London County Asylum, St Ebba’s Epileptic Colony


The St Ebba’s Colony was the third hospital to be built within the Epsom Cluster; it was originally known as the Ewell Epileptic Colony and was first opened to patients in 1904. The colony was designed by William C Clifford Smith in a dispersed colony format containing nine villas.  It was built to the east of the Horton Estate on 112 acres of land, with 20 acres being used for the villas (Holly, Lime, Pine, Elm, Chestnut, Hawthorn, Walnut, Beech); it cost a total of £98,000 and housed a total of 326 epileptic patients upon opening, 60 of which were female. In 1909 two further villas were added to the site and the patient headcount was increased to 429. From 1918 until 1927, the institution was used as a war hospital, being administered by the Ministry of Pensions. The war hospital was use for the treatment of neurasthenic ex-servicements; this being an ill-defined medical condition characterized by lassitude, fatigue, headache, and irritability, associated chiefly with emotional disturbance. In February 1927, the Ministry of Pensions returned the hospital to the London County Council, whereby they immediately built a further two villas and additional out buildings.

Each villa on the site was built to house 38 patients and they were orientated in a south-easterly direction; however 32 female patients were housed in a ward attached to the main administration building.  Each Villa was designed to maximise the amount of freedom each patient had, with a veranda on the exterior for patients to sit out on. Typically, the villas were managed by a married couple.  The Recreation hall was also used as a dining room for all the patients, it could house up to 326 people comfortably, but only patients that were in a healthy condition we able to eat there.  The colony also contained the normal laundry, stores, engineering workshops, kitchens and water tower; there was also a mortuary on site, but this was converted at an unknown time and the services moved away.

With the passing of the Mental Treatment Act in 1930, the reception of voluntary patients was permitted for the first time in public institutions. St Ebba’s was perfectly suited for purpose and plans to extend the site were prepared and the site was extended in 1936 and 1938.Many of the voluntary patients at St Ebba’s were admitted after attendance at out-patient clinics at various teaching hospitals.  Students from these hospitals attended St Ebba’s to see cases and receive instruction on them and staff from St Ebba’s held out-patient clinics in London.

After the passing of the National Health Service act in 1948 the Hospital was incorporated under the new national health services and was governed by the St Ebba’s and Belmont Hospital Management Committee. In 1949, a special unit for the treatment of adolescents was established. In 1962 the South West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board changed the use of St Ebba’s Hospital from a psychiatric hospital to a hospital for mentally subnormal patients.  The change came into effect in February 1962 and psychiatric patients ceased to be admitted in March of that year.

The original institution was closed down with many of the villa’s being demolished and redeveloped into a housing estate; the water tower and Limewood villa being Grade II listed and refurbished.  With the redevelopment, two original villas were refurbished for the care of 55 patients, and a small section to the north-east of the site still being used by the health services.

Information taken from an extract from the British Medical Journal in 1903

Further Information



Modified: 1st Jun 2022