When they were built by the London County Council from 1898 to 1922, Epsom’s five psychiatric and epileptic hospitals well outside London. While the train link linking the town to the metropolis opened in 1847, Epsom was still considered rural with all the benefits of country air and gentile Surrey ways of life. A train ticket from East London – where most of the patients had originated – was expensive and taking time of work to commute out of the city was not something the ordinary working person might be able to do often (if at all).
Therefore, while many patients arrived in Epsom – and never left, and never saw family members again – this might not necessarily be because they were abandoned by their loved ones. Nevertheless, it is historically important to note when patients were visited by family members, sometimes repeatedly, the time, effort and expense of such visitations speaks volumes about the importance of such contact and continued emotional connections for both parties.
Our researchers have therefore drawn extensively upon the Manor hospital visitor books, not only to confirm genealogical details around their research but also to think historically about the relational network that surrounded a person and was severed, to some extent, by their removal to these institutions in Surrey.