Growing-up With Southall From 1904 (Memories of R.J. Meads)


Hanwell Asylum. 

                        Included in the population of Southall were the patients and living-in staff of Hanwell Asylum. The number was always around 1,500. The Asylum also provided work for quite a number in the town. From the time it was built in 1833 until about 1922 it used to be almost self-supporting , with its own bakery, tailors, bootshop, farm and cows, and growing most of its own vegetables. It even had its own gas works. Working parties used to cross the Uxbridge Road and cultivate the field where now stands the Southall bus garage, and also the fields now the A.E.C. The male staff included men skilled in all trades. They had a dark blue serge uniform and round peaked hats, with keys and whistle on a chain, more like prison warders than nurses. You stood a better chance of getting a job if you could play an instrument, were good at sport, or an ex-military man. If you got a job you were on probation for six months, in which time you had to study mental nursing. They had a brass band and orchestra ( there were two bandstands in the grounds ) and excellent sports grounds. For reasons best known to themselves the Lunacy Board did not favour patients being from near-by localities. Mental cases from Southall and around used to be sent to Wandsworth or Tooting BEC, and those from that side of London to Hanwell. It is on record that until 1914 the maintenance allowance for each patient was 9/4d ( 46 ½p  ) per week. Staff discipline was very strict, and nurses living in had to be in by 10.30 p.m., with a late pass till 12 o’clock one weekend a month. Those under the rank of sister had to pass through the matron’s office to check that they were properly dressed. I can speak from knowledge of these things, as I courted my wife from there, and many’s the time we had to hustle back so that she could clock in by 10.30. We married in August, 1929 and had the St Bernard’s church been licensed for weddings it would have been there; but it comes in the parish of Holy Trinity. As I am writing this in 1978 I should like to record something perhaps unusual in the nursing world. Both Matron Potter and Chief Male Nurse Mr. A. Greig were born and educated in Southall, and retired in 1972.