Early Mad Houses in St Albans and Harpenden

 

Places

St Albans

Harpenden

Nathaniel Cotton

 

The first lunatic asylum in St Albans of which I have knowledge was founded by Nathaniel Cotton. Nathaniel was born in London in about 1706, the son of a Levantine merchant, Samuel Cotton. He studied medicine in Leyden University under the famous Dutch physician, Professor Boerhaare. On returning to England he became assistant to Dr Thomas Crawley, who ran a private asylum in Dunstable, Beds. According to James Corbett, when Dr Crawley died Nathaniel moved to a house near St Peter's church, St Albans, bringing with him the housekeeper and several patients from Dunstable. In 1738 he married Ann Pembroke of St Albans, and they had eight children before she died in 1749. In 1751 he married Harriet Everett of London and had three more children.

The Collegium Insanorum, demolished 1910

His business was a success and in about 1760 he moved to what is now Lower Dagnall Street where he kept a mad-house called a "Collegium Insanorum". His most famous patient was William Cowper (1731-1800) the famous poet from Berkhamsted. Cowper was brought Cotton's asylum to be cured of his madness in December 1763 and stayed there until June 1765. Nathaniel died in 1788 and is buried with his two wives in St Peters churchyard.

[Information comes from the Rev F. A. Harding's article "Dr. Nathaniel Cotton of St. Albans" in the March 1969 issue of Hertfordshire Countryside - from which the above pictures are taken - and James Corbett's book "Secret City", which quotes a number of Cotton's poems. Unfortunately the articles differ on some key facts and neither identify their sources.]

It is not certain whether there was any continuity but the court records calendared in the "Session Records of the Liberty of St Albans, 1770-1840" in Herts County Records tell an interesting story.

During the Michaelmas sessions 1812 a licence was given allowing John Rumball, of St Stephens, to keep a house in that parish for the reception of lunatics. [Sessions Book III/288; and Draft Sessions Book V/45.] This was renewed in subsequent years. In the Michaelmas Sessions of 1820 John Rumball and James Quilter Rumball, surgeons, were licensed to keep a house for the reception of lunatics, in the parish of St Stephen, not exceeding ten in number, for the space of one year, during which time they are to allow certain justices and Thomas Baker, doctor of physic, to inspect the said house; if they refuse, the said licence is to be void. [Draft Sessions Book VIII/84, 92; Sessions Book IV/43; Goal Book IV/46, 47; and Miscellaneous Book III/3, 4.] In the same year an inspection was carried out by the two justices and physician appointed to visit the house of John Rumball, in St. Stephens parish, licensed for the reception of lunatics. They visited the house and found the following patients there: William Clerk, of Winchester, aged 32; Richard Oswold Mason, of Elstree, aged 45, and L. D. Hunt, of Aylesbury, aged 50 years. They further certified that they found the patients properly attended and the house in all respects conducted in a satisfactory manner. [Miscellaneous Book III/7].

In 1827 the area known as Osterhills came on the market - see The Sale of Osterhills, St Albans in 1827 and the house was built. There is a counterpart lease of Oyster Hills, dated 20th March, 1834, between the Rev William Le Worthy (or Leworthy) of Horston, Cambs, to Mr James Quilter Rumball of St Albans. The property was Oyster Hills House, with the cottage, barns, yards, outbuildings, gardens and orchards and 7 acres of meadow, which is not to be ploughed. It was a repairing lease at a rent of 40 per annum. It was stated that William Leworthy is tenant during the life of Thomas Fowler, Bricklayer, of St Albans, and that the property had been in the occupation of the said Thomas Fowler but for some time past had been untenanted. [HALS Ref: D/ECc T55]

James Quilter Rumball clearly brought the house for use as an asylum as the following court records show:

1834: EPIPHANY SESSIONS: Application of James Quilter Rumball, of the parish of St Michaels, surgeon and apothecary, for licence to keep "a house and buildings at Oyster Hills, for the reception of lunatics." He states that he resides in the said house, and that fifteen is the greatest number of patients he proposes to receive. The Court grants the said licence, the greatest number of patients not to exceed fifteen, in which number no "parish patients" are to be included. [Session Book V/385 and Draft Sessions Book X/354]

1834: MICHAELMAS SESSIONS: In accordance with the Act 2 and 3 William IV, concerning the treatment of "insane persons," the Court appoints certain justices and medical men to be "visitors to the house of James Quilter Rumball, surgeon and apothecary, licensed for the reception of insane persons at Oyster Hills, in the parish of St Michaels." The Clerk of the Peace is to act a clerk to the said visitors, at a salary of 8 per annum. One guinea is to be paid to the medical man for his attendance at each visit. [Sessions Book V/435 and Draft Sessions Book X/36]

1836: EASTER SESSIONS: Report by two justices, that they made an order on 20th March last past, under the provisions of the Act of 9 George IV, Cap. 40, for the confinement of William Lane, a person found wandering about in the parish of St Peter, appearing to be of unsound mind and a fit person to be confined in the house of James Quilter Rumball, at Oyster Hills, St Michaels, being a house licensed for the reception of insane persons. [Session Roll CCI/175, Sessions Book VI/37 and Draft Sessions Book XI/36] [and visits and renewal of licence in subsequent years.]

1838: MICHAELMAS SESSIONS: Return by the Clerk of the Peace, under the Act 9 George IV. cap. 40, of all lunatics and dangerous idiots within the liberty. [Sessions Book VI/223] Appointment of visitors (under the Act 2 and 3 William IV, cap. 107), to the house of James Quilter Rumball, surgeon and apothecary at Oyster Hills, licensed for the reception of insane persons. [Sessions Book VI/225]

1839: EASTER SESSIONS: Letter from James Quilter Rumball, surgeon and apothecary, to the Clerk of the Peace: "I beg to inform you that I shall require a renewal of my licence at the ensuing sessions; and in order to meet the wishes of the visiting magistrates, I beg to name John Cranmer Gordon, esq., surgeon, as my resident superintendent during the time of my licence. He has seen very considerable practice, and has more than once had charge of my patients, both before and since my coming to Oyster Hills." Ordered that Rumball renew this application in a "formal manner", and, should he not himself intend to reside in the house to be licensed, to furnish testimonials as to the fitness of the proposed resident superintendent. [Sessions Roll CCXIII/134-135; Sessions Book VI/252; and Draft Sessions Book XI/126] This application is granted; the number of patients not to exceed ten "in which number no parish patients are to be included." [Sessions Book VI/262 and Draft Sessions Book XI/129]

In 1839 Pigot's directory recorded "About a mile from the town, at Oster Hills, a beautiful and sequestered spot is an establishment for the insane; it is admirably conducted upon the humane and social principle of treating patients as part of the family - this system being more efficiently maintained here than in other asylums where the inmates are inconveniently numerous." It also lists:

Rumball, James Q, surgeon of private lunatic asylum, Oster Hills

In 1835 the Union Workhouse was opened in the bottom of the valley between Oster Hills House and the town of St Albans - and it soon became overcrowded, and looked to the house for more space:

1842: Resolved that Mr Oakley, vice chairman, be requested in concurrance with the visiting committee to make arrangements with Mr Jas. Q. Rumball for the temporary hiring of his cottages on Oster Hills in order to the Removal there from the Workhouse of such a number of the old women as they are capable of accommodating. [St Albans Union Minute Book: 16th December, 1842 [St Albans City Archives 1700A, now at HALS]

The 1850 Post Office Directory shows that the Oster Hills was now a private house - see SCOTT, Oster Hills, St Albans, late 19th century, and that J. Q. Rumball had moved to The Hall, Harpenden. It was licensed for the reception of insane people in November 1850 (See press cutting for details). The 1851 census for Harpenden shows he was still running a private lunatic asylum:

James R RUMBALL

Head

M

54

Surgeon practising R. C. of Surgeons London

Abingdon, Berks

Rebecca RUMBALL

Wife

M

52

 

Dartford, Kent

George RUMBALL

Son

U

20

 

London

Selina RUMBALL

Dau

U

23

 

London

James RUMBALL

Son

U

22

Bankers Clerk

London

Frederick RUMBALL

Son

U

18

 

London

Sarah ROYER

Sister in law

W

42

Lady (Annuitant)

Dartford, Kent

M. I. (M)

Patient

M

40

Surgeon not practising

Unknown

T. P. (M)

Patient

U

34

Gent

Unknown

C. W. (M)

Patient

U

67

Gent

Unknown

P. H. (M)

Patient

U

35

Formerly Stock Brokers Clerk

St Albans

D. M. (F)

Patient

U

87

Lady

Hurst, Hants

C. A. (F)

Patient

U

55

Lady

Unknown

Harriet LONG

Servant

U

26

Ladys Maid

St Albans

Susan ARNOLD

Servant

U

28

Cook

Wheathampstead

Ann ADDINGTON

Servant

U

20

House Maid

Bedmond, Herts

John PURSELL

Servant

U

20

House Servant

St Peters, St Albans

Unfortunately the patients are only recorded as initials. However names were recorded in the 1861 census, and it would seem that three of the patients in 1851 were still there in 1861. It is interesting to note that one of the patients had a personal attendant,

RUMBALL, Arthur G

Son

Single

M

33

Partner To Father And Superintendent

..., Middlesex

RUMBALL, Henry John

Son

Single

M

39

Clerk To Auctioner

St Stephens, Hertfordshire

RUMBALL, James John

Son

Single

M

32

Bankers Clerk

St Albans

RUMBALL, Edward S

Son

Single

M

23

 

St Albans

RUMBALL, Steward W

Son

Single

M

21

Coal Merchant

St Albans

GIFKINS, Emily

Granddaughter

Single

F

17

Scholar

London, Middlesex

GIFKINS, Perry

Grandson

 

M

12

Scholar

Harpenden

DIXON, Mary

Servant

Single

F

50

Cook

Wheathampstead

ARNOLD, Susan

Servant

Unmarried

F

43

Attendant To Patient

Wheathampstead

LONG, Harriet

Servant

 

F

38

Housemaid

St Albans

CLARK, William

Patient

Single

M

78

Formerly Sea...

Nk

THOMPSON, Peter

Patient

Single

M

44

Formerly Army Sailor

Nk

CALVERT, Anne

Patient

Single

F

66

Lady

Nk

COLLETT, Woodthorp S

Patient

Single

M

34

...Man

Market Rasen, Lincolnshire

The 1862 Post Office Directory lists Harpenden Hall Asylum (James Quilter Rumball, proprietor). By 1866 James had moved to The Limes, Harpenden (he died at Harpenden in 1872, aged 77) and Arthur was living at The Hall. The London Gazette Issue 23641 published on the 9 August 1870. Page 41 reads:

The Bankruptcy Act, 1869.
In the County Court of Hertfordshire, holden at St. Alban's.

In the Matter of Proceedings for Liquidation by Arrangement or Composition with Creditors, instituted by Arthur Griffin Rumball, of Harpenden. in the said county of Hertford, Proprietor of a Private Lunatic Asylum.
NOTICE is hereby given, that a First General Meeting of the creditors of the above-named person has been summoned to be held at the Bull Inn, Harpenden aforesaid, on the 18th day of August, 1870, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon precisely.

Dated this 2nd day of August, 1870.
GEORGE ANNESLEY, St. Alban's, Attorney for the said Arthur Griffin Rumball.

Despite this Arthur was running the asylum at the time of the 1871 census.

RUMBALL, Arthur G

Head

 

M

43

Proprietor of Lunatic Asylum

Barnet, Hertfordshire

RUMBALL, Emma E

Wife

 

F

30

Gentlewoman

Muswell Hill, Middlesex

RUMBALL, Robert H

Son

 

M

7

Scholar

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

RUMBALL, Hubert A

Son

 

M

5

Scholar

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

RUMBALL, Emmeline S

Daughter

 

F

3

 

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

RUMBALL, Arthur G

Son

 

M

0

 

Harpenden, Hertfordshire

JESTON, Nora F

Governess

 

F

30

Governess

Marston Licca, Gloucestershire

THOMPSON, Peter

Patient

 

M

53

Gentleman

Frith St, Soho, Middlesex

PETTISSON, William H

Patient

 

M

37

Gentleman

Essex

LOWE, Jean

Patient

 

F

70

Gentlewoman

Scotland

JARVIS, James

Patient

 

M

52

Gentleman

Glasgow, Scotland

ALBON, Eliza

Servant

 

F

23

Housemaid

Stotfield, Bedfordshire

ALLURED, Alice

Servant

 

F

18

Nurse Maid

PimlicoMiddlesex

NORRIS, George

Servant

 

M

24

Attendant

Worcestershire

 

Arthur Griffin Rumball died in 1880, aged 54 and at the time of the 1881 census his widow was continuing to run the private lunatic asylum.

Emma E. RUMBALL

Head

W

39

Proprietor Of Lunatic Asylum Private Inst

Hornsey, Middlesex

Robert RUMBALL

Son

U

17

Articled Pupil

Harpenden

Hubert RUMBALL

Son

U

15

Scholar (Art Student)

Harpenden

Arthur RUMBALL

Son

U

10

Scholar

Harpenden

William RUMBALL

Son

U

7

Scholar

Harpenden

Mary RUMBALL

Dau

 

1

 

Harpenden

Maurice RUMBALL

Son

 

1

 

Harpenden

Ellen CHARRINGTON

Niece

U

20

Visitor

Swanage, Dorset

Scott CHARRINGTON

Nephew

U

13

Scholar

Swanage, Dorset

Helena SCOTT

Friend

U

27

Visitor

Southsea, Hampshire

Stewart L. RUMBALL

Brother In Law

M

42

Super Of Private Asylum

St Albans

Emma MYERS

Servant

U

17

Cook

Harpenden

Elizth. RAWLINS

Servant

U

19

Housemaid

Hanwell, Middlesex

Emily ARCHER

Servant

U

18

Nursemaid

St Albans

Catherine THORNE

Servant

U

14

Nursemaid

Twickenham, Middlesex

P. J. - Handicap: Lunatic (M)

Patient

U

61

   

W. P. - Handicap: Lunatic (M)

Patient

U

48

Surveying Engineer

 

J. L. - Handicap: Lunatic (F)

Patient

W

80

(Surveyor)

Scotland

M. H. - Handicap: Lunatic

(F Marriage annulled))

Patient

O

54

   

 

The 1882 Kelly's Directory still records "Harpenden Hall Asylum (Arthur Griffin Rumball, proprietor)." All references vanish in the 1886 directory but it may have been the "Hertfordshire Sanitorium." The 1890 Directory lists Allan McLean at Harpenden Hall and the 1891 shows it was still being used as an asylum.

MACLEAN, Allan

Head

Married

M

39 

Registered Medical Practitioner Physician

Caistor, Lincolnshire

KER, Emily

Servant

Single

F

54 

Matron Of The Asylum

Ireland

JONES, Mary Anne

Servant

Single

F

21 

Nurse In Asylum

Ryton, Shropshire

MOYLE, Mary Anne

Servant

Single

F

20 

Nurse In Asylum

Burley, Shropshire

LELLO, Kate

Servant

Single

F

20 

Nurse In Asylum

Shrewsbury, Shropshire

HOUGHTON, Mary Anne

Servant

Single

F

20 

Housemaid Domestic Servant

Bridgend, Lincolnshire

GOODLIFFE, Mary Anne

Servant

Single

F

22 

Cook Domestic Servant

Billingborough, Lincolnshire

E W G S

Boarder

Widow

F

68 

Widow Dependent Or Daughter, Lunatic

Scotland

S, M A

Boarder

Single

F

24 

Daughter Of Solicitors Widow, Lunatic

Whittlesey, Cambridgeshire

S, C

Boarder

Widow

F

56 

Widow Of Solicitor, Lunatic

 

C, C

Boarder

Widow

F

31 

Daughter Of Solicitor, Lunatic

London, Primrose Hill RD

B, C C A

Boarder

Widow

F

27 

Daughter Of Merchants Widow, Lunatic

Hampstead, London

A, R C

Boarder

Widow

F

50 

Daughter Of Clergyman C Of C, Lunatic

Wales

H, M A F C

Boarder

Widow

F

64 

Daughter Of Indiarubber Manufacturer, Lunatic

London

H, G A O

Boarder

Widow

F

36 

Daughter Of Merchant, Lunatic

Wandsworth, London

J, P

Boarder

Single

M

74 

Son Of Army Clothier, Lunatic

Soho, London

P, W H

Boarder

Single

M

58 

Surveying Engineer, Lunatic

Coggeshall, Essex

The 1898 Kelly's Directory lists: Harpenden Hall, private asylum (for ladies), Dr. A. H. Boys, propr. and the 1901 census shows it was still an asylum.

FRASER, Hugh Head Married M 34 Medical Practitioner Scotland
FRASER, Ada Wife Married F 34   Luxborough. Somersetshire
GOLDSMITH, Annie Nurse Widow F 28 Mental Nurse Rochester, Kent
SAYER, Minnie C Nurse Single F 26 Mental Nurse Rochester, Kent
HANCOCK, M A F Boarder Single F 73 Lunatic N K
MOORDAFF, C Boarder Single F 40 Lunatic N K
HALSE, G A O Boarder Single F 44 Lunatic N K
GRANT, C E Boarder Single F 56 Lunatic N K
LAW, A L Boarder Single F 49 Lunatic N K
BULLOCK, E G Boarder Married F 53 Lunatic N K
PEARCE, Clara Servant Single F 31 Laundrymaid (Domestic) Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire
PEARCE, Emma Servant Single F 22 Housemaid (Domestic) Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire
LEWIS, Cecilia E Servant Single F 26 Cook (Domestic) Ramsgate, Kent

 By the time of the 1911 census it had become a boarding school for girls:

ENGLISH, Mabel Head Single 34 Principal Of School St Johns S E
ENGLISH, Eleanor Sister Single 36   London Blackheath
COUROUX, Jeanne   Single 35 Assistant French Mistress France Luneville
DOWNING, Susie   Single 25 Assistant English Mistress Cornwall Falmouth
CHATER, Mona   Single 32 Assistant Matron Leicester Hallaton
NEWILL, Barbara   Single 20 Gardener Domestic Shropshire Lydbury N
CARVER, Madeline   Single 15 Pupil London Chelsea
CARVER, Eileen     12 Pupil London S Kensington
ELLIOT, Lettice     14 Pupil London Westminster
SYDEERFF, Nora Buchan   Single 13 Pupil Edinburgh
PERL, Cecilia   Single 14 Pupil London Chelsea
ALLEN, Emily   Single 32 Servant Domestic Herts Harpenden
WESTON, Dorothy   Single 18 Servant Domestic London Stepney
ELBOURN, Minnie   Single 15 Servant Domestic Herts Harpenden

In the 1930s Harpenden Hall became the Council Offices.

See also The Patients at Harpenden Hall, Harpenden, 1851-1901

If you can add to the information given above tell me.