Finchley Colney Hatch Asylum

What is now Princess Park Manor was until 1993 a hospital for people with mental disabilities called Friern Hospital. When it was built the hospital was known as The Middlesex County Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Colney Hatch. It was not the first such hospital in Middlesex, in 1831 an asylum for the care of 'pauper patients' with mental disabilities opened at Hanwell in western Middlesex.

Hanwell Asylum was run by a Dr Conolly. Up until the 1830s mental patients were often treated by restraining them with straitjackets and other inhumane methods. Conolly pioneered a more humane approach, removing restraints and giving patients work to do so that they wouldn't become bored. It was decided to build a new asylum which would use Conolly's non-restraint methods.

By 1846 areas like Hackney, Edmonton, Hampstead, Stepney, and Tower Hamlets, all in the eastern end of Middlesex, were fast becoming towns. They asked to have the asylum built in their part of the county.

In 1847 the Great Northern Railway Company bought a small portion of Halliwick Manor. The closeness of the new railway line made the rest of the manor's land attractive, and by 1849 119 acres were purchased as a location for the new asylum. An architect called S.W. Daukes won a competition with a design in the fashionable Italianate style and George Myers won the contract to build it. The cost was nearly £400,000 once the project was finished. Prince Albert laid the foundation stone in May 1849, and the chairman dedicated it to "non-restraint".

When it was opened in 1851 Colney Hatch was the largest asylum in Europe. The building had six miles of corridor and the front was nearly 1,884 ft. long and occupied 14 acres. There was a large farm on what is now Friern Village, and workshops for tailoring and other trades. The patients were involved in the cooking and cleaning of the hospital. The first patients arrived on 17 July 1851.

The asylum was built for 1000 patients, but as the population of Middlesex grew the asylum became overcrowded. Extensions were built between 1857 and 1859 so that 2000 patients could be housed. By the 1860s the hospital staff were unable to cope with all the new patients, and sadly they had to resort to the straitjacket, and other methods of 'restraint'.

By the 1880s conditions at Colney Hatch, together with the general fear and prejudice against mental disorders, made the asylum unpopular with local people. The word 'Colney Hatch' (like Bedlam) had became a general word in London for anything unusual or irrational. Because of this the railway station, and the local area, and the hospital itself changed names.

The station became known as 'New Southgate'. The name of the hospital changed on a number of occasions, becoming Friern Hospital in 1959. During the 1890s the hospital built a number of wooden huts to house even more patients and by 1898 there were 2500 patients. Early in 1903 three of these huts caught fire and 51 patients were killed. It was the worst fire in a hospital ever known in Britain. In 1908 the huts were replaced with proper brick buildings.