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Harperbury Hospital

History: [pinched from Wikepedia]

 

Part of the site of Kingsley Green was occupied by the London Colney aerodrome in World War I. The Royal Flying Corps used the aerodrome. After the War the Middlesex County Council looked at the old site for use as a mental hospital. In 1924 the county council purchased Porters Park Estate, totalling 420 acres. The area was to become the site of both Harperbury and Shenley hospitals.

On October 25, 1928, the Hangers Certified Institution was launched. The new mental hospital was named for the three remaining aerodrome hangers on the site. The first patients were eight males who were put to the task of cleaning out the hangers, which were converted into wards for use by more patients. Soon eighty-six male patients lived and worked on the site. In 1929 construction of new buildings for both the Harperbury and Shenley sites began. The new buildings of the Hangers Institution were arranged along three loop roads. The administrative building was at the front.

 

The first of the new buildings opened in February 1931 and by December 1931 the Institution housed 342 male patients. Various buildings were built to provide for the daily operation of the complex. Dormitory buildings were built for the patients and the De Salis Recreational Hall was built to seat 700 people. A building to house nurses was built west of the administration building. Tennis courts and sports grounds were also built. When the complex was completed in 1936, it accommodated male, female and pediatric patients. It is said at times 700 persons were employed at a time in the construction of the hospital.

 

Once the new buildings were completed, the Institution was renamed Middlesex Colony in May 1936, when the facility was officially opened by Minister of Health Sir Kingsley Wood. Middlesex Colony was designed to house about 1,355 patients. Although nursing at mental institutions at the time was not highly regarded and the administration was very strict, the Colony always found enough nurses to work with the patients. Hospital staff were recruited from Great Britain and also from continental Europe, especially from Belgium.

 

Middlesex Colony was intended to be as self-sufficient as possible, with the desire that patients capable of working would work at various tasks. Many of the male patients provided the labour for the farming ventures of the institution. Fruits and vegetables were raised and cattle, pigs and chickens were raised. Milk was even sold to Shenley Hospital. Men also worked in workshops to provide needed goods for the hospital, such as clothes, shoes, brushes and upholstery. They also performed carpentry. Female patients worked in the laundry and kitchens and helped keep the wards clean. Even pediatric patients were given duties. A school was built for the children.

When World War II erupted, Middlesex Colony had 1,194 patients. The operating of the institution continued on as before, other than at night all light had to be extinguished or blacked out to prevent the institution from becoming a target for German bombing raids.

In 1948 Middlesex Colony passed from control of the councy council to control of the National Health Service. Eventually the territory around the institution fell under the jurisdiction of Hertfordshire County and still today it is in Hertfordshire.

 

Two years later the institution was renamed Harperbury Hospital. During the 1950s Harperbury had 1,464 beds. An annex at Hemel Hempstead had thirty more beds. The 1950s saw continued expansion at Harperbury. Four more patient villas were built, as was a residence home for male nurses. A department of clinical psychology was established to better assess mental handicaps. The school for pediatric patients was enlarged and an indoor swimming pool was built.

 

In 1960 a cerebral palsy unit opened at Harperbury. It provided services to mental health units throughout the area, as well as at Harperbury. In the early 1960s many dignitaries liked to visit Harperbury. However, when Minister of Health Enoch Powell visited in 1961, he questioned the future role of large mental hospitals. Overcrowding at Harperbury was becoming a problem.. By 1964 severe overcrowding had reached unbearable levels. The hospital was then intended to accommodate 1,354 patients, but in fact had 1,587 patients. Beds were packed so tightly together, that sometimes nurses had problems reaching patients who needed emergency care.

 

In spite of overcrowding, Harperbury continued to expand. In 1965 the Kennedy-Galton Centre opened to study clinical genetics and to diagnose chromosomal abnormalities in the unborn. In 1969 an activity centre was officially opened to provide a stimulating environment for patients.

Up to 1973 Harperbury's expansion continued. Changes were made to use existing space better to ease overcrowding. Sometimes this involved remodelling areas. The activity centre was expanded in 1973 and a new playground was added.

 

By the early 1970s seeds were planted to integrate patients back into society. Patients took part in day trips to visit the shopping areas at nearby St. Albans. Also, patients were taught skills that would help them cope once they became a part of the outside society. They were encouraged to take better care of their appearance and they were encouraged to participate in sports events at the hospital and to take part in various groups. Musical events were held at Harperbury and severely handicapped deaf patients were taught the Makaton sign language. The wards were redecorated to be more attractive.

In 1973 the scaling down process began. The hospital farm was closed. In 1974 a discharge programme was set up to help patients integrate into the outside communities. Patients began moving out of Harperbury and into the outside world.

The Kennedy-Galton Centre was moved out of Harpersbury and into another institution in 1987. By the 1990s plans were in the works to close the Shenley, Napsbury and Harperbury hospitals. Patients were moved out of all three that decade. However, in 1995 and 1998 Harperbury got a temporary influx of patients coming from two other institutions that were closed. By late 2001 Harperbury had only about 200 patients and Harperbury was officially considered closed.