The Metropolitan Asylums Board felt there was a need for a school for mentally deficient children

A temporary school at Clapton, north London, was opened in 1875

164 acres were purchased at a site at Darenth, near Dartford

In 1878 the new asylum was opened


In 1880 an adult asylum was opened next door for when the children turned 16

Gradually the adult asylum became workshops for the more able

In 1905 the two institutions combined under one Medical Superintendent

Patients in the adult asylum made, under supervision, items for use by the MAB institutions

Site also contained a farm, and patients helped with any building work


Clear that an honest attempt made to provide good care, appropriate to ability level

Much thought was given to how the industrial colony worked

At the same time, a firm hand was used, and there are hints that some patients felt they were prisoners

Everything was done with a view to being economical (6 pence a day per patient in 1911, £50,000 in all)

Fletcher Beach, the first Medical Superintendent, believed in “pruning” strong interests

“It made them more human… by stopping that, his leading shoot, the boy would sprout in the direction of kindliness and cleanliness

He also believed in measuring skulls, palates and ears to assess the patient … and also in assessing the parents as drunks, depressed, and so on

By the Edwardian period there were 2000 patients, half in the school

Sometimes up to half were epileptics

The genders only mixed in classrooms and in entertainments – even at church they sat on separate sides of the aisle