Broadmoor Hospital

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Broadmoor Hospital
Opened 1863
Current Status Active
Building Style Echelon Plan
Architect(s) Joshua Jebb
Location Crowthorne
Alternate Names
  • Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum


The Criminal Lunatic Asylums Act of 1860 primarily focused on the assessment of the mentally ill patient, in the attempt to define whether criminals were of sound mind at the time of their crime. The act clarified the legal test of insanity, named the M’Naghten Rules, and had the eventual aim of improving the accuracy of the justice system and the quality of life inside the asylums of the time, including the notorious Bedlam.

In light of the new act, the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum was designed by Major General Joshua Jebb, and opened its doors to patients in May 1863. An influx of women arrived at the hospital, many of whom had murdered their babies, due to what we now know as post-natal depression. This is the era before psycho-surgery and medication, and the patients were subjected to daily doses of Occupational Therapy and rest. The surprisingly pleasant treatments resulted in patients flourishing in their new surroundings and demonstrated a new wave of psychiatry. During World War I, the patients residing in block one were removed, making room for a prisoner-of-war camp. Entitled: Crowthorne War Hospital, the block was now specifically for the German soldiers who were deemed ‘mentally unstable.’

Due to overcrowding at Broadmoor, a branch asylum was constructed at Rampton Secure Hospital and opened in 1912. Rampton was closed as a branch asylum at the end of 1919 and reopened as an institution for mental defectives rather than lunatics. During World War I Broadmoor's block 1 was also used as a prisoner-of-war camp, called Crowthorne War Hospital, for mentally ill German soldiers.

After the escape and the murder of a local child in 1952 by John Straffen the hospital set up an alarm system, which is activated to alert people in the vicinity, including those in the surrounding towns of Sandhurst, Wokingham, Bracknell and Bagshot, when any potentially dangerous patient escapes. It is based on World War II air-raid sirens, and a two-tone alarm sounds across the whole area in the event of an escape. It is tested every Monday morning at 10 am for two minutes, after which a single tone 'all-clear' is sounded for a further two minutes. All schools in the area must keep procedures designed to ensure that in the event of a Broadmoor escape no child is ever out of the direct supervision of a member of staff. Sirens are located at Sandhurst School, Wellington College, Bracknell Forest council depot and other sites. As well as providing patient care Broadmoor is a centre for training and research.

Following the Peter Fallon QC inquiry into Ashworth Special Hospital, which reported in 1999 and found, amongst other things, serious concerns about security and abuses that came about from poor management, it was decided to review the security at all three special hospitals. Until this time each special hospital was responsible for maintaining its own security policies.

The NHS is now in control of Broadmoor Hospital, and is keen to demonstrate that it is a high-security psychiatric hospital, not a prison. It holds approximately 230 male patients, all of whom are detained under the Mental Health Act. Broadmoor is split into two main sections, one of the patients who are diagnosed with a personality disorder, and the other for all other mental illnesses. The Care Quality Commission pays often, unexpected, visits to the hospital to ensure the patients’ treatment, security and care is to the highest possible standard.



  • The following hour and thirty minute ITV documentary, entitled "Broadmoor," on the high security Broadmoor Hospital was shot over the course of a year. The film crew was given unprecedented access throughout the facility and was able to film areas and people previous documentary crews were not allowed to.