“Give over boy, you'll send me up the Fairfield's you keep going on" said mum whilst i was doing one of my best teenage strops {see Harry Enfield's Kevin and Perry}. Up the Fairfield's was one of many local terms for the old Arlesey Asylum. What did you know it by?, the loony bin, the bin, the nuthouse, the big house, the 'sylum', the Dodd, there were many more i dare say.

As a boy  I grew- up on a diet of Hammer Horror films and Aurora monster plastic assembly models, with all this in mind the view of the asylum from my landing window set the scene for my imagination to run wild.

At night when it was lit up i could see parts of the old building illuminated against the night sky, it appeared very spooky, Sometimes late at night ,or in the early hours of the morning,a siren would pierce the dark night sky and fly straight into my bedroom window causing me to wake with a jolt, one of them must have got out!

As I lay in bed listening to the siren screaming like a possessed banshee, i would have visions of one of the poor demented souls breaking out of his padded cell and making his way across the fields with the cold wind and rain pelting him back he struggles to get out of his straight jacket, his bare bleeding feet clogged with thick mud to slow his progress, his eyes wide and wild like a rabid animal, his mad screams muffled by his frothing mouth, scary stuff! Of course this was all childhood imagination and I've later learned that siren was the fire alarm, or was it?

Patients did find their way out of the hospital at an un-earthly hour only to end up dying in or around the Arlesey pits.I know, I found one!

As kids in the 1970s we used to cut through the asylum to get to the Arlesey pits for fishing, never alone, never ever after dark, we never looked at anyone and we always made sure we left for home in plenty of time before dusk.

As time went by my friends and I started riding old mopeds and motorcycles over our local fields,many happy summer days were spent riding over lumps bumps and holes which festooned the dirt tracks.It wasn’t long before we ventured to the Arlesey pits on these old bikes, the only way to get there was through the asylum.

There were two ways of getting to the pits, one was through the asylum using its roads, the other was to turn an immediate leftas you entered the grounds and follow a dirt track which led around the edge of the asylum fields but this was far to bumpy

So up the loony bin road {as it was known} we went. As we gained confidence we would venture further around the roads of the asylum, It wasn’t uncommon to stop off now and then to chat to some of the  patients, or eat some lovely fruit from the asylum orchards.

The patients would always ask for fags and a couple of my friends who smoked would sometimes give them one. On hot days we would go into the W.R.V.S. canteen for a coke, this was situated near the football and cricket pitches,patients would come in and would sometimes get really wound-up and angry for no apparent reason, that was our cue to leave!

If we had no money and needed to quench our thirst we would park our bikes and scrump some of the lovely ripe juicy apples from the asylum orchard and sit under the shade of the trees and relax in the sunshine,No one ever bothered us and we never bothered them. Great days.

In July 74 I was up the Arlesey pits with a large group of boys and girls showing off on my moped and enjoying the hot day

Someone made the decision that we should get going as we were meant to be all meeting up that night so homeward bound we headed, As we walked with the girls I got bored so I started up my mean machine {50 cc n.s.u, quickly} and said I'd see them later,

Half way down the "bin road" I thought I'd go back to the gang walking down the road to go home, Having no road sense I just swung the bike round in the road, I saw a blurred image of a car {a mini clubman}I heard a thud and a loud bang then saw the clear blue sky as I hit the roof of the car ,then I hit the road.

I laid there holding my leg in agony, the driver and the lady passenger were very concerned and did not want to call the police

Unfortunately the asylum Superintendent did, I sat with my swollen leg the size of a Zeppelin air ship until the police arrived just as my friends turned up, I was so embarrassed that I did not care what the police thought I was more worried what my friends thought!

The police took my statement at the side of the road and then drove off, the car and passenger gave their statement and drove off

My friends carried me home as my leg hurt so bad I couldn’t stand on it,

I had to leave my smashed up bike by a tree and that’s where it stayed until a good friend of mine went to get it a few days later.

The worst part of it all was telling my mum, so I didn't, I got a neighbour to do it instead .

I spent the next six weeks of my school holiday learning to walk again as a visit to the hospital confirmed I had smashed and torn the muscles and tendons in my leg, the doctor said I would have been better off breaking it.


In November of 74 the good British justice system  decided to take me to court and "do" me for just about everything,

I received a £75.00 fine {which must have been two weeks pay for my dad at that time} and three points on my licence that I was still two years away from getting!

 I was ordered to pay 50p a week, how long would that have taken to pay! so my Dad paid it, plus my Dad paid for the damage to the car {£40.00 i think}.

I was very sheepish at home for a while I can tell you, I kept away from riding over the fields for a long time, at least till summer 1975! Those hot glorious days of summer 73/74 will stay with me forever, happy innocent days when we would sit under those trees or over Arlesey pits planning our lives as the future belonged to us, talking about pop stars, who was best Bowie or Bolan and with our flares as wide as concord's wings we could do no wrong.
 

I think my love for the old asylum was born when its doors closed in 1999, like many people I went for a walk round, probably on a nostalgia trip, as I walked around looking at the buildings and remembering riding about the place, it dawned on me what a fantastic building it actually is, so beautifully designed and constructed to last forever, the ornate brickwork, the imposing towers, the long corridors which housed the male and female wings, the actual size of the place all set within trees yet graced by open space,

 

I had to know more. I have spent ages reading, studying, researching and collecting items to try and learn to understand all that i can about the asylum both good and bad, I am in the process of collecting oral history's of people who worked there many years ago and these will end up in text form on this site so please check back for updates. I have a large collection of artefacts which I put on public display at various events through the year, but for those who cant make it I put them on the website so please make sure you check out the museum wards.

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