Kingsley Green

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Not to be confused with the hamlet of Kingsley Green, near Fernhurst, West Sussex.

Kingsley Green is a mental health and learning disability site located in Hertfordshire, England, just southeast of the village of London Colney. Located on Harper Lane, Shenley, Herts WD7 9HQ, it was known as Harperbury Hospital for 61 years and has been a fixture of the area's mental health scene since 1928. It had two sister institutions, Shenley Hospital and Napsbury Hospital, within a few miles of its location.[1]

History of expansion (1928–1973)[edit]

Part of the site of Kingsley Green was occupied by the London Colney aerodrome in World War I. The Royal Flying Corps used the aerodrome. After the War the Middlesex County Council looked at the old site for use as a mental hospital. In 1924 the county council purchased Porters Park Estate, totalling 420 acres (170 ha). It is unclear through internet sites whether the aerodrome site was part of this purchase or a separate one. The area was to become the site of both Harperbury and Shenley hospitals.[2]

On October 25, 1928, the Hangers Certified Institution was launched. The new mental hospital was named for the three remaining aerodrome hangers on the site. The first patients were eight males who were put to the task of cleaning out the hangers, which were converted into wards for use by more patients. Soon eighty-six male patients lived and worked on the site. In 1929 construction of new buildings for both the Harperbury and Shenley sites began. The new buildings of the Hangers Institution were arranged along three loop roads. The administrative building was at the front, just off Harper Lane.

The first of the new buildings opened in February 1931 and by December 1931 the Institution housed 342 male patients. Various buildings were built to provide for the daily operation of the complex. Dormitory buildings were built for the patients and the De Salis Recreational Hall was built to seat 700 people.[3] A building to house nurses was built west of the administration building. Tennis courts and sports grounds were also built. When the complex was completed in 1936, it accommodated male, female and pediatric patients. It is said at times 700 persons were employed at a time in the construction of the hospital.[4]

Once the new buildings were completed, the Institution was renamed Middlesex Colony in May 1936, when the facility was officially opened by Minister of Health Sir Kingsley Wood. Middlesex Colony was designed to house about 1,355 patients. Although nursing at mental institutions at the time was not highly regarded and the administration was very strict, the Colony always found enough nurses to work with the patients. Hospital staff were recruited from Great Britain and also from continental Europe, especially from Belgium and later further afield. Successive phases of recruitment were from Ireland, Spain, Italy, Mauritius and Malaysia. In the 1970s these recruitment phases were reflected in the nursing hierarchy. As a broad rule of thumb, the most senior nursing staff were Irish, Nursing officers and older ward sisters were Italian, Nursing sisters were Mauritian, staff nurses and students were Malaysian. A lot of the middle aged enrolled (as opposed to registered) nurses and many support staff were Spanish.

Middlesex Colony was intended to be as self-sufficient as possible, with the desire that patients capable of working would work at various tasks. Many of the male patients provided the labour for the farming ventures of the institution. Fruits and vegetables were raised and cattle, pigs and chickens were raised. Milk was even sold to Shenley Hospital. Men also worked in workshops to provide needed goods for the hospital, such as clothes, shoes, brushes and upholstery. They also performed carpentry. Female patients worked in the laundry and kitchens and helped keep the wards clean. Even pediatric patients were given duties. A school was built for the children.[5]

When World War II erupted, Middlesex Colony had 1,194 patients. The operating of the institution continued on as before, other than at night all light had to be extinguished or blacked out to prevent the institution from becoming a target for German bombing raids.

In 1948 Middlesex Colony passed from control of the councy council to control of the National Health Service. Eventually the territory around the institution fell under the jurisdiction of Hertfordshire County and still today it is in Hertfordshire. Two years later the institution was renamed Harperbury Hospital. During the 1950s Harperbury had 1,464 beds. An annex at Hemel Hempstead had thirty more beds. The 1950s saw continued expansion at Harperbury. Four more patient villas were built, as was a residence home for male nurses. A department of clinical psychology was established to better assess mental handicaps. The school for pediatric patients was enlarged and an indoor swimming pool was built.[6]

In 1960 a cerebral palsy unit opened at Harperbury. It provided services to mental health units throughout the area, as well as at Harperbury. In the early 1960s many dignitaries liked to visit Harperbury. However, when Minister of Health Enoch Powell visited in 1961, he questioned the future role of large mental hospitals. Overcrowding at Harperbury was becoming a problem.. By 1964 severe overcrowding had become severe. The hospital was then intended to accommodate 1,354 patients, but in fact had 1,587 patients. Beds were packed so tightly together, that sometimes nurses had problems reaching patients who needed emergency care.

In spite of overcrowding, Harperbury continued to expand. In 1965 the Kennedy-Galton Centre opened to study clinical genetics and to diagnose chromosomal abnormalities in the unborn. In 1969 an activity centre was officially opened to provide a stimulating environment for patients.[7]

Up to 1973 Harperbury's expansion continued. Changes were made to use existing space better to ease overcrowding. Sometimes this involved remodelling areas. The activity centre was expanded in 1973 and a new playground was added.[8] It wasn't a very exciting playground. A few swings and a slide in the middle of a circular field. But at least the children got out of the wards and sat on the grass in the sunshine.

History of dismantlement (1973–2001)[edit]

By the early 1970s seeds were planted to integrate patients back into society. Patients took part in day trips to visit the shopping areas at nearby St. Albans (see St Albans). Also, patients were taught skills that would help them cope once they became a part of the outside society. They were encouraged to take better care of their appearance and they were encouraged to participate in sports events at the hospital and to take part in various groups. Musical events were held at Harperbury and severely handicapped deaf patients were taught the Makaton sign language. The wards were redecorated to be more attractive.[9] At least in theory. There were a lot of patients still sitting looking bored in their institutional chairs in their institutional clothing, with the more able going to the patient social club and cinema once a week.

In 1973 the scaling down process began. The hospital farm was closed. In 1974 a discharge programme was set up to help patients integrate into the outside communities. Patients began moving out of Harperbury and into the outside world. One of the remamining functions in the second half of the 70s using patient labour was the laundry.

The Kennedy-Galton Centre was moved out of Harpersbury and into another institution in 1987. By the 1990s plans were in the works to close the Shenley, Napsbury and Harperbury hospitals. Patients were moved out of all three that decade. However, in 1995 and 1998 Harperbury got a temporary influx of patients coming from two other institutions that were closed. By late 2001 Harperbury had only about 200 patients and Harperbury was officially considered closed.[10]

Complications from abandonment of buildings[edit]

Whilst many of the buildings still stand the interiors are often in an advanced state of dereliction.

The scaling down at Harperbury resulted in many of the old hospital's buildings becoming abandoned. In many cases much material and equipment were salvaged from the old buildings. Over the years most of the abandoned buildings were visited by vandals and other trespassers. Most, if not all, of these unused buildings are scheduled for demolition. By this time some of them may already be gone.[11]

Thieves have pillaged the old buildings looking for items to steal and sell as scrap metal or as used building material. Sometimes power and telephone service has been disrupted in the buildings on the site still in use. In May 2010 thieves ripped out copper wiring that on two occasions resulted in power disruptions and outages at Harperbury. Two men were arrested and charged in this incident.[12]

Present programmes[edit]

Since 2001 there have been many changes on the site. The central area of the old site is still used. Some new construction has taken place, as well. The site is now decentralised, with groups within the Hertfordshire Partnership University National Health Service Foundation Trust (presently abbreviated to HPFT) running various programmes on the site. This trust took over much of the Harperbury site from the NHS. Possibly the largest change was a name change. In July 2011 Harperbury was renamed Kingsley Green. The HPFT wanted a name to reflect the direction the site has been taking since the Harperbury Hospital officially closed in 2001. However, some wanted the new name to have a link to Harperbury's history. "Kingsley" was the first name of Sir Kingsley Wood, the minister of health who formally opened the site as a mental institution in 1936. Approximately 75 patients still live in accommodation on the old hospital grounds.[13]

The inpatient programmes consist of three units. One is a mental health facility that was created by converting space in old buildings into what is known as the Oak & Beech Units. This facility was opened in May 2009 as two units and has space for 30 adults. Another programme is the Specialist Residential Service, which provides medium to long term care for 29 adults with learning disabilities and complex needs. Seven bungalows were built on Forest Lane at Harperbury. An activity service building is nearby.[14]

Another inpatient unit is the Adolescent Inpatient Unit, located in Forest House. Up to 16 twelve to seventeen year olds stay in Forest House. The programme "aims to provide a service which enables young people and their families to understand and cope with psychological, emotional and behavioural problems which they may be experiencing." An educational facility on site also ensures that residents' educational needs are not neglected. Adolescents are referred to Forest House by the Adolescent Outreach Team.[15]

Kingsley Green houses the above mentioned Adolescent Outreach Team, which conducts its work in the outside community. Another unit providing adolescent care, the Adolescent Drug & Alcohol Service for Hertfordshire (abbreviated ADASH), is based on the Kingsley Green site. This service is geared towards those under 18 years of age who have drug or alcohol problems. ADASH provides advice, support, specialist assessment and treatment.[16]

At October 2017 hundreds of yards of builders fencing is being put up around some of the surviving buildings - big works seem to be on the way. New housing?


  1. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London," in .
  2. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London"; Michael McEnhill, "My Mother,a Nurse at Middlesex Hospital (nee Harperbury Hospital)," in .
  3. ^ Named after Cecil Fane De Salis.
  4. ^ "Harperbury Hospital" in Derelict Places website, ; 'Harperbury Hospital" in Urbex website, ; "Lost Hospitals of London"; McEnhill.
  5. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London"; McEnhill; "Harperbury Hospital"; "Harperbury Hospital," in Opacity website, ; Harperbury Hospital," in Derelict Places website, .
  6. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London"; McEnhill.
  7. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London."
  8. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London."
  9. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London:" St. Albans Out of Sight Out of Mind website, .
  10. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London."
  11. ^ "Harperbury Hospital," in Derelict Places website; "Harperbury Hospital," in Opacity website; "Harperbury Hospital, Apr-2008," in Sick Britain website, .
  12. ^ Neil Skinner, "'Scrap metal thieves cut hospital power' in Radlett," in the Watford Observer website, .
  13. ^ "Lost Hospitals of London"; "12 November 2009 - Oak and Beech Units Scoop Prestigious Award," "Specialist Residential Service," "Kingsley Green is the New Name for Harperbury" and "Adolescent Inpatients," in Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust website, .
  14. ^ "12 November 2009 - Oak and Beech Unites Scoop Prestigious Award"; "Specialist Residential Service"; "Harperbury Hospital, Hertfordshire," in Assa Abloy website, ; "Lost Hospitals of London".
  15. ^ "Adolescent Inpatients."
  16. ^ "Adolescent Outreach Team" and "Adolescent Drug & Alcohol Service for Hertfordshire (ADASH)" in the Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust website.

Coordinates: 51°42′17″N 0°18′19″W / 51.704670°N 0.305189°W / 51.704670; -0.305189