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Cane Hill Asylum
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1883 - 1992
Cane Hill Asylum, later Cane Hill Mental Hospital, was opened in December 1883 by the Justices of the County of Surrey. Surrey already possessed two asylums, at Wandsworth and Brookwood, and Cane Hill was intended to alleviate the shortage of spaces which was particularly being felt in several of the inner London Boroughs and by Richmond Guardians. It was built on 148 acres of land purchased from the Portnalls Estate by the Justices of the County of Surrey in order to alleviate the overcrowding of the existing Surrey asylums. (The remaining Portnalls Estate land would be purchased for the hospital in 1914). At the time of opening, Cane Hill could accomodate around 1200 patients and another 800 places were added in the next decade. It stood on high ground and had commanding views of the surrounding countryside.
In 1889 the hospital was taken over by the newly created London County Council, along with Hanwell, Colney Hatch, Banstead and Claybury Asylums which had previously been administered by Middlesex. (Wandsworth passed from Surrey to Middlesex County Council; Surrey would get another asylum with the opening of Netherne in 1909.) Cane Hill by this time was expected to serve mainly South London and also, for the time being, Croydon. However as a County Borough, Croydon would be expected to provide its own asylum in due course.
The newly formed National Health Service took over its administration in 1948 and it served the area of South London stretching from London Bridge to Crystal Palace as well as Beckenham and Penge. At the time of its 70th anniversary in 1953 it was reported to be overcrowded, despite modernisation to the interiors.
The last patients left on 15th March 1992. The hospital buildings are currently unused although a purpose built medium secure unit for the assessment of persons awaiting trial was set up in the hospital grounds in the 1980s. This remains open.
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