Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

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Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

Post  Veritee2 on Sat Jan 12, 2008 11:43 am

These recollections were prompted by another ex-resident asking me if I was in the new building - i.e the old nurses home - or the old building that featured on the 1970s TV documentary about the Henderson ( if anyone has a copy of that documentary I would really love to see it again)
I am sorry if they are rambling but it was over 30 years ago for me so my memories come in fits and starts

It was indeed in the old building in 1975/76, that I was in which then housed the Henderson.

The building was, I believe, originally a separate unit of the Belmont Psychiatric Hospital that although separate from the main building was built at the same time as Belmont. Which meant that by the time I was there it was outdated, in need of a huge amount of money spent on it and very uncomfortable, very primitive really as a place to live, even by the standards of the mid 1970s.

When I was at the Henderson the old Belmont mental institution was still standing right next to us ( we used to call old type hospitals like this that many of us had the misfortune previously been to before the Henderson 'bins' i.e the loony bins for what society considered the rubbish - and that by our own definition was us!!!.

Not only were we mostly all people who even as young as most of us were, had been in-patients in theses horrible institutions we were not by then even considered 'good enough' for them. As with a diagnosis of personality disorder ( then called psychopaths or sociopaths then ) we were at that time considered 'bad not mad' so no longer even qualified for treatment in theses horrible institutions and mostly had been thrown out of them too as untreatable!!

At that time many of those old mental illness institutions, built on the outskirts of cities and towns to keep the 'loonies' from being near to the 'respectable' people of the towns and cities were still functioning - they were formally called Asylums and in the 70s were still commonly referred to as such.

I think Belmont had been closed not long before I was at the Henderson.

The similar hospital I had been a patient in only a few years before, Park Prewett in Hampshire was still then functioning as a psychiatric Hospital and continued to do so until 2003:

But anyway I guess my recollections of being 'unfortunately' an in-patient of the horrible old mental Health system pre 1972 when I was only 17 is another story maybe for another time.

However the Belmont Hospital Building, when I was at the Henderson, was deserted and derelict and the Henderson was right next door but slightly removed and the then modern nursing home building to the right as you looked at the old Henderson building - this was the nursing home that later became the Henderson.

The nursing home was probably built in the 60s and as I was at the Henderson in 1975/76 it was then a comparatively new building.
But this was used by the nursing staff of the Henderson and we residents were not 'allowed' to go inside it or even to its doors. If we needed staff and they were there we were not allowed to call on them and in an emergency only knock politely on the door of the nursing home building

But the old Belmont hospital still being there and in a state of decay and the residents of the Henderson being housed in an equally decayed old wing of the Belmont gave the whole experience a depressing and degrading atmosphere. We knew we were not actually patients in an old Asylum but the conditions we had were probably worse than when the Belmont Asylum was still functioning. As then it was well maintained.

At this time our old Belmont building was not well maintained. Most routine maintenance was done by the residents although materials were supplied. The heating was inadequate the walls and structure peeling and damp and really it was not fit for habitation.

A result I guess of the way the Henderson has never been properly politically and financially supported and has always had to fight for funds to continue to exist? - and indeed even in Maxwell Jones time has always been prey to cuts; has had to fight to keep its funding and has always been under threat of closure. I vaguely recall it was threatened with closure yet again when I was there or just after, but I believe the solution found was to move to the old nurses home?

I have often wondered what would have become of the Henderson if it had not been 'allowed' to take over the old nursing home? As I am sure the Henderson would never have got the funds it would need to build a purpose built building - something that really should have happened then - and may never happen now!

Yet at the time we Henderson residents took pride in maintaining it as well as we could and making it as habitable as we could - it was all we had.
And in addition many of the residents at that time were men ( women were far fewer then) and many would often would 'act out' by damaging the fabric of the building, kicking through walls, smashing windows, whatever. So a lot of our daytime groups were devoted to building skills, wood work etc to repair the results of such 'acting out ' and try top keep on top of the deteriorating building.

But the presence of the derelict Belmont asylum did put a depressing and degrading atmosphere on to our stay. It did add to our feeling we were not deserving of better accommodation and even though for most the Henderson was the best and most caring place most of us had been to so far, that our accommodation was so bad did add to the feeling that we were the dregs, the unwanted of society - or it did for me anyway.

The Belmont building was also very foreboding and to go to the local shop or the pub we had to walk past that whole decaying building with its connotations of pain and anguish that had once gone on in it.

But in a way it also added to our sense of drama and our image of ourselves as different. We residents used to utilise the gardens of Belmont. For privacy, sex and other activities. One resident at the time - a very calm, 'hippy' man as I recall, kept a 'secret' garden in the old Belmont grounds. But no wonder he was so calm as his garden consisted almost entirely of cannabis plants in an old court yard. So he was very calm as he probably was stoned!!

It was the very hot summer of 1976 when I was there and his dope plants flourished. I was not let into the secret until I had been at the Henderson for many months as I was then trying so hard to be 'good' and make the most of the opportnity the Henderson offerered I think it was feared I would report his garden. But he was doing no harm - except perhaps to himself and I only found out about when he was soon to leave, so I kept stum.

A few of us would also sometimes have erie nights camping out in the old hospital wards and rooms by candle light - after top three had been round - to scare ourselves - as there was no security - but again this is another story.

To be continued:

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Bed spaces

Post  Veritee2 on Sat Jan 12, 2008 12:03 pm

Bed Spaces

The Bed Space we had marked how well we were doing at the Henderson and the status we had in the community

I do not know if this was by accident or design. I think by accident as it the accommodation conditions of the old building we were in were so antiquated and bad I guess made it necessary if the ethos of the therapeutic community was to be upheld to find a way for residents to have their own space and to improve there immediate living conditions.

So somewhere along the line, before I went there, the idea of allowing residents to divide their large male and female 'wards' into more private and personal spaces came about. But there was no money to allow this to be done properly so a system evolved whereby fire retardant light building materials were supplied and residents had to construct their own personal spaces around their beds. I am sure this was never planned? but it evolved and was effective and became part of the therapy and rewards of the Henderson at that time, I found it was a very effective tool for me to encourage privileges and thus cooperation and learning to live within the boundaries of the community.

I guess this is what a therapeutic community does. Uses every situation - even sub-standard accommodation - as part of the learning curve and part of the therapy. This ability for a TC to use everything and adjust and evolve I think is what makes it such an efective and useful tool to help people become a person again ( using a Karl Rogers analogy)

As said above when I was at the Henderson in 1975/76 we were in the old building and the younger staff who did not have their own home occupied the nurses home. In fact it was the only big division that I -and I think others- felt between some of the younger 'staff' on placement at the Henderson - then often mental health and social work students from Scandinavia and America - it felt divisive that they went home to sleep in that 'nice' nurses home building and we had to live, sleep and function is a very old, drafty and run down ex- side unit of the old Belmont hospital which had by that point closed down, so our building was almost unlivable and sub-standard in many ways.

Living at the Henderson was then in every way very primitive and almost tribal/survival as we had to construct our own 'bed spaces' out of hardboard and anything else we could lay our hands on both supplied by the Henderson and foraged for. It seemed important to do this so we had privacy and a space of our own and not just a bed in a drafty psyche ward built at least 100 years before and never improved.

There was great competition to have the best, most luxurious or the most interesting or different bed space. And the warmest - our building was very cold with no central heating that worked well, those that could afford it bought electric fires and hid them, so it must have been a real fire risk !

Many had elaborate doors and 'fittings' in their Bed Spaces made in the wood workshop and other 'decorations including murals and art work done by the occupier'. Some bed spaces were works of art ,some bizarre, some very messy, some dirty. But at least they were our own and while we were told by the community to clean them up if our space got out of hand, mostly they were ours to do what we wanted to.

But there was no privacy unless you had achieved he great heights of having a single room. As we constructed our Bed Spaces of fire proof but flimsy hardboard. So they were not soundproof at all. Everything you did in your bed space was common knowledge to the whole community.

In fact the privileges around bed spaces were a big part of the therapy and the way you moved up through the Henderson 'ranks'.

When you first arrived, if female, you were allocated either a bed in the corner of the main women's ward with no 'bed space' around it and thus no privacy or a stripped down bed space with no frills that someone had vacated early as they had not stayed the full course - or it was empty because the occupier had moved up the ranks and qualified for a better position for their bed space or even got to the higher level of having a space in the smaller woman's ward which only contained three bed spaces. Or you had reached the heights of 'top three' so you had one of the few single rooms available.

Women were a lot better off than the men as for the men there was only one huge 'ward' with many bed spaces in and about two small single side rooms for those who had earned that privilege. But the women had two or three ( my memory is not good but I think it was 3) smaller 'wards' with bed spaces, one with about 6 to 10 bed spaces in it and a couple with only 3 to 4 depending on numbers resident at the time, and about 4 single rooms which you had to earn the right to occupy.

At that time there were always a lot more men as residents than women - I believe in recent years it is the other way around?

Even within the 'wards' there were positions for 'bed spaces' which were better than others i.e those situated in corners where at least two walls were the outside wall of the ward so you only needed hardboard to make two other walls and thus you were more soundproofed and private.

Basically you had to earn your right to a better bed space or a single room and if your behavior deteriorated you could always be demoted to a lesser bed space or lose your single room.

This was very important to me as I really need my own space, so this alone made me try very hard to learn and behave well and be supportive to others. It was very primitive and it felt we were living on a survival level and I would say, tribal.

I eventually made 'top three' and at first was secretary but then became the main one ( the name of which I now forget) and remained this until I left and at that time I believe I was the person who had held this position for the longest in that recent Henderson history - I was one of the top three for about 4/5 months as far as I recall. And of course this also meant I had a room of my own for all of this time - for which I was truly grateful. As a space of my own, was and still is, essential for my sanity.

I was also granted a privilege that few then ever got as I was 'allowed' after I became top three to bring my own transport to the Henderson. I was a biker and had a motor bike that I was allowed to bring to the Henderson as long as it was properly taxed and insured, which it was. So I was one of the very few who had their own transport and towards the end could lead a more 'normal ' life, going out for a few hours in the evenings to visit friends in South London on my bike before coming back to do the rounds as 'top three'

There was another resident when I first got there who had transport. He had a car but was not supposed to so 'hid' it elsewhere. In the early days of my Henderson stay I was in a relationship with him and we and two others 'escaped' for a while in his car. We had no money for petrol so siphoned it from any cars we found with no petrol lock and travelled hundreds of miles all over the country but eventually went to Brighton and lived in the car. I do not know how long we were away, it felt like weeks but it was probably only days. The police were sent to look for us but we eventually decided to come back on our own as we realized that none of us could function 'outside' at the time.
But of course when we arrived back we lost all our privileges ( bed spaces etc) and had to start from the bottom again

I hope any who read this do not mind me telling you of theses things. Being able to talk to those who may have some understanding of what it may have been like is really useful to me . As I had forgotten even about bed spaces until another ex- resident - or ressie as she calls it - said she had seen the 1970s film while she was there, where they were mentioned and I have never really been able to describe it to anyone, not even my husband who I have been with for over 25 years. It seems now truly like another world, which indeed for me now - it was!

I may post this elsewhere or use it for the Oral History Society's 2008 Annual Conference. It will be held in Birmingham
(UK) on July 4-5, and is entitled "WHO CARED? ORAL HISTORY, CARING, HEALTH AND ILLNESS" presentation we are compiling .

Are any of you a member of the Henderson closure Oral History group? - if not do you want to have an invite to join as I am sure your recollections would be very valuable too

Veritee XX

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Re: Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

Post  Karl on Sat Jan 12, 2008 1:58 pm

Thanks for posting Veritee,

I really enjoyed reading you posts, it reminds me of things I had since forgot.
When I arrived at The Hendo for admission, I was in trouble right from the off for drive there in my car which I had parked right outside. I was asked to hand the keys to staff until the next morning after the morning meeting where I and my car would be discussed. I explained to everyone that the letter I received said "We advise residents not to bring their motor vehicles to The Henderson" so as they were not banned, I had to park the car away from Homeland Drive and with that I parked the car behind Belmont’s high street.

I was also "Top 3" for either two or three months. By the time I was at The Henderson (1990) we were in the nurse’s home. We all had our own rooms so there was no competing in that respect. It was a great job to have but at times it could be very heavy going. However, the first job I had at The Hendo was the milkman, I had to go to The Belmont building, early enough so other weren’t up with my hand cart in tow to the daily milk and bread.

The worst job I had there was taking the minutes from 10s (The last scheduled group of the day, at 10pm) When I went to The Henderson, I was semi illiterate. I could not write quickly enough to keep up with the group and had terrible issues when it came to reading in public. Someone kindly offered to write the minutes of the meeting but only if I would read them out to the community in the morning meeting. I agreed but I was far from looking forward to it. I stayed up most of the night reading and re-reading the minutes over and over until I had learnt them, word for word. I remember sitting in the meeting, trying to read out the minutes, crying like a baby, tears pouring down my face and sounding like a darlek with an enormous stutter. That was one of the hardest issues I had to overcome during my stay. I kept myself busy with different jobs to avoid the possibility of ever having to read those minutes ever again.

Did they offer Psychodrama when you were there? This group was the biggest shock I got in my stay. Tuesday afternoon is admission and Wednesday afternoon, 2 hours of psychodrama. At this point, I wondered if I would ever be able to cope with life at The Henderson. Watching someone work on stage, acting out something from their past can be very graphic and very hard viewing. The role play would bounce backwards and forwards, until the resident is content with the outcome. Then the events would be discussed in the after group that immediately followed after the resident had finished working. Reports were made on the group in the next morning meeting.

All that sparked by reading your post, that’s “Hendo Magic”


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Post  Veritee2 on Sat Jan 12, 2008 4:08 pm

God your post also reminds me of so much I had forgotten.

Did you keep your car while at the Henderson and use it? it seemed to be something you were just not allowed to do - i.e have your own vehicle at the Henderson and use it) yet if you had a car or other vehicle and it was legal - why should you not use it? - Henderson resident or not?

Being a resident of the Henderson did take away your basic rights at times didn't it? And often in a way that was not up front, honest and explicit but because you were 'discouraged' from things - for example such as using your own vehicle - yet really as we were all voluntary ( patients) residents this should have not been an issue!

Yet it also did so much good and for so many of us. Juggling the good/positives the Henderson did for me (which were overwhelming ) with the basic rights it also denied me while I was there is a constant theme for me that I do struggle with.

I am so sorry about your difficulties with reading the minutes - I do relate as while I may seem to be literate now - as do you - but I have to spell check everything several times before I dare post it! And I as very moved at your description of having to read them out in the morning. I can actualy picture it and it seems so cruel now - as I saw things like this happen to people when I was there. But maybe the learning was you then knew what to avoid and how to avoid it - maybe not - sorry I am just speculating. But I am so sorry you had to go through this.

I do understand a little as then I was struggling with dyslexia that I had always had and a belief that I was educationally 'sub normal' as I had been told since early childhood this was the case. So my heart goes out to you re 10s and the minutes - it really does. I will probably tell you about this sometime.

But I thought I would talk about psychodrama for now.

When I was there we had Psychodrama.

At that time it was not offered 'in house' by Henderson staff but by a community project called Interaction.

It was, when I was at the Henderson, a fairly new development offered by an organisation in Camden, London called 'Interaction' The Director ( Stuart Whiteley) and others of the Henderson at the time seemed not to be sure sure it was a good idea as it was not an area they were familiar with and it did not operate on the same 'rules' as the usual Henderson TC groups.

Interaction would turn up every Wednesday afternoon to do it. It was a breath of fresh air for me as they were people from the 'outside' who were not at all ordinary or straight - people with strange coloured hair, pink, green, blue, with colourful clothes very unusual for that time - yet they were all seemingly functioning in some way within society, or at least functioning enough not to need mental health treatment. It gave me hope that I could one day be like this too? if I could not be 'normal' there might yet be a place for me in a community like this?

They were led by a hugely ( and wonderful but very frightening) charismic man called ED Berman.

He founded this organisation called 'Interaction' which was totally ground breaking at that time. Both a youth and community project and a commune of people living together and using Psychodrama to work with many diverse communities and organizations.

All I remember clearly about his appearance and demeanor was that he was VERY American and that he was much older than those he brought with him - they were mostly 20 to 30 he must have been near 50 - and he was wonderful - in that he was a person you would never forget and he held it all together by his sheer strength of will at times.

It was for me a breath of fresh air - to express what was going on for me and others in a way that was not endless talking or acting out - but through drama.

I do not know how you found Psychodrama but for me is was so useful to be able to express myself like this and 'interact' with others in a different way.

Later when a youth worker myself in the 80s I attended training courses in Psychodrama and what Ed Berman called 'interaction games' at Interaction in Camden myself. For a time Ed berman and the project Interaction was a really powerful force in community and Youth work in London. - yet memories that Interaction and Ed even existed seems to have vanished without a trace - except in my memory.

At the time - Henderson and post Henderson when I came across Ed and Interaction again as a youth and community worker myself - I felt that Ed berman was a person who was so charismatic he would never be forgotten.
As well as forming 'Interaction - a really groundbreaking community project for that time - he just had such a powerful personality .

And many of the games and Psychodrama exercises he 'invented' live on in all 'people/caring' work even today. I have since often been asked to participate in a 'game' or role play or drama scenario in a group work or residential situation and recognised the original to be from Ed Berman's original inventions.

Yet he has been forgotten - and so surprisingly has his project Interaction.

Over the years I have searched for references on Ed Berman and Interaction on the Internet and elsewhere but can find none.

Yet I really believe that Psychodrama would never have been used at the Henderson. And if it was not for him and the games, role plays and Psychodrama that is so commonly used now in mental health, community and youth work, may not take place.

As he may as an American have taken what he used here in the UK from the US, but to us in the UK it was then so new and it was he and his team going round to the Henderson and other places that made this sort of thing more mainstream in the UK ( at that time - mid 70s to mid 80s he took it to many other places, youth projects, community projects, mainstream psychiatric units, children's homes, whoever would have them and all over the country - I even had 'Interaction' come to the youth project I ran in west London in the mid 80s )

Yet he ' Ed Berman' is not remembered

If anyone was to make an lasting impact on this world I thought it was him!
Sorry I am rambling on about Ed Berman!!

Your posts spark so many memories for me

I hope others will find this forum and it will be helpful for them to join in



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Re: Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

Post  Karl on Sat Jan 12, 2008 4:36 pm


Yes I manage to keep the car, mainly because of my will to do so but there had to be enough distance that could be used as a buffer “Cooling off period” so I would not use it to act out (By this time in my life I had used the car enough already) I remember taking a few of us to Brighton for the day, which was a scream.


We were encouraged to use Psychodrama as a stage, a stage where we could act scenes from our past. Almost like the past was a ghost and through Psychodrama you could contact your past, a scene from your childhood perhaps. Others from the group would come on stage to help with the role play and support you if needed. You would act out the scene as you remember it. Then re-act it out, making the changes you wish, saying or doing the things you wish to change. Hopefully, be the end of the session, although something distraught, you were able to change your perception of the incident and sometimes cut it loose completely. Psychodrama was one of the most demanding groups in The Henderson but it could also be one of the most productive.

Did you have art Therapy, G&M (Gardening and maintenance) what about common work, did you have that, if so where?


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The Garden

Post  Veritee2 on Sun Jan 13, 2008 2:11 am

When I first got to the Henderson there was at that time no gardening group. There may have been in the past but there was none at the time.

I and a member of staff started the garden and the gardening group - she was a keen gardener and I wish I could remember her name as I really liked her. She was not on placement but a nurse or social worker I think, older that the young ones on placement from Sweden etc, English anyway and lived nearby, out side of the Henderson, not in the nursing home. Her name could have been Jan or Ann.

In the spring of 1976, she asked if there were any residents who were interested in starting a gardening group and a garden which was ultimately situated behind the nursing home.
So I was part of starting what was the first 'official' Henderson veg garden - at least the first one for a few years!

Some others did join in at times but I was really the only person who wanted to do it consistently that year and stuck with it for the rest of time I was there. My interest stemmed from my only happy time of my childhood spent with my father being the time I spent with my Dad on his allotments around 1964 to 67 when we lived in a small village in Hampshire - Kingsclere. He was at that time a keen gardener and president of the local gardening society - and I really enjoyed my childhood days on the allotment growing veg for the table and for the autumn gardening show - my internal life was even by that age, totally chaotic, but I found in the garden in the summer, a stillness I did not feel anywhere else. Amongst the flowers, vegetables, insects and bees I was nearly happy at times. My Dad kept 3 Bee hives in the allotment as his other hobby was bee keeping so the constant buzz was so comforting and almost hypnotic - some of my inner turmoil was stilled if only for a few hours but it was such welcome relief - so I welcomed a chance to garden again.

In the spring mainly me and this one member of staff dug and dug to make a garden - it was very hard work - and then planted it up with many different types of veg.

The spring was already turning out to be unusually hot and fine and indeed the summer of 1976 went on to be the hottest summer on record at that time with droughts and water restrictions and so hot at times that some of us took our mattresses outside to sleep in the grounds, as it was so hot it was impossible to sleep inside even in that drafty old building. Sometimes I slept next to my garden.

Because we were a hospital so we did not have our water cut off like some ordinary households did at that time, but we were not allowed to use hoses on the garden. So keeping the garden alive became almost a full time job for a couple of months that summer, and it was me out of the residents that mostly did this.

I had to use bathwater and washing up water carried out in buckets and watering cans. And as the garden was quite a way from the building the Henderson was then in, as it was round the back of the nurses home. It was a heavy and constant task to take water to the garden. The member of staff also watered the garden from water from the nurses home.

But our hard work was rewarded when because of the hot summer we had a bumper crop of everything. I had rows and rows tomatoes growing outdoors in quantities that would never happen outside in a normal year, and all sorts of other vegetables.

It made me feel great when other residents started to ask if thre was anything in the garden to cook up for a snack or to add to our evening meal. It was then I first started to feel worthwhile and useful, a new experience for me.

This brings me to remember food and cooking at the Henderson, as this was a real issue for me.

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Post  Veritee2 on Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:15 am

We did not cook all our meals for ourselves at the Henderson at that time - something I always felt was wrong really.

As across the courtyard behind our building was an old Belmont kitchen and cooks were still employed to cook breakfast and lunch for the residents. However for the evening meal only the ingredients were supplied and we were on rotas to cook the evening meal and on rotas to serve the others.

The food was actually pretty bad or rather the usual over stewed hospital food of the time.

For breakfast there would be thick porridge, scrambled eggs and bacon or sausages with tinned tomatoes etc - cheese on toast with tomatoes and beans if vegetarian - and the people of rota would have to cook the toast and sometimes the tin of tomatoes and beans and serve and wash up.

Lunch was the usual stews and typical stodgy hospital food and we often felt unhealthy due to the food.

But me more than most as I have a food intolerance to milk, cheese, yogurt and anything with whey in it. But I was not at that time aware of exactly what was making me ill and for a while before the Henderson I had been vegan. Not out of any principles, but since I had lived in a vegan and macrobiotic squat briefly, I had found without knowing why, that eating only rice, pulses, beans and vegetables with no dairy products kept me symptom free.

But at the Henderson it was impossible to be vegan and eat stuff that did not make me ill as the food supplied by the kitchen only allowed for being vegetarian and not vegan. The staff also discouraged diets like vegan as it was seen as a part of an eating disorder and not your choice or because you were food intolerant

At that time food intolerance was hardly ever accepted or understood by anyone and while it is now and I have long since been properly diagnosed and have been symptom free for many many years. But then I could get no help for this from anyone. I had been intolerant from the time I was weaned ( I was fine with breast milk and I was breast fed until then) but while my mother always thought I was affected by the food I ate she could not work out exactly what and the doctors of the time not knowing much about this intolerance put my throwing up and diarrhoea as a baby, failure to put on weight and crying a lot to my being a finicky and restless baby.

This was even though my elder step brother is milk intolerant too, but he is not my mothers child and my father always put theses things down to us being ‘difficult. One of my brothers children is too but she had not been born when I was at the Henderson.

However their symptoms are less intrusive as they do not affect their digestion as much as giving them ‘thick chest and sinus mucous’ and other vague respiratory symptoms and a muzzy head. I do not think it coincidence that this niece is now a doctor currently doing a PHD in respiratory illnesses!!

And as I did not actually have an eating disorder and was always hungry and wanted and needed to eat at first I tried to go on their vegetarian diet, which unfortunately made me very ill and exasperated my symptoms hugely.

I did not realise that a normal vegetarian hospital diet was the worst thing I could eat as it contained lots of milk and cheese.

Later I started to eat meat and less cheese and my symptoms did improve a little, thankfully

But even then sometimes I could not avoid theses things as often everything in a meal – even a meat one - contained either cheese or milk i.e. lots of lasagna and other pasta with meat and cheese, and quiches were served.
So if I had not ate it I would have to go hungry. And I remember for some reason always being hungry at the Henderson when I was not sick, yet because of my intolerance never putting on weight as I had such a bad stomach most of the time.

I would often have nasty stomach cramps diarrhea and feel horribly sick, a muzzy head and feel spaced out, or be sick and sometimes so bad especially in the mornings after I had ate theses things the day before, that I could not leave the vicinity of a toilet safely for hours and when like this sometimes tried to miss groups or was late.

But because I had did have a phobia about being sick - vomiting/emetophobia – which stemmed from my always being so sick since a toddler - this was thought to be my way of acting out or evidence of an eating disorder!

So when I was stuck on or near the toilet during the big morning group, it would be put down to my trying to avoid some emotional feelings that the group may trigger so I was brought then to the morning group and then afterwards had the mid morning small group devote some of its energies to what I 'might' be trying to avoid this time!!

This was a bit unfortunate but I did not complain much at the time,… I did occasionally try to say that I did not think it was that and that if felt like there was an physical reason for my stomach problems and it may be diet. But the psychologists, psychiatrists and residents were convinced that as the doctors had examined me and found me healthy that this was my way of acting out.

I had to believe them as I had no evidence of anything else and this was what I had always been told, by my family and various psychiatrists and therapists, and especially my father. So I accepted it was and tried to ‘cure’ this symptom by going along with this and trying to change anything underling that might be causing this acting out through being ill!

This was not all bad because I was one of the few people at the Henderson at the time who did not self harm or damage the fabric of the building (although I did end up doing this once or twice for the first time in my life at the Henderson in complete frustration and also because I could never have self harmed and attacking the fabric of the building - seemed to me at the time - to be a way of acting out that did not involve self harm ( which I could not do) or threaten anyone else.

So by focusing on my sickness as being a form of acting out I got more legitimate attention from the community than I would have otherwise got.
So in a way it did not matter that the premise behind this attention was so totally wrong – at least I got the focus and attention I needed.

But I would like the opportunity to tell Stuart Whitely and Ken Nuttall, that their assumptions about my stomach problem was totally wrong! But then again despite this I owe my life or at least the quality of my life to them and the other staff and residents so I would also like to be able to tell them this too.

Does anyone know if they are still alive? They were I think both near retirement age in 1976 so they may not be?

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Post  Veritee2 on Sun Jan 13, 2008 4:30 am

Breakfast and lunch was supplied by the kitchen with residents on a rota to make toast, butter bread, heat up extra limited ingredients supplied, such as tinned beans and tinned tomatoes, etc serve and wash up.

The two meals were delivered in the usual heated hospital trolley, not plated up, but in big stainless containers of food that the breakfast and lunch rota had to serve up and then wash up.

Everyone ate this food. All staff that were on duty at the time it was served including the then ‘director’ Stuart Whiteley and deputy Ken Nutall and the 'chief nurse', who stood in line with the rest of us on most days to get a plate of food.
However the staff rarely if at all helped prepare or serve it!! Sometimes the younger placement students would help if we were running behind but certainly not the director etc and any 'higher up' staff.

When I was there I thought of everything in the Henderson being so equal, staff and residents, and that we worked together according to our skills and knowledge, and all contributed to every task in the place. But looking back I can see that this was not entirely true - the staff generally did not do any cleaning either not even of public rooms.

So it just seemed like this for me as someone used to a despotic father, institutional life or a life on the streets or in squats whereby I was the lowest of the low with no equality at all. So for me then the fact the staff ate with us and spoke to us in groups and outside of groups as people, was just amazing - but perhaps not as equal as I thought then?

But it would be too idealistic and impractical to really think that it would be.

Sorry if this 'chief nurse' reads this - unlikey but just in case - but I have forgotten your name, and can not really remember you proper title. Yet I do remember you well as you were very helpful and kind to me. The fact I have forgotten your name is not a product of who I am now, as women and my relationships with women now are generally more important than those with men – except with my lovely husband of course.

But at the time I was very male authority orientated – in that it was men in authority or power over me that I wanted to be approved of by and who I remembered. My memory has always been bad since I had Deep Sleep Treatment a few years before and especially at that time.

So now I only remember the names ‘Stuart Whiteley and Ken Nutall’ I do not even remember the names of most of the residents I was there with even though they were important to me or any of the other staff even though I met one male staff after I left the Henderson socially, I do not even remember his name now!

I do remember 'Alan' a resident I had a relationship with who visited my family with me and our relationship continued a little after he left the Henderson before I did and he went to a Farm Theraputic Community - I think in Godalming, Surrey ( I wish I could remember its name) as I visited him there on my motorbike after I he left.
If you are out there somewhere Alan , I hope you are doing OK and - thanks - you will know what I mean!

Might have been this one: but if so as it now only takes children it must have changed its age group, as Alan was in his 20s

Back to cooking

The evening meal was different as we were only given the ingredients and we were on rotas to cook the ingredients for all the residents and the staff on evening duty.

This gave us a bit more lea-way to be creative and I like to cook. I have passed this on as my daughter is a trained chef who loves cooking and has worked in restaurants since she was 15 and is going on a degree in this area next year.

I also did the veg garden that year so when I could I incorporated the home grown garden veg into the evening meal when I was on the rota.

The funniest situation I remember was that while normally we would get ordinary ingredients – but often quite basic i.e even unplucked chickens on a few occasions that we had to prepare.

But one evening – I think it was over a weekend - when I was on the cooking rota the ingredients consisted of carrots, potatoes and turnip and two recently killed rabbits with their entire coat on and shot in them!!

Yes I know that this sounds unbelievable now – but I am not making it up or misremembering it – this really did happen.

I do not know why we got these rabbits for our tea – I was very compliant at the time and I certainly did not think to ask!! Maybe they came from a well wisher!

But that is what we had.

Luckily I was on rota with a man who was used to cooking on a budget – things like entire rabbits were not actually as unusual as they would be now to have as an ingredient for a meal, my family in the 60s and 70s often ate things like this – but it was just unusual for the Henderson.

So we set about skinning them and making rabbit stew!!

Of course it took a lot longer than a usual meal might and the community did not eat until very late.
But it was such and achievement – as we managed it!
There was fur and skin everywhere and of course we had to do a separate vegetarian stew too.
But it tasted OK and while there was some shot in the stew it was on the whole a success.

But if anyone there at the time could enlighten me as to why we had un-skinned rabbits supplied for tea – I would be truly grateful!

Last edited by on Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:08 pm; edited 1 time in total


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Re: Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

Post  Veritee2 on Sun Jan 13, 2008 11:43 am

Sorry about dribbling on about my Henderson stay on your forum Karl
Just trying to organise and process my thoughts and memories for the Oral History presentation and document it before I forget it again.

I do not expect any replies- just hope no one minds that's all?


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Re: Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

Post  Karl on Sun Jan 13, 2008 12:12 pm

That's no problem at all, sorry to be short here but I'm off to work for the night Smile


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Sorry I have not been around - an update

Post  Veritee2 on Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:49 am

Sorry I have not been around - but my thoughts are still with you all.

I have not been around as at the same time as the campaign to save the Henderson started my husband of over 20 years became very ill, he was in and out of hospital, was in fear of death and no one knew what was wrong .

At the same time I was very unwell too and while not as bad as him I felt terrible and could not find a reason for my illness either?

It turns out that my life has had yet another twist as my husband who was a seaman for over 27 years had unknown to me - or him - picked up HIV on his travels and now had AIDs and given it to me too! see my blog if you are interested:

Ironic really ...............
That after the Henderson my life was completely turned around, I have never touched drugs or been promiscuous from the day I left the Henderson to this, or had any self destruct behavior or lifestyle.
Perhaps you can be too complacent??

I also trained as a youth worker and teacher, worked in this for over 30 years and other caring initiatives and married a man that has never had a moments mental health or other life problems and was as stable and OK in this way as you could ever hope to be.................

And lived for so long in what was for me a completely different and stable world

Then just as the Henderson campaign took off, and at 55 years old - I had this new bomb shell!!!!

That my faithful and wonderful husband had been unfaithful briefly several years before and acquired HIV and now had AIDs and had passed it to me.

I guess some peoples lives are just never meant to be easy?? well mine wasn't

If you are on facebook my profile can be found here:

I hope to follow this group more in future and hope you will understand why I have not been around
But will be more now

Veritee XX


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Re: Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

Post  Karl on Wed Oct 29, 2008 6:13 pm

Life can be so cruel
Given what’s been going off for you in your life, I’m not at all surprised you haven’t been around. I can’t imagine what you both are going through, it must be tortcher. My thoughts are with you.

As far as the campaign goes, there have been a few workshops in the last month or so. These are to discuss and brainstorm what is wanted from the public consultation, which is due to start in 2009. I will be updating the forum, as soon as I have the ok on the info


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Re: Asylums, Belmont and Bed Spaces - recollections of Henderson

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