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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 14:49 UK
The history of Broadmoor Hospital
An 1950s photograph of Broadmoor
Broadmoor was built in 1863, as a criminal lunatic asylum

Broadmoor has housed some of Britain's most notorious criminals in its 146-year history.

It was built after the creation of the Criminal Lunatics Act 1860, also called the Broadmoor Act.

It drew attention to the poor conditions in asylums such as Bethlehem Hospital or 'Bedlam'.

The Broadmoor criminal lunatic asylum was opened in 1863 with 95 female patients. A block for male patients followed a year later.

The asylum was intended for the "safe custody and treatment" of the criminally insane.

The new Broadmoor site covered 290 acres on the edge of the Berkshire moors and was designed by Major General Joshua Jebb, a military engineer.

Occupational Therapy

When Broadmoor first opened in the Victorian age, there were none of the drugs or psychological treatments we are familiar with today.

Victorian patients enjoyed a regime of rest and occupational therapy.

Many people who found themselves in Broadmoor enjoyed better conditions than at their own homes.

Staff at Broadmoor hospital in 1885
The Broadmoor site initially included 57 staff cottages and a school

Berkshire Records Office archivist Mark Stevens said: "Every story in Broadmoor has a very sad beginning. Happily some of them have a happy ending"

"Our Broadmoor records show patients taking part in Victorian occupational therapy."

"For example Richard Dadd painted and William Chester Minor is well known for his work on the Oxford English Dictionary."

Famous inmates

Other colourful inmates include Thomas Cutbush, who was detained at Broadmoor between 1891 and 1903. Cutbush was named as a Ripper suspect by the Sun newspaper, first on 13 February 1894 and then subsequently in later editions.

'Ripperologists' as they are dubbed by Mark Stevens, flock to the Broadmoor archives to see Cutbush's warrant sending him to Broadmoor after he was found insane at his trial.

Artist Richard Dadd continued to produce celebrated paintings while a patient in Broadmooor in the 1800s.

Robert Maclean's attempted assasination of Queen Victoria
Roderick Maclean was tried for high treason in 1882

One of the more famous patients at the institution was Roderick Maclean, who carried out a failed attempt to assassinate Queen Victoria at Windsor railway station in 1882.

Tried for high treason on April 20 the same year, the jury only took five minutes to find the Scotsman Maclean "not guilty, but insane".

Maclean lived out his remaining days in Broadmoor Asylum.

A poem was later written about Maclean's attempt on the Queen's life by William Topaz McGonagall, considered by some the worst poet in the English language.

Broadmoor changed from institution to hospital after the 1948 Criminal Justice Act.


In 1952 security was stepped up after a patient, John Straffen, escaped and killed a young girl while he was at large. Now there is a siren at the hospital - if it sounds, local schools and institutions have to lock their doors.

A cordon is also set up around the nearby village of Crowthorne and each car checked by the police.

Richard Dadd, painter
Thomas Cutbush, Jack the Ripper suspect
Roderick MacLean, failed to assassinate Queen Victoria
Dr William Chester Minor, contributor to the first Oxford English Dictionary
Peter Sutcliffe, the 'Yorkshire Ripper'

In recent decades, the hospital's inmates have included Peter Sutcliffe, the 'Yorkshire Ripper' jailed for murdering prostitutes in the north of England in the 1970s.

It also houses some of the country's most serious sex offenders.

Now the psychiatric hospital's Victorian building is expected to be replaced with a multi-purpose facility on the site in Crowthorne, Berkshire.

The Commission for Healthcare Improvement (CHI) described the current hospital accommodation as "unfit for purpose" in 2003.

The new development is expected to cost more than £280m.

Parts of the estate could be sold off to help fund the redevelopment, which is likely to be built on the south east of the existing site.

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17 Jun 09 |  England
'New' Broadmoor gets the go-ahead
21 Sep 09 |  Berkshire
In pictures: The Broadmoor story
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Concern over Broadmoor 'failings'
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