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 CommonsInitially 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 BBCFour 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!
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