The Three counties Asylum at Arlesey

The Three Counties Asylum

Also i vaguely remember from the part of my memory that keeps going OFFLINE.

That wen Mary “polly” Mills Allen’s mum and dad emigrated to Canada with her younger sister Daisey she didn’t want to go.

Whether or not she had already met Herbert or not is open to discussion .This would probably have been after the First World War 1919 or so. Polly therefore looked for a live in job , maybe even three Counties were recruiting in Wiltshire. Quite often they struggled to get local staff , jobs were a plenty. So she got a live in job at THREE COUNTIES ASSYLUM. She then met granddad Herbert Allen, , wen serving him tea . Herbert was a star fast bowler .All the Allens were cricket mad , hence one being name Ranji after the world’s best batsman.

Herbert back row third in

I have heard tell tho Ranji was a wicket keeper. Also Great Aunt Louie’s husband Ansell was the shoemaker up there and he was always one of the umpires. Punch Allen was a mean cricketer as well they also all played for the Lamb Inn in Lamb Meadow.

This is going to be an overview of the Three Counties Asylum , but mainly focusing on Hospital Farm and other jobs it provided for the local community.

This was built in 1860.George Fowlers-Jones was the architect .It took three years nine months to build . Prior to it opening there were only 9 county asylums.

It was going to be four counties but Cambridgeshire pulled out and went solo. Bedfordshire was dragging its heels and were reluctant at first to have their Bedford Asylum closed and the new one built elsewhere .The best site was finally decided to be Stotfold and Major Wilkinson’s farm was bought. Over 200 Acres of land was purchased as near to the Great Northern Railway as possible .The land was purchased for £11,000.The committee then sought to purchase another 50 Acres to connect to the Great Northern Railway line .They then bought another 57 Acres for about £3000.

The total cost of the land and buildings was estimated at £70,000.The counties of Bedfordshire , Huntingdonshire and Hertfordshire shared the cost..

Tenders were put out for the building , and the job was given to William Webster of Boston.He had put in £53,626 and was the second lowest , and they had used this Builder successfully before.

They had to dig down 2 feet deeper than expected due the the light nature of the soil , and Arlesey whites were used for the footings.The building was built with Arlesey white bricks ,and a few red ones to make it look more appealing.

125 men and 131 women were employed regularly to begin with 66 men were working on the farm and gardens and 21 in the workshops.

In the workshops there were Smiths , Shoemakers , Tailors ,Carpenters and Painters.There were 33 women in the laundry and the rest worked on the wards .I am told on Monday mornings lots of washing lines had sheets on the with Three Counties Asylum printed on them

The Medical Superintendent had a big house near the main building .The Three Counties asylum was extended in1875-77 so it could take even more patients. Another 180 spaces were provided.The building could now hold 682 patients.

It was later extended again to hold 1000 patients.The Baliffs house wasn’t as big as it looked because there were 2 labourers cottages adjoined to it. There were a block of 4 cottages the other side of Stotfold Road for the families of servants employed in TCA.

There were Servants provided for Main Officers for the Hospital.Mr William Denne RESIDENT MEDICAL SUPERINTENDANT Mrs Denne MATRON £30

Rev James Acton Butt , MA CHAPLAIN £200



The land was farmed as soon as it was purchased , so it would be up and running by the time the hospital was ready for patients . Samuel Bailey was appointed Steward and Farm Baliff , he came from Southill . He was given £500 to purchase 6 horses , carts and agricultural equipment . He appointed a Farm Foreman on 80p a week . They found it difficult to get local staff , hence my Great Granddad was recruited from Wootton near Kempston .

Profit from the Farm in the first year was £833. They farmed turnips , oats , beans , barley , and livestock. A new farmyard was built as close to the main building as possible.

The Baliff’s and the cowman’s houses were built on each corner of the farmyard .

this photo was taken in 2011 , I think this was the house the Allens lived in when they moved to Arlesey.Things started looking up for them. Jim 1st lived here until he retired then he had to move out to Crawley Terrace , with his son Jim 2nd and wife Ellen Dear and the baby Herbert Allen .

For anybody who doesn’t know where the farm yard was it is middle of the bottom right side of the aerial photo.

The Big house is the Farm Baliff and the next most eastly large building is the Farm Foremans . The old Kings Farm building were then pulled down in July 1860.

The Farm Baliffs house

The single storey buildings between the Farm Labourers were the stables and farm equipment barns.Quite a good idea because the horses and farm machinery was surrounded by farm workers houses.

Bill Barnes was the first Farm Steward and Baliff , but because they thought the farm should be doing better they stripped him of his Farm Baliff title and just kept him on as Steward.

The asylum grew its own corn and vegetables , bred its own cattle , pigs , sheep and chickens , and had its own Dairy. It also had its own Gas Works , producing Gas for the Hospital.

I am still amazed by how self sufficient the Three Counties Community was.The coal was bought to the hospital from the Three Counties Siding in coal trucks pulled by Shire Horses.It came on the tracks down Asylum road and then to the Gas Works.

The Magnificent Horses strained with their heavy loads and the coats rippled as they walked along.There was a patient in charge of the horses looking very proud , and talking to none except his horses.‎

150 years ago machines from the industrial revolution were starting to be be used on farms. Now that that was 1862 shortly before Three Counties Asylum Farm was being set up. This means they could have had some of the latest farming machinery of the day on this farm. Pulleys, belts , gears and cogs to drive cutting and grinding equipment. Cutting up vegetables for the livestock and grinding up oats for animal feed. This was driven by a shire horse turning a big wheel , walking round in circles.

The guy with the big axe in the Fairfield book A place in the Country was a woodsman .The woodsman made wonderful baskets by splitting branches from Oak trees. He had to carefully select the right size tree to fell. You cut a tree for the right amount of wood that you need for the job. They boiled the wood ,split it and bent it while it was still hot. The finished basket lasts over 50years on the farm.

.He cut the wood from the woodlands up there to make posts , fencing and baskets. There would have been a blacksmith up there to make hinges , nails , latches etc and make and repair farm equipment.

The rail speed record was 30mph in 1830 but by Victorian times 1887 is was 90mph.So when Three Counties was opened in 1860 trains should have been fairly quick. The Wheat would still have been cut with a scythe though cos m/c ‘s did come till Victorian Times. So loads of extra people would have been drafted in to help , probably other workers at the hospital.

The wheat would have been stuked in bunches and stood up in the air for 3 weeks to dry. This was in August , in June the Hay crop would have been harvested from the mixed grass seeds that had been set. This was used to feed the farm animals in the winter.

A dog killed half the free range chickens , this would probably have been hunted down and destroyed , and the owner prosecuted. Out of all the farm animals the pigs seemed to be always the favourites , maybe cos they are hand fed. The sheep however always needed a lot more help giving birth .The piglets just popped straight out of the sows. Maybe cos the sows are so big compared to the tiny piglets.

Women patients were all dressed in linen shapeless smock dresses.Male nurses were known as Sylum Attendants.£29 a yearThere was a Head Attendant paid £35 a year. These had drab coloured suits for weekdays and a Navy suit for Sundays.

Female Attendants £16 a year .Porter £27 a year

Head Gardener £30 a year.Under Gardener £24

The Gatehouse , the gates used to be locked at night. The Chaplain was paid a very good wage and I think the main Officers also had their washing done for them as well in the laundry.

Kitchen Staff.

Graham Parcell at the back Clive Batey at the ovens.

Patients are in light clothes and staff in dark I would like to know why one of the staff had a rifle. I think by the age of my great great granddad 64 he is the guy on the far right.

Here is a rough guide to a patient who worked on the farm’s day.

Breakfast 08.30

Start work 09.00

Tea Break 10.30

Dinner 12.30-14.00

Knock Off 16.30

So quite a gentle working life.

Here is a list of other trades employed in the Asylum.Wages Stated are Per Year

Head Clerk obviously a more important job then Financial Responsibilities £200

Head Male Attendant £35

Female Attendants £16

Porter (more money than nurses) £30

Shoemaker £30

Gardener £35

Under Gardener £24

General Labourer £20

Other trades employed were Blacksmith , Steam Engineer , Coal Porter , Cowman , Pigman , and Dairymaid.

My great Uncle Anscell was in charge of the shoe repair shop. He lived in House Lane with my Great Aunt Louie Allen , Herberts sister.

Paul Allen worked as a chef at Fairfield in the kitchens. His dad Jim Allen Snr took patients out for trips to mick Allen’s pub nearly every other week so he was linked too.

Jim Allen’s ward was one ward but involving huts C1, 2 and 3. It was is known now as learning disabilities, at the time classified as mental subnormality. They were transferred over from Bromham hospital many years beforehand.

Their ages were 30 to 60. John Allen trained at Fairfield like Ron Allen , Jim Allen Jnrand Pete Allen. Don’t forget Andy Fievez was John Allen’s cousin from his mums side, he was a Charge Nurse. I understood from Polly that she worked at Fairfield as untrained Nurse, at some point. U said an Allen moved from Wooton to Fairfield too. John Allen’s dad Jim Allen Snr got made redundant from engineering and first worked as a ward orderly, cleaning. Then became an untrained Nurse.

A Three Counties Asylum Porter

I interviewed an ex Porter at Fairfield Hospital.

He started aged 27 after being 5 years as a butcher with Arlesey Co-op , then Dewhursts.

His starting salary in 1969 was 6s/7d an hour.

The Head Porter Malcolm Rawley retired after David had been there 6 months , and the manager asked David Castle if he would like the job. Most of the other 11 porters were over sixty and didn’t like being told what to do by a “youngster”

Porter tasks were delivering food , medicine , mail , a bit of cleaning and transporting dead bodies about. They weren’t allowed to move live patients about incase they “kicked off” , so trained psychiatric nurses had to do this.

They had to clean parts of the hospital that were attached to a ward N . Large Halls the Cinema and corridors including the windows.

The hospital was split in 2 , the Main Buildings then the Huts ,and  the Cricket Pavillion ,the Bowls Pavillion and the Tennis Courts.

They often struggled to get staff and recruited from the North East  , Sunderland and Newcastle and that’s how the got Geordie , and Wearside porters in Arlesey Hospital.

They could put staff up in the Nurses Home which was for half male,and half female staff or in The Bury Mansion.

Also he told me in the middle of a Bowls match up Fairfield they heard a funny noise behind a hedge , all the players looked over and 2 patients were making love.There were lots of abortions amongst the female patients , and this sort of thing happeneed all the time.

The Porter guy had to deal with the dead bodies 24hrs , he even had to get a member of staff out of the Blue Lagoon as well.

He had dived in off the crane and never came up.

He surfaced 2 or 3 days later.

A common method of suicide for the patients was drowning themselves in the Blue Lagoon.

He told me about when an Arlesey man got home from work on a winter’s day and found his brother who was a patient at fairfield , soaking wet , sitting on his doorstep. He said to him whatever has happened to you. He replied “I tried to drowned myself , but it was too cold.I’ll have to wait until the summer” Sure enough in the summer he drowned himself.

Another time he told me about having to put a patient out after she had set herself alight.

After the hospital shut in 2000 I was taken on by the developers. Once He was asked to show a Medium around .David told me about channel 4 were going to do a program about hauntings.

He was escorting a medium around the grounds and she kept stopping him around various locations.She said she could sense violent deaths.

She had a film crew filming her.

She even found the location where a nurse was murdered and where the brewer was drowned in a big Brewing vat of beer.

He then went on to tell her at each point she had stopped him a different patient had killed themselves at that location.

But after she had lots of material she was stopped from making the program , by the authorities..

They said they didn’t like the idea of this and thought it was inappropriate.

Photos of Greatgranddad and Nanna James Allen and Ellen Nellie Dear


James Allen was born in one of the Asylum Cottages in Stotfold 1867.


The Asylum Cottage.


James father Jim Allen is probably on this picture and was approaching retirement age.


Ellen Nellie Dear daughter of The Fountain public house Arlesey big jim’s wife 

I am Andrew Dear b. Luton 1941 but using my wife’s Ancestry account to contact you.
I came across your Blog about Arlesey and realised we are related – at least by marriage. Ellen was sister to my great grandfather William Dear b. 1857 who worked as a labourer in the Arlesey brickyards. His son, my grandfather Mark played for the Arlesey football team way back when. Mark worked on the railways for 52 years manning Luton West signal box for a good part of that time.

You will see that I have attempted to trace the DEARs back as far as possible and tentatively made it back to the mid 1500s – all of that time in and around Arlesey!

It will be interesting to see how our families link up.

James DEAR, Bapt 8 Dec 1597, Shillington
> >James DEAR, Bapt 24 Nov 1631, Arlesey
> >William DEAR, Bapt 23 Aug 1652, Arlesey
> >Abraham DEAR, Bapt 6 Jan 1687, Arlesey
> >John DEAR, Bapt 23 Jun 1717, Arlesey
> >Nathaniel DEAR, Bapt 4 Sep 1748, Arlesey
> >Thomas DEAR, Bapt 3 Feb 1782, Arlesey
> >George DEAR, Bapt 10 Mar 1811, Arlesey
> >George DEAR, Bapt 13 Oct 1833, Arlesey HE WAS ELLEN DEAR ALLEN’S DAD
> >William DEAR, Born 19 Jun 1857, Arlesey ELLEN’S BROTHER
> >Mark DEAR, Born 17 May 1891, Arlesey
> >Ronald DEAR, Born 11 Apr 1918 , Luton.
> >
> >Not a very mobile lot were they!

James Allen married Ellen Nellie Dear just before his dad retired from work , so they started their married life up the Asylum , before soon moving to the now demolished Crawley Terrace .James Allen was very good at fighting and after doing very well against an ageing profession in a Hitchin Fair Boxing Booth he was offered a job .The aging professional was let go . I guess that is the name of the game.James Allen spent 4 years doing this until his young son Herbert was approaching school. James then got a house in Asylum road.

A Team of Fairground Boxers about 1900

Assylum Road

He now needed a job and got one at Arlesey Cement Works there were more jobs than people in Arlesey in the early 1900’s. They went on to have 3 girls. Lizzie Elizabeth Anne , Beatrice Loiusa Louie , and Alexandra ,Violet May .

James worked here happily until it closed in 1932 , he then was offered a live in job running Gothic farm. This was going back to what James was doing before he was a professional boxer.

He had his oldest son Herbert and wife Polly Mills living with him at Asylum Rd and they all moved to Gothic Farm. They also had 4 children . Mollie , twins Daisey and Jim , Alma . Herbert was working up the Brickyard , and his last child George was born at Gothic Farm. Herbert then got promotion at the Brickyard to foreman and a house at the brickyard went with the Job.

James Allen was getting older now and starting to take it a bit easier , so he moved to Primrose Lane , and they took over Japps shop where Fairfield Car Wash now is.

Primrose Lane Cottage

Notice the wood clad houses where the Co-op butchers used to be.Like one granddad is standing infront of.

the shop is on the extreme left of the screen with the guy leaning up against it. Notice the horse manure in the road!!

Great gran Nellie deear with her daughter Alexandra Violet May Allen and grandchildren.

They look in their seventies in this photo at Primrose Lane

A bit of a Do at the W.I. extreme left of photo again Nellie then Jim

You can keep your hat on nan!

Nellie Dear Allen at Mum’s wedding in May 1948