•1853 to early 1930’s -People requiring Mental Health care who were living in the Boroughs of East Ham and Southend,
were admitted to Essex’s first Mental Hospital at Warley, near Brentwood -(originally The Essex County Lunatic Asylum).
•1930 -The Mental Treatment Act is introduced. This replaces the Lunacy Act of 1890.
This new Act of Parliament is intended to put an emphasis of the Treatment of persons suffering with a mental illness,
as well as allowing people to admit themselves into a Mental Hospital on a voluntary basis.
•1932 –The Contracts that the two Boroughs have with Brentwood Mental Hospital expires.
•1932 –A decision is jointly made between East Ham & Southend Borough Councils to build a new Mental Hospital,
and Runwell Farm is chosen to the north east of the Village of Runwell.
•1933 -Runwell Farm is purchased. The Farm buildings and land amount to over 500 acres.
•1932 –Well-known London Architects; Charles Elcock & Frederick Sutcliffe are appointed to design the new Mental Hospital.
The Architects travel to Mental Hospitals in Europe and the United States of America to get some ideas for modern designs and layouts.
•1933 -John Mowlem & Co. Ltd. Are appointed as General Contractors, and they won the Tender with their Estimate of £463,000.
•1934 -With building works well underway, the laying of the Foundation Stone is marked with an Official Ceremony, on the 20th. of June.
The Foundations Stone is laid by the Chairman of the Board of Control; L.G. Brock, and attended by the Mayor and other Dignitaries.
•1936 -On the 21st. & 22nd. of May, a handful of Patients are the first to be admitted to the Hospital.
These admissions take place before the Hospital is officially opened, and are overseen by Councillor H.B. Harper,
who is the Chairman of the Joint Visiting Committee.
•1937 -The Official Opening Ceremony is held on the 14th. of June, and is opened by Sir Kingsley Wood M.P., who is the Minister for Health. Also in attendance is the Bishop of Chelmsford, who dedicates the Hospital Chapel; St. Luke’s. The completed cost of the building works amounts to £667,000. The finished Hospital is regarded as the most modern in the Country, with the Ward Blocks laid-out in the “Colony” plan, with individual “Villas” or “Houses” dotted around the Grounds, with plenty of space in between and surrounding the Buildings.
There are light and airy corridors, however these are located only directly around the Central Administration Buildings.
Some of the Wards have Airing Shelters and Solariums. Unlike its’ Victorian & Edwardian predecessors; Runwell was designed to accommodate Specialist Departments right from the beginning, with Research Laboratories, Occupational Therapy Departments etc.
The Architecture is most definitely Art Deco, but with the occasional hints of Arts & Crafts.
•1937 -Dr. Strom Olsen is appointed as the first Physician / Medical Superintendent.
•1939 -At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Runwell Mental Hospital is requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence as an Emergency Medical Services Hospital. Not all Patients were transferred to other Mental Hospitals, as only 230 beds were allocated for the War Effort.
•1939-1940 -Several Air Raid Shelters are constructed around the Grounds.
These are a mixture of underground and above ground, mainly adjacent to the Wards & Core buildings,
with the exception of the Medical Superintendent, who is allocated his own next to his house; “Charters”.
•1940 -The Country’s first Electroencephalography Department (E.E.G.) is established at the Hospital.
•1940’s -Dr. Rolf Strom Olsen performs Pre-frontal Leucotomies / Lobotomies, in an attempt to push the boundaries of the treatment
of the mentally ill. Runwell was one of the first Hospitals in the Country to experiment in this highly controversial medical procedure.
•1944 -As the year began, a German aeroplane crashed into the Grounds of the Hospital, narrowly missing the Boiler House.
Later on in the same year, two German Parachute bombs were dropped into the Hospital Grounds.
•1940 to 1945 -Throughout the War, almost 200 German bombs are dropped on the Hospital during Enemy Air Raids, and although some damage is done to the Buildings, miraculously neither Staff or Patients are killed or seriously hurt.
The Hospital’s own Fire Brigade bravely fight many fierce fires, and their heroic actions no doubt contribute to the zero fatalities.
•1946 -The first recruitment campaign since the Second World War sees Medical Staff being invited to train and work at the Hospital.
•1948 -With the creation of the National Health Service, control of the Hospital is transferred to the Regional Hospital Board,
and receives a glowing Report from the newly formed Runwell Hospital Management Committee.
•1950 -Doctor J.A.N. Corsellis begins his unique collection of brains for research, initially only from Patients who have died at the Hospital, after these Patients had undergone Post-Mortems in the Hospital’s own Mortuary.
•1950’s -The Hospital’s Patient capacity is tested to the limit. This critical time is not restricted to Runwell;
most Mental Hospitals throughout Great Britain are close to breaking point,
with overcrowding becoming Runwell’s biggest challenge since the German Air Raids of World War Two.
•1960 -The Mental Health Act of 1959 comes into force.
The Act ends the differential status between Psychiatric & General Hospitals, and abolishes the “Certification” of Patients,
opting instead to the more informal “revolving door” Admission process.
Also abolished is the use of the title “Mental Hospital”,
although the Hospital had already been renamed simply as Runwell Hospital in the late 1940’s.
•1961 -The Human Tissue Act is introduced. Professor Corsellis and his Team now require the written permission
before a brain can be removed for research purposes. It is noted that up until 1961, Corsellis & his Team at Runwell
had strictly followed all current & relevant Medical Procedures & Guidelines.
•1962 -The Hospital is threatened with closure, however after a Campaign led by Doctor Rolf Strom Olsen,
Runwell was given a “stay of execution”. Over the next few years, a quarter of a million Pounds is spent on renovating the Hospital Buildings.
•1968-Doctor Clive Bruton joins Professor Corsellis’ research Team.
•1960’s -A new Ward, named after Doctor Strom Olsen, is opened.
This contains Research Laboratories and an Occupational Therapy Department.
•1960’s -Staff Bungalows are built either side of the Hospital’s main drive,
just to the north of the Medical Superintendent & Senior Physician’s Houses.
•1960’s-Patient numbers gradually begin to reduce.
•1960’s -The gates at the Main Entrance and most of the “un-climbable” railings around the perimeter of the Hospital Grounds are removed.
•1962 to 1966 -The Steam Generators are removed from the Boiler House,
and the Hospital’s power supply changes from Direct Current (D/C) to Alternating Current (A/C).
•1972 -The Rehabilitation Unit is opened.
•1970’s -Some of the Ward “House” buildings are divided-up by names.
•1982 -The “Busy B Boutique” is opened by Patients at the Hospital, with many of the Patients having helped to build the Shop.
•1984 -“Runwell Raiders”, the Hospital’s Football Team is formed.
•1987 -Runwell Hospital celebrates it’s 50th. Anniversary.
•1997 -The Corsellis Collection of brains is transferred to the West London Mental Health Trust at St. Bernard’s Hospital
(originally the Middlesex County Asylum, Hanwell). The pioneering research led by J.A.N. Corsellis has led to
significant Medical breakthrough in the study of diseases such as Dementia, Depression, Parkinson’s, Creutzfeldt Jacob & Alzheimer’s.
•2002 -South Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (SEPT) is formed and takes over from the old Southend Health Authority. This means that although Runwell Hospital is still part of the N.H.S., it is run locally.
This echoes back to the early decades of the Twentieth Century, when although Mental Hospitals were accountable to Central Government
(The Commissioners in Lunacy, The Board of Control etc.,) the day-to-day management of such Hospitals was carried-out at a local level.
•2006 -Disaster strikes in the Great Hall –the entire ceiling collapses.
Thankfully there were only a handful of people in the Hall at the time, and all managed to escape with only minor scrapes & bruises.
•2007 -The ceiling of the Great Hall is repaired, and is re-opened.
•2008 -Rochford Hospital is opened, with some Patients transferred to this new Hospital.
•2008 -SEPT retains its’ rating of “Excellent” for the quality of Services & the use of its’ resources.
•2009 -Autumn -Brockfield House, the £30,000,000 Low & Medium Secure Unit officially opens to replace Runwell Hospital.
•2009 -November -The remaining Patients are leave Runwell Hospital. Only Administration & Maintenence Staff remain at the Hospital.
•2009 -December -A special Party takes place in the Great Hall for former Staff & Carers. The theme is the 1940’s, and is well attended. Many fond memories are shared and stories exchanged. The final Christmas Carol Service is held in the Hospital Chapel; St. Luke’s,
to commemorate the many achievements and hard work which has taken place at Runwell Hospital.
•2010 -February -Reception closes in the Administration Building on the 23rd.,
and the one remaining operational oil-fired boiler is shut-down, with the steam shut-off in the Boiler House on the 26th.
Maintenance Staff describe this shut-down as like switching-off "the beating heart" of the Hospital.
From now on, apart from electric heaters and kettles, there is now no heating or hot water.
•2010 -March -The Hospital’s Projectors, dating back to the 1950’s, are “rescued” from the Projection Room of the Great Hall,
by Regal Group, who are a group of enthusiasts specialising in Cinema Projection equipment.
•2010 -April -The final remaining Staff leave Runwell Hospital for the last time. An emotional time with mixed feelings no doubt.
Graham Gee, who began working at the Hospital in 1968, was the last to leave, and closed-up the Works’ Department on the 23rd.,
which also happened to be St. George’s Day!