Claybury Hospital, Redbridge


Hospital Name: Fifth LCC Pauper Lunatic Asylum,Claybury Hospital
Previous Names: Fifth London County Council Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Claybury Asylum, Claybury Mental Hospital
Location: 1a Manor Road, Woodford Bridge, Essex
Principal Architect: George Thomas Hine
Layout: Compact Arrow
Status: Converted
Opened: 16th May 1893
Closed: 1997


The 5th London County Asylum (Claybury Hospital) was the final hospital to be built by Middlesex for the London County Council was formed. Before the Local Government Act was passed in 1888, Middlesex controlled most of the land to the north of the River Thames and at this time they were planning their fourth County Asylum – after Hanwell and Friern Barnet and Banstead. The Middlesex Justices chose the site of Claybury Hall at Woodford Bridge for the home of their new Asylum, which was situated on he top of a hill and within 269 acres of land, the Asylums itself had over 20 acres of floor space. The Justices ran a competition in 1886/7 for the Asylum design, and the soon to become prominent architect, George Thomas Hine, beat off 6 others entrants to win. He managed this with his pioneering Compact Arrow Design which laid out the Asylum in a smaller and more logical layout than seen before – although arguably Cane Hill and High Royds Asylums were also revolutionary as they had similar layouts, but were opened earlier. Claybury was also one of the first Asylums in the country to incorporate a laboratory to try and determine the pathology of mental illness.

Building work began on the 1st of October, 1887, with 100000 cubic yards of soil being removed from the summit of the hill to level the ground out. The contractor was paid £1,500 to do this, but the work actually cost them £1,800. During this time, the entire estate was ringed with a 2.5 mile fence and in March 1888, the two gate houses were built. These were occupied by the architect, Hine, and the Clerk of Work Mr Wise. The laying of the foundations began in June 1888 and the work was contracted to Howell & Son of Bristol. By the end of the year the company had been liquidated and building work stopped in December that year with only a third of the work being completed. This left Hine with a predicament of covering over the works to protect them from the winter weather, the walls were left exposed and much damage was caused. Matters were further complicated when the London County Council was formed and took charge of the Asylum construction. The formation made Claybury the fifth asylum to be within the control of London. The LCC immediately reappointed Hine as lead architect on the project. Work on finalising the foundations was completed.

The Construction of the main buildings contract was awarded to Mr Gabbutt of Liverpool; the contract was worth £337,945. The construction saw an amazing amount of material used; 27 million bricks were laid, 2,600 doors, 4,600 windows and 33 miles of service pipe works. In 1891 it was decided to repair and extend the original estate building for conversion to a private asylum. This was an annexe to the main asylum and was an attempt by the LCC to provide Asylum for wealthier lunatics who couldn’t afford the full private care. They inmates were charged 30 shillings a week if they were residents from London. At the same time, the LCC decided that they would not use Gas as the primary light source within the hospital, but install lighting throughout. This was the first Asylum to do so, and with the design being directed by the LCC, with plans inherited from Middlesex, the asylum was outfitted to a high standard, with oak panelling and stained glass adorning many buildings throughout the site. The original idea from the Middlesex Justices was to move away from the ‘poor-law’ image that was associated with the Asylum system. The construction of the Hospital was finished in 1893 and the first patients were admitted on the 16th of May that year, reaching the total capacity of 2500 patients three years after opening. The final cost of the Asylum, after building and fitting out with equipment came to £579,303.

Claybury was one of the first Asylums to incorporate a research building into Mental Diseases, the LCC appointed one Dr F. Mott to hold the first post. He published his findings from his research at Claybury between 1903 and 1922 and during this time he investigated over 3,000 cases. He discovered that the ‘General paralysis of the Insane’ was directly linked to Syphilis, along with identifying that mental health problems could lay dormant over a number of generations.

By the 1930’s, the reputation of Claybury Hospital had become world renowned and experienced visitors from as far away as the USA and Japan; at the same time the hospital under went a period of expansion. This saw the construction of an admission centre, nurses accommodation and a new operation theatre; this was the first expansion of Claybury as the development of the Horton Estate did not necessitate any further work. With the creation of the NHS, the hospital was transferred away from London County Council control and in the time between 1954 and the early 70’s the population declined by over 1000 patients and with this, the hospital moved towards mixed sex wards. During the late 60’s and early 70s the hospital saw expansion with facilities for nurses being improved greatly.

By the mid 80’s, the NHS had outlined the closure of both Friern & Claybury with laundry services being shut on both sites; the main services of the wards were concentrated to the south of the hospital and the wards at the north laying empty. The Hospital finally shut its doors in 1997. At this point the NHS pushed to have the maximum amount of the site demolished, with little being retained, however English Heritage and the local planning authority wanted maximum retention. Claybury was, and still is, considered one of the most important Asylums to be built since 1875 with respect to its architecture. After a consultation period was held in 1997 it was decided to convert the site to housing, with the majority of the wards being Grade II listed and converted; only the services and a few northern wards were demolished. The water tower was converted to a single dwelling over eight floors and the Hall & Chapel has been converted to a gym and pool. The site is now known as Repton Park and is a gated community.

External Photos

Following images taken August & November 2004:

Internal Photos

We have no internal photos of this hospital.



Records including admission and staff are held at the London Metropolitan Archives:

The Redbridge Heritage Centre hold some records including plans of the hospital:


There was no on-site burial ground at the hospital and its not clear if any particularly nearby cemetery was used for burials.


'Claybury; A Century of Caring' by Eric H Pryor
‘Claybury; A Century of Caring’ by Eric H Pryor


12 responses to “Claybury”

  1. Hello, Can you please let me have information on my grandmother who died in Claybury in 1948.Her name was Annie Garrod ne e Harris,she was born in 1879 in Lambeth and was in Claybury for about 10years,
    Valerie Pennington ne e Garrod

  2. Hi Valerie

    This is a long shot….. But did you ever find out anything about your grandmother? My grandfather was there in the 1930’s but I am unable to find out whether he was discharged or whether he died there. I was wondering whether you had any advice that might help me trace him…

    Thanks and Regards


  3. Hello,
    Sorry only just read this, sadly there seems to be zilch information on the patient s of this institution, my grandmother did die there in 1948 .I found this thru ancestry records. I was hoping somewhere along the line there would be archives and photo s .Hopefully you may have better luck regards Valerie

  4. Claybury must be the place my grandfather was placed in even though he had all his faculties. My mothers family still live in the London area and when visiting I remember visiting my grandfather once with my siblings and parents around about 1964/1965. It had a lasting impression on me due to my grandparents who had lived all their lives in a rented terraced house in Forest Gate having then got to frail to look after each other. There wasn?t the means in those day?s to keep husbands and wives together when becoming infirm. They were split up, my grandmother ending her days in a geriatric hospital somewhere in the area and who we also visited on the same day, she being healthy enough to sit outside although she was going blind, probably cataracts that if today, would be treatable.
    When visiting grandfather I remember sitting outside under an open veranda and being given tea. I recall a young man striking up conversation and asking my older sister if she would like to see his etchings, he then being shepherded away.
    The staff appeared very compassionate, the buildings well kept and the grounds impeccable.

    In memory of
    William Alfred Butcher 1884 – 1967 and Beatrice Annie Talbot 1887 – 1966

  5. […] Today: This immense building, which was once secured and surrounded by railings to keep its pauper patients inside, closed in 1997 and is now a gated community. Its wards are now converted to housing, its chapel is now a swimming pool, and its lavish recreation hall is now a gym. It is among the most desirable locations on the outskirts of London and, besides the still rather exclusive gym, is closed off to the public, meaning that these days, the paupers are all locked outside its grounds instead.[2] […]

  6. […] At present: This immense constructing, which was as soon as secured and surrounded by railings to maintain its pauper sufferers inside, closed in 1997 and is now a gated group. Its wards are actually transformed to housing, its chapel is now a swimming pool, and its lavish recreation corridor is now a fitness center. It?s among the many most fascinating areas on the outskirts of London and, apart from the nonetheless reasonably unique fitness center, is closed off to the general public, that means that today, the paupers are all locked exterior its grounds as an alternative.[2] […]

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