Tuesday, 16 March 2010

ABC Wednesday I is for Institution

There are two institutions in the village, both well-known though for very different reasons. The first is Wellington College, an independent (fee-paying) educational establishment which was founded in 1859 by Queen Victoria and the Earl of Derby. It was established as a national monument to honour the Duke of Wellington, one of our most distinguished British military leaders.
Wellington College South Front
Photo courtesy of RTPeat and Wikimedia Commons
Initially it was intended as a charitable educational institution mainly for the orphaned sons of army officers. It is now fully co-educational and only a minority of students are sons and daughters of military officers.The College stands in 400 acres of beautiful wooded land within which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, home to many unusual ants and spiders. The building and grounds have been used as film locations. ('Lords of Discipline' (1983), 'Thunderbirds' (2004))

Former students include the impressionist Rory Bremner, author Sebastian Faulks, actor Christopher Lee, writer George Orwell, singer Will Young and the rugby union players James Haskell and brothers Max and Thom Evans.
The governors of the College were responsible for the building of the local railway station. They put pressure on the directors of South Eastern Railway and contributed £500 towards the cost of building the station which was originally named 'Wellington College for Crowthorne.' It became simply 'Crowthorne' in 1928.
Photo courtesy of BBC
Four years later, at the other end of the village, Broadmoor Hospital was founded in 53 acres of land. It used to be known as the 'Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum', then a 'hospital for the criminally insane' and now, more correctly, as a high-security psychiatric hospital. It ceased to serve women in 2007 and now caters solely for men. Most of the patients, known in local common parlance as 'inmates' have severe mental illnesses and many also have personality disorders. In addition, most of the population of the hospital have been convicted, or found unfit to plead, in trials of serious crimes. Patients usually remain in the hospital for an average of six years but some have lived there for more than thirty years.In 1952 one of the 'patients' escaped and killed a local child; thereafter an alarm system was set up. This is tested every Monday morning at 10:00 am for two minutes and is based on WWII air-raid sirens. If someone escapes the alarm continues to sound. If not, the 'all-clear' sounds. All local schools within 15 miles can hear the hooters.
Many local people set their watches and clocks by the Broadmoor siren. One inmate timed his escape to coincide with the regular testing.
There have only been two occasions when the sirens have continued their wailing during the more than thirty years we have lived here. In the first instance I drove home from work with my very young children in the car (Barry was working abroad, of course!) negotiated the police checkpoints and reached my house, left the children in the car and approached cautiously. A neighbour came to reassure me and we duly went indoors and locked every door and window.
On the second occasion the escapee travelled swiftly to Europe and the sirens were eventually silenced! Reputedly it takes an hour to search the grounds before the alarm is sounded by which time the inmate might be anywhere in the locality. Once one man escaped and hid in a local house. Another gave himself up – the pace of life 'outside' was too fast and he preferred the security of the hospital.
Broadmoor is home to the mad, bad and dangerous to know. Come to Crowthorne - all human life is here!
Thanks must go to the ABC Wednesday team who organise and host this meme. If you are interested in more Is please click here.


  1. Two very different institutions. An excellent, informative post.

  2. What an interesting post for the I day, Janice!! The first "institution" is really lovely and sounds so interesting. The second one is certainly needed, but they can be a bit scary if you live in the area as you do! Hope you've had a good day/evening!


  3. Interesting post.

    On the behalf of ABC Wed. team thanks for playing.

  4. An impressive list of former students.

  5. Great post! I love this kind of information. Happy Wednesday.

    I is for Icicles

  6. The contrasts between these two institutions is quite startling and heart rending, and I am sure the latter must be a cause for anxiety.

  7. Great architecture!
    I love History.

    Just want to wish you HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!

    Have you a great one!



    Oscar Wilde-The IRISH Gentleman


  8. Those sirens could actually drive one crazy...
    Very interesting post for the letter I.

  9. Nice "i"
    - I just wanted to say that I really like the photo in your heading! Amazing :)

  10. No famous inmates at the hospital then?

  11. Your photo is beautiful...two different Institutions...great I, and interesting info...

  12. Quite a contrast!

    We all know of Broadmoor, don't we? But I didn't know about the sirens continuing to sound if there was an escape. I don't envy you living that close. I used to live a few doors away from a volunteer fire station which used an old wartime siren to call in the men, and I have to say, you couldn't hear yourself think when it sounded!

  13. Wellington is a beautiful building, they demolished my old school, say no more.
    I like the idea of setting your watch by the siren. We have a test siren here but it is in case there is a leak from one of the nuclear submarines. Not sure which is worse radiation or a dangerous inmate, except you can see one of them.

  14. There's been a longstanding row about institutionalizing vs. integrating into the society in the US

  15. Nice photo...feels like I'm looking at the university's prospectus!:O

    A fun read as well.

  16. Thank you everyone for your kind comments.
    It's really not troubling at all living so close to Broadmoor - some weeks we hardly hear the testing of the siren. The inmates are carefully chemically restrained and though some of them may eventually return to society some are so sick that they will never be released. They are the sociopaths. Peter Sutcliffe, the 'Yorkshire Ripper' is one such patient. I must say that some of the 'nurses' are quite scary!

  17. Interesting. Lovely buildings. What a frightening experience that must have been for you.


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