working approximately 130 patients were going 'out to work' each day. By 1975 the emphasis was to find patients accommodation in the community rather than employment.
Patients were allowed to have visitors on Thursdays between the hours of 2.30pm and 5pm. This was extended, eventually, to include Tuesdays as well (although apparently 'unofficial' visiting was always allowed on Sundays). Families/nearest relatives who lived more than 10 miles away were allowed to visit on other days, providing that they wrote for permission. The relatives of any patient who became dangerously ill were also allowed extra visiting rights. Visitors were not allowed to go into the wards, but rather patients were brought to the 'Visiting Room' where they could sit to talk to their friends/relatives.
In the early years there were no 'treatments' for mental patients, and the people either recovered or they didn't, with the help only of the reasonable diet and, comparatively, sanitary conditions. As treatments began to become available - after the 1st world war - the West Ham Mental Hospital was in the forefront of their use, was among the first to use E.C.T. and perform leucotomies, and gained national acclaim for its use of insulin shock treatment for schizophrenia.
The rights and civil liberties of patients were not properly considered until the 1959 Mental Health Act was passed or were patients treated as individuals until after this time. The role of the Hospital was a custodial one, and patients were institutionalised, and all treated the same.
The Hospital opened with a complement of 133 staff, ranging from doctors to farm labourers, tailors to engineers.
The various rates of pay for the staff when the hospital opened are shown below.
The nursing staff were not necessarily qualified 'Nurses' or 'Attendants' as the men were called, and most of them had no nursing qualifications or experience at all. However these were not needed particularly as:" The function of an Asylum is to keep these poor people in comfort, to attend to their bodily ailments, to prevent them from doing harm to themselves or to others, to improve their habits, and to employ them and amuse them”. For the Doctors this was not the case, and all of the Medical Superintendents had to be fully qualified and any nursing staff that did have a qualification were given higher pay.
The majority of members of staff lived on the premises, and, therefore, were on call 24 hours a day they had extra rules governing their living quarters and needed the express permission of the Medical Superintendent to go off Hospital grounds. Even the Superintendent himself had to have permission to be away overnight, and had to get the written permission of the Committee to be away for three or more consecutive nights. There were also two or three rooms for staff accommodation on each ward they also, naturally, ate on the premises.
When coming on duty all staff had to report to the Head Male Nurse or the Matron. The male staff went on parade every day, and the female staff were also inspected, any member of staff not correctly dressed, or whose dress did not meet the requirements of their superior, was sent home to correct their dress.
When Mr. Sullivan was steward, every day he went around all the departments, kitchen, laundry, stores etc., and the corridors, and the outside yards. When he had looked everywhere he would return to his office and note anything wrong, then he would ask the appropriate members of staff to come to see him in his office and explain to them his displeasure at their mistakes. Mr. Overall, who succeeded him, did this daily round in full morning suit. One thing that Mr. Sullivan insisted on was that the kitchen yard be scrubbed and disinfected every day and if the yard was not still damp when he passed it someone would have to explain why. The larger stores yard was also scrubbed about once a week.
Staff were totally responsible for all their patients. They looked after the patients' money and they decided if a patient needed new clothes and would take them to the tailor for new clothes to be made. Each ward would take their patients to the bath houses at the appointed time and ensure that every patient had a bath. With no chiropodist, beautician or hairdresser it was ward staff who performed all these duties too, staff also had to keep the patients' clothing clean during the day, and ensure that patients were dressed correctly at all times. Any patient in ill-fitting or dirty clothes would lead to a reprimand for ward staff.
Staff, as well as patients, were segregated, with the male patients cared for by the male staff and the female patients by the female staff, even the Medical Superintendent was accompanied by a female member of staff when he attended a female patient.
This segregation was strictly enforced and the General Management rule no. 1 in "General Rules" dated 1901 stated :-
“'The male and female Patients shall be kept in separate Wards, and no male Attendant, Servant, or Patient, shall be allowed to enter the Female side, or any Female to enter the Male side except with adequate authority. Any Attendant, Nurse or Servant transgressing this rule shall be liable to instant dismissal. No male Officer, with the exception of the Medical Officers and Chaplain, and no male Attendant, Artisan , or Servant, except the Porter for temporary custody only, shall be entrusted with a key admitting to the Female Wards"
It was a duty of the nurses/attendants to carry the coal for the fires onto the wards, to ensure safety around the fires themselves and to extinguish appropriate fires before the patients retired to bed. These duties were carried out until the central heating was installed. Nursing staff had cleaning duties both inside and outside their own ward - each ward was allocated corridors in the central accommodation block which it was their duty to keep clean, as well as all the cleaning tasks needed on the ward itself. Staff/patients also undertook any portering which was needed. The supervision of patients while they worked at any of these tasks, as well as any work they did in the grounds or farm, was undertaken by members of the ward staff (although kitchen and laundry staff supervised patients who were working in their area). When nursing and domestic duties were finally separated ward staff were given the choice of becoming either Nursing Assistants or Domestics.
The majority of patients are noted in the Annual Reports as being occupied in some way, most either helping the ward staff or working on the farm or in the gardens. About 10 worked in the kitchen - one of whom woke the kitchen staff with a cup of tea in the morning, and made any breakfasts that were needed before they arrived on duty - 50 to 60 worked in the laundry, 5 brought the coal up to the hospital from the goods yard at Goodmayes Station in a lorry every day, and 100 worked in the grounds, gardens and farm. This way the hospital needed very few 'domestic', laundry' and 'portering' staff or 'gardeners/farm labourers'.
Eventually the practice of patients working was stopped for the following reasons:
a. The advent of the National Health Service.
b. It began to be felt that this could be considered 'slave labour' on the part of the management.
c. The Environmental Health Officers considered it unhygienic or unsafe for patients to be in the kitchen, and that they would not or could not be relied on to conform to safety procedures in other areas.
During the 1st world war many of the staff were either called into Service or volunteered. This shortage of, mainly male, staff caused the then Superintendent to remark that it may become necessary for female staff to go into the male wards to help out. This was not recorded as actually happening, however.
The Medical Superintendent (Langton Hanbury) and the Junior Assistant Medical Superintendent (l Harvey Cuthbert) both went into Service. Langton Hanbury was killed in action on the 27th July 1916. Dr. Cuthbert returned after the end of the war, though he was wounded in action in Salonica. Dr. Shaw was Acting Medical Superintendent in Dr. Banbury's absence, and took over permanently on his death. Other than this the Hospital carried on much as before.
The 2nd world war was different, with Goodmayes in the direct line taken by the German bombers on their raids of London (the docks in particular) and the Hospital and the surrounding area very much affected. Doctors Larkin and Riordan, Deputy and Assistant Medical Superintendents, served in this war, both returning to duty when it was over.
A record was kept of air raids on the area, along with notes as to the patients being accounted for. There was a move to knock down the water tower and chimney as it may have been used as a marker for the bomber pilots. The hospital estate was hit many times - 700 incendiary bombs, 22 High Explosive bombs, 4 oil bombs, 1 parachute bomb, 2 V1's and 3 V2's all landed within the estate.
These Photographs show Acacia Ward after bombing
Also during the 2nd World War there was an Emergency Base Hospital which was run, and staffed, by the London Hospital. This took over the Ml, M2, Fl and F2 Ward5. Records show that over 8,000 patients, both military and civilian, were treated at Goodmayes. Many of the Service personnel who were sent there stayed on after the war. For some years the records show 'Service Patients' as a separate category on the returns.
One comment made in the Annual Report of the time is that, contrary to expectations, the number of people being admitted dropped during war time. This was attributed to people being fully employed - unemployment being one of the main reasons people turned to drink, got into financial trouble, had family trauma etc., which were some of the, then, main causes of mental illness.
The patients and staff in the Hospital were fortunate to have a continuing supply of fresh food from the Hospital Farm throughout both the wars, and it is commented that, for many, this was better fare than they could have expected had they remained in their own homes.
The Farm and the Grounds
In between the wards, and in the immediate vicinity of the buildings, the grounds were planted with flowers, shrubs and trees. Land which was not taken up for the buildings, the airing courts, gardens and roadways were left to be cultivated as the hospital farm. Livestock was kept and most of the vegetables, fruit, eggs, milk, pork and bacon needed for the hospital were provided by the farm. The first year of the farm shows a potato crop and a hay crop.
The early records of the Farm mirror the situation on any farm at that time, with blight and other diseases destroying crops, illnesses in the livestock which produced either poor offspring or death, and the viability of the operation varying wildly from year to year (some years making large profits, others just as large losses). This continued for all its lifetime, and when the farm was finally closed down it was making a loss again. However, the success was not only measured in financial terms, but in the therapeutic value to the patients of working in the open air. The main crop throughout the life of the Farm was pigs. They were bred and then the surplus were sold at the nearby Romford Market.
Several things lead to the closing of the farming activities :-
1) The Ministry of Health decided that hospitals should no longer farm livestock
2) The barley crop was burned by vandals as it became ripe
3) Patients were withdrawn from both farm and garden labour
4) The farm was making a loss anyway.
The farmhouse and barns were demolished in 1978/9, after vandals broke in and caused extensive damage to the farmhouse. Also a barn full of straw was set alight and burned down, along with others near it. These buildings were, then, unsafe and were pulled down. When the area is viewed from the air you can still see where the farm buildings stood. Greenhouses were used to grow all the plants and flowers which were used for decorating the wards.
The Gardening Department, as they are now called, also produce most of the bedding and other plants for the grounds at Chadwell Heath, at King George Hospital and at Dagenham Hospital, and keep the gardens so well that they have won prizes for them (usually 1st prizes!) for many years. Not that winning prizes was anything new for the farm/grounds staff, animals also won prizes at local shows from the very earliest years the farm was run
Some of the original hospital land has been sold. The Hospital owned all the land between Barley Lane and Aldborough Road, from beyond the A12 to the boundary with Douglas Road including the areas which are now the Ambulance Station in Aldborough Road, the Ford Motor Company sports ground, Seven Kings Park and the Downshall Infants School (the school stands in what was the orchard).
The roadways of the Hospital itself were lined with many shrubs and trees. In 1908 a line of trees was planted against the boundary with Barley Lane to afford protection for (and from) the new houses which bad been built, in Barley Lane, opposite the female wards. The main roadways within the grounds were cleared of most of the shrubbery soon after the 'open door' policy was put into effect. In the photographs we have of the grounds before this clearance it is clear that the undergrowth was very thick. This shrubbery afforded protection for the patients against curious onlookers, and visitors from unwanted attention from patients. It also helped to continue the practice of 'hiding away' those who were mentally ill.
The grounds around the wards were planted as individual gardens, some sunken. Staff in charge of the wards helped care for the garden around their ward, and so did patients. Some of the wards which were given names of trees or shrubs had them outside in their gardens.