SOUTHALL: A Brief History

Sir William Ellis was succeeded in office by James Conolly who continued the same tradition and achieved almost as much renown for it.28 The later history of the hospital is a story of steady growth: by 1880 there were already over 2,000 patients, and this figure has remained more or less constant until the present day. A huge chapel was built in 1880 to replace earlier less adequate provision. Although the location of the asylum was actually in the precinct of Norwood, it was from the very beginning called Hanwell Asylum because it was so much closer to the centre of Hanwell than to either Southall or Norwood. Indeed, Hanwell later became better known for the asylum outside its parish boundary than for anything else within it, so that towards the end of the century when the area began to be more seriously built up as a dormitory suburb, there was a strong movement to adopt the name Elthorne (without any historical justification) owing to the developers’ fears that prospective house buyers would be deterred by the association with asylum. The Great Western Railway compromised by naming the station Hanwell and Elthorne: today only the station and Elthorne Park and Avenue survive as testimony to this eccentric episode.

The atmosphere in Southall must clearly have been conductive to sanity for apart from St. Bernard’s and Featherstone Hall, we find that Sir Wiliam Ellis’s own house, Southall Park, and also Vine Cottage nearby and The Shrubbery were used as asylums. The probable reason is that the medical staff of the county asylum often found it profitable to run private establishments of their own. There were also one or two private asylums in Hanwell.