Next month, the excellent Croydon Clocktower will be hosting an illustrated talk by Pam Buttrey, author of Cane Hill: the Tower on the Hill. This local psychiatric hospital opened in 1882, as the Third Surrey County Lunatic Asylum (in addition to Brookwood Hospital and Springfield Hospital, Wandsworth). A century later, the 2,000 patient hospital was almost empty, and all but the secure unit was closed in 1991.
The recent date of both closure and demolition of the site (the clock tower was still standing until November last year, when a fire broke out in the administration block) means that the iconic building, pictured below, remains recognisable to many local residents, SLaM staff and service users. Pam Buttrey’s talk on the history and people of the hospital will thus evoke memories for many.
As a county asylum (built, pre-NHS, for the treatment of “pauper” patients who could not afford to pay for their care), Cane Hill also held a historical connection with Bethlem. At the time the asylum opened, patients admitted to Bethlem usually received a year’s free treatment. Many were discharged as cured: but others were transferred to private asylums or, as was often the case, one of the enormous county asylums which ringed London at the time, including Cane Hill. What’s more, one patient frequently (incorrectly) cited as having been treated at Bethlem was, in fact, admitted to Cane Hill: Charlie Chaplin’s mother, Hannah, of whom more will be said in an In the Spotlight later this year.
Cane Hill Hospital: Its History and People takes place in the Clocktower Activities Room, Croydon Clocktower, at 7.30pm on Wednesday 30 March. Admission is free: contact the Clocktower Box Office for your ticket on 020 8253 1030 or firstname.lastname@example.org