Tooting Bec Asylum

Tooting Bec Asylum was the fourth asylum hospital to be erected by the Metropolitan Asylums Board to supplement the existing institutions at Leavesden, Caterham and Darenth.

Towards the end of C19th the MAB purchased 27 acres of parkland. This site became Tooting Bec Hospital

Foundation stone laid in 1897 and the initial work was completed in 1903 at the cost of £287,542

1 acre = 16 Tennis Courts. Tooting Bec Hospital was 27 acres (= 432 tennis courts). Wembley Stadium is 11 acres (= 176 tennis courts)
1903  £1 = £107.32p. 1903  £287,542 = £30,858,863.67p


It was built mainly for the accommodation of imbecile patients who required infirmary treatment.

A small Receiving Home was built adjacent to the asylum for 36 children

1908 Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded (Minutes of Evidence – House of Commons Database)

Decidedly conflicting opinions but there seemed to be agreement that ‘ the aggregation of feeble-minded children in large numbers would be harmful’

Suitable homes should be provided by the boarding-out system or children should be placed in small voluntary homes

The Board decided to provide care in small homes – 6 were opened (3 for girls and 3 for boys)

These homes were ordinary houses generally indistinguishable from other houses in the locality

Data from 1911 Census Return and Wandsworth Street Directory

Metropolitan Asylums Board Home for Children
81 Earlsfield Road, Wandsworth

Eka Shepherd        (Matron)
Mary-Ann Fenner   (Servant)

Rose,Daisy, Gertrude, Dorothy and Rose – Were attending local school
Ethel, Kate, Louisa and Emily – Not listed as attending education

All the girls between 8-13 years and were listed as feeble-minded.

Home for Defective Little Boys
Surrey House
66 St Ann’s Hill, Wandsworth

Mrs Phoebe Timbrell (House Mother)
For boys aged 13-16.

Some boys ‘half timers’ preparing for transfer to homes for over 16’s All receive elementary instruction in carpentering, tailoring or bootmaking Effort made to develop faculties Allowed to go out for walks unaccompanied


1914 Just before WW1 MAB decided to double accommodation to 2200 Building work ceased in 1916 and resumed in 1919

1924 The Asylum was renamed The Tooting Bec Mental Hospital Hospital used exclusively for patients with senile dementia

1930 Came under the control of LCC

1937 The word ‘Mental’ was dropped from the title 1939 2355 beds

1948 Joined the NHS under control of South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board

1970s Use of Hospital began to decline

1989 Site was put up for sale (for housing)

1995 The Hospital closed and services transferred to St Thomas’s Hospital