Location, Location 5
Until 1903, Croydon Council fulfilled the statutory responsibility, imposed on all local authorities by successive Lunacy Acts, of care for the ‘pauper lunatics’ of the Borough by arranging for their residence elsewhere - notably Cane Hill Asylum, Fisherton House near Salisbury and the Isle of Wight Asylum. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, however, the Council brought forward plans to build an asylum of its own, and bought a seventy-acre acre site for the purpose in Warlingham, six miles south of Croydon.
The Hospital’s first Medical Superintendent was appointed in March 1902, before any patients had been admitted and while building work was still underway, and visited the site regularly to advise the architects “on all details affecting the future working of the Institution, such as the position of telephones, electric bells, tell-tale clocks, disinfector, fire alarms, operating theatre, screens in the corridors, hatchways to the various stores, covering up of all obvious points of suspension…that would act as a help and incentive to suicide”.1
The buildings, according to the Hospital’s first annual report, were “of the plainest and simplest character, all superfluous ornament having been avoided and every part having been treated with a view to economy”.2 The Superintendent noted that the removal of tree stumps and brushwood by the unemployed of Croydon during the winter of 1902-03 “proved a great blessing as regards the aspect and view of the whole Institution” as well as having allowed for “a larger cricket and recreation field, and more land for farm purposes”.3 At that time, 38 acres of land were given over to the cultivation of produce such as potatoes, cabbages and strawberries.4 In this way (and in several others), a self-sustaining element was introduced into hospital life from the outset.
A history of Croydon Mental Hospital (renamed Warlingham Park in 1937) will not be attempted here; for those who are interested, an outline may be found within the Archives & Museum’s This is Your Hospital web resource. Having opened in 1903, the Hospital was closed in 1999. By that time, Croydon’s mental health services had been subsumed into those run by Bethlem and the Maudsley Hospitals. All Warlingham Park’s buildings (save only its distinctive clock tower) were subsequently demolished and the site redeveloped for suburban housing.