22 April 2019

22nd April 1868 - Caterham Asylum Foundation Stone

The foundation stone for Caterham Asylum, later to become St Lawrences Hospital, was laid on 22nd April 1868.

The capital of England was in dire need of better provision for the growing population. Workshouses were deemed not able to cope with those with mental conditions. The Metropolitan Poor Act was signed off in parliament in 1867, and the Metropolitan Asylums District created. The plans for two identical aslyums for insane paupers were drawn up, one at Leavesdon in Hertforshire, north London, and one in Caterham, eighteen miles south of London. The Caterham Asylum's foundation stone was laid by Dr William Henry Brewer MP, chairman of the Metropolitan Asylum Board, on 22nd April 1868.

The plans involved a central reception described at the time as in good taste and by no means unpicturesque. Behind it was an industrial sized laundry, kitchen, workshop blocks, with a range of tall ward blocks either side, males to the north, and females and children to the south. The upper floors were connected by fire bridges (pictured above).

The male wards were called MA1, MA2, MA3 (block one) .... all the way along to .... MF1, MF2, MF3(block six). Each ward had its own particular type of resident and culture. MA1 was the medical ward. MB1 and MD1 held the most severely handicapped. MD3 took the more troublesome residents.

I am indebted to Robert Malster's excellent book St Lawrences - The Story of a hospital 1870-1994 for some of the history and the date.

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