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.

One thought on “The Three counties Asylum at Arlesey

  1. Very interested in your stories and info about Arlesey. Our linked family (DEAR) can be traced back to the 17th century in Arlesey and surrounding area. My great grandfather William was born 1857 in White Horse street, and lived latterly in Cooperative Terrace. He was a labourer in the brickyard. Your Ellen Nellie was my great grand aunt and my grandad Mark played in the Arlesey football team. I will link up with you in Ancestry via my wife’s A/C (margomcphaden)


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