German air-raid killed 38 patients at Severalls Hospital in 1942

German air-raid killed 38 patients at Severalls Hospital

On 11th August 1942 a German air raid (which Berlin would later confirm to have targeted at Colchester and Hastings) destroyed part of the West side of Severalls Hospital. 38 patients were killed, mainly women. There were a total of 63 casualties, two of which were nurses.

28 of those killed by the four 500lb bombs dropped by the the Luftwaffe were buried at Colchester Cemetery. They were either patients classed as “infirm or senile” or local people.

In January 2016 I visited the graves of those killed in the air raid of August 1942 in an attempt to document the names of as many as I could. The dead are buried at Colchester Cemetery on Mersea Road. Most of the gravestones are now in very poor condition and therefore very difficult to read. However, I photographed each one in an attempt to document all of the victims for histories sake.

Anyone who may like to visit the graves of those who died during the air raid on Severalls Hospital can find the exact location of the gravestones here. It’s a shame to see the gravestones in such a poor state of repair.

Severalls Hospital Timeline

I have put together this Severalls Hospital Timeline to give an idea of important dates in the hospital’s history and also how changes in law and society influenced what occurred at the hospital. Much of the information come from my own research and, more recently, thanks to a document provided to me by Hugh Doherty.

The Severalls Hospital timeline is packed full of information, from it’s initial plan for construction in 1845 until demolition in 2016. This timeline (which is ever expanding) provides a history of key events.



It becomes compulsory for justices of the peace to build county ‘lunatic asylums’ due to the Lunacy Act 1845 championed by Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.



The 1980 Lunacy Act gives asylums a wider role, and patients “with means” begin to be admitted.



300 acres in North Colchester purchased by Essex County Council with plans to build a mental asylum at a cost of £10,000.



Work commences on the building of the first part of Severalls.


June 2010

Sir Thomas Barrett Lennard lays the foundation stone of the new asylum.



The Mental Deficiency Act is introduced. Essex County Asylum Severalls Hospital opens. It is the second such asylum for the county of Essex.



122 beds are now in position in Main Building and there is now accommodation for 564 men and 672 women. However, concerns are raised about a lack of female staff being available to service the patients.



A problem with rats, reported the year before, has become a menace in some of the wards in the asylum. There are reports of them “causing considerable destruction of women’s clothing”.



The Ministry of Health is created.



Dr Alexander Duncan joins Severalls Hospital. His initial role is unclear but he would later become Physician Superintendent at Severalls.



Severalls Asylum now renamed ‘Severalls Hospital’.



There are now 1922 patients at Severalls. The hospital has become a community in it’s own right.



Insulin coma therapy was first used to attempt to treat patients suffering with schizophrenia.


August 1942

A German air raid blows up part of Severalls, killing 38 patients. Most were women.



A BOC report observes that “A rather high proportion of women were in bed… owing either to their mental state or senility. This is due… to the severe shortage ofstaff. Other consequences ofthis shortage are a rather high seclusion rate, and a high consumption of sedatives (paraldehyde) on the female side.”



Windows are fitted to the corridors connecting wards. A total of 234 would eventually be constructed.



Physician Superintendent Dr Alexander Duncan retires from his roll after 34 years at Severalls Asylum.



Dr Russell Barton joins Severalls Hospital in the roll of Physician Superintendent. Years before becoming a psychiatrist Barton gave evidence in reports of the Holocaust and visited Belsen concentration camp on May 2, 1945.



34 year old Rose Vera Baker appears before magistrates charged with strangling another patient, Martha McGee, because was “annoyed with her singing”. She was detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure.


April 1962

The final bomb damaged building at Severalls. remaining from WW2, was cleared away.


June 1962

A £90,000 laundry facility opens at Severalls to provide services for the hospital and nearby local Colchester hospitals. At the time of writing (2016), allowing for inflation, the laundry facility would cost £1.7million in today’s money.


February 1963

Severalls Hospital opens it’s operating theatre and wards for general patients and routine operations such as appendectomy.


October 1963

Dr Richard Fox of West Mersea – a consultant psychiatrist at Severalls Hospital, warns the Royal Institute of Public Health that society would have to “prepare people for marriage at an earlier age”.


June 1966

Severalls Hospital was chosen as the site for the first emergency helicopter (air ambulance) landing pad in Colchester. The role of Severalls has begun to change from asylum to general hospital.


September 1966

Communal Wards are trialed as an experiment for “…day rooms, dining rooms and social activities…”. Dormitories would remain single sex, as would some areas for patients requiring more serious care.


June 1968

Dr Richard Fox announces that there are empty beds are Severalls as less need is required for the Asylum, presumably caused by a better understanding of mental health and changes in society’s acceptance of people suffering with mental health issues.

In the same year, Dr Fox announces that a new ward is needed for “chronic drifters”. A chronic drifter was someone who could no longer take asylum from stresses in a lifetime of hospitalisation and drifted from one place to another, or from one living situation to another.



Dr Russell Barton leaves Severalls Hospital after is role Physician Superintendent is would up.



Stories begin to emerge from former staff and history books of Severalls gruesome past. Many people are shocked to discover some of the evil acts which have occurred at Severalls. In June 1972 an exhibition of equipment used at the hospital would be held.

In the same year, stories are also published in newspapers pointing to a “beleaguered health service”. Some things never change!


March 1973

A former Physician Superintendent, Dr Alexander Duncan passes away. He retired from the role in 1959.


October 1973

The final steps are taking to provide central heating to every ward of Severalls.

Dr Richard Fox takes over as Chair of the phychiatrist division of Severals and Colchester district.


February 1974

A female patient is in court charged with deliberately starting a fire in a bedroom in Myland Court East ward at Severalls. The court was held in secret. 31 year old Anne McEwan was given an 8 week custodial sentence for the crime.



Dangerous levels of asbestos are found in areas of the hospital. Hardly surprising as the hospital was originally constructed around a time when asbestos was being used in all manner of materials.



Two nurses announce plans to commence a hospital radio for Severalls.



Severalls closes permanently in March 1997 and demolition of many building commences almost immediately.


September 2016

The final stage of demolition commenced at Severalls to make way for thousands of new homes

What Happened to the Vol-au-Vent?


Being born in the late 1970’s there were two types of food that were fashionable to present at a party buffet – prawn cocktail and the vol-au-vent.

Whilst the prawn cocktail has survived many years as being one of the nations ‘starters’, the vol-au-vent has slowly vanished to the point where people have clean forgotten about them. And that’s sad.

As a child I remember no party buffet was complete without sausage rolls, sausages on sticks, cheese and silver onions or sticks and egg mayo vol-au-vent. If your were lucky you would sometimes get a tuna mayo vol-au-vent with a little but of cucumber in the top.

But there was always a pièce de résistance at a posh persons house. You always knew you were in the lap of luxury – the middle class persons party – when out would come the prawn vol-au-vents! I even remember going to a posh persons how where they served prawn vol-au-vents as canapés. I remember thinking how wealthy they must have been.


It was all down hill from there

As the vol-au-vent as declined in popularity, so has the standard of party food. Long gone are cheese an pineapples on sticks and home made vol-au-vents stuffed with cold Cambells condensed mushroom soup (yes, that happened in my house once).

Instead we are presented with battered and bread-crimbed crap from Iceland. High carb, high in saturated fat, highly processed crap.

Join the campaign to save the vol-au-vent!

Join the save the vol-au-vent Facebook page here.

First it was personal injury, now motor insurers are blaming oil prices for higher premiums

Listening to the BBC’s Moneybox program today I heard yet another excuse from motor insurers for the increase in motor insurance policies. This time around, they’re blaming the price of oil. Lower oil = more driving = more claims, or so they say.

As someone who worked in the Insurance Sector for many years, including underwriting, I have to say this is the most incredulous excuse I’ve heard to date. Oil prices have only very recently been reflected in the price of fuel at the pumps so I find it extremely difficult to accept this excuse. Of course there will be a slight increase but I simply don’t believe that the lower price of oil is resulting in so much additional driving that premiums need to rise as they have to compensate for the additional claims which underwriters are experiencing.

Previously, motor insurers had blamed in the increase in personal injury claims for the high cost of premiums. I can agree with this as I’ve seen countless cases of personal injury. The sector is swamped and some claims are dubius at best but insurers unlikely to challenging many due to costs, time restrictions and the risk of losing the claim.

The real reason motor insurance premiums are so high

What you’ll never hear a boss of an insurers tell you is that they are losing a considerable amount of money because they’re claims departments are understaffed or staffed with inexperienced people. Ask anyone who deals with motor claims departments on a daily basis and they’ll tell you the same. The main issues you’re likely to experience in the motor claims process include:

  • extremely long home times on the telephone, with some insurers completely refusing to take calls from third party insurers (thus increasing the time it takes to settle a claim)
  • letters taking up to two months to be responded to
  • inexperienced staff when you do get to speak to someone
  • lost file (some insurers still use paper files and even in 2016 they still go missing)

Credit Hire

Credit Hire claims are a huge expense to the industry and whilst some insurers are getting much more firm on what they will (and most importantly won’t) pay, the slow manner in which claims are dealt with means that some people are staying in Credit Hire vehicle for many months – especially where their is a dispute over liability and the Credit Hire claimant holds third party only cover. I’ve seen cases where people have been in a credit hire vehicle for 180 days. At £40 a day this is a considerable chunk for an insurer to pay.

Another crash on Mersea Road by Cheerytree School: it’s time the speed limit was reduced

As I saw another accident on Mersea Road this morning, right outside Cheerytree School, it reinforced the need for what I believe should be a reduced speed limit in the area.

The 30mph turns to a 40mph just past the entrance to Holt Drive. This means that drivers leaving Colchester towards Mersea are already accelerating for the 40mph limit by the time they reach the junction. It also means that vehicles entering the 30mph are often still speeding when they do. Just stand at the junction for 10 minutes and you’ll easily see it for yourself. I’ve also seen the School Crossing Patrol receive abuse from drivers whilst helping children cross the road.

I asked Essex County to look at the speed limit in the area in 2012, but sadly got the standard response from them. It all comes down to money.

With regards to the existing speed limit Essex County Council is currently conducting a speed limit review on all Priority 1+2 routes (County Routes) and once completed will be reviewing the speed limits of those C and unclassified roads (lower tier) that have the highest risk of collisions (expected to be complete April 2012).

Essex County Highways – 15/02/2012

Nothing was done about the speed limit, despite it being less than 50 metres from a school. It seems money is more important than safety.



Cherrytree Neighbourhood Watch relaunched thanks to local Labour Team

The Neighbourhood Watch scheme in the Cherrytree area of Colchester has been relaunched thanks to the local Labour team.

Every address in the Holt Drive, Nathan Court, Cheerytree Lane and Roman Hill areas were approached and residents asked for their support. The response was hugely in favour of restarting the scheme which aims to:

  • alert residents of potential thieves in the area
  • encourage residents to postcode their property
  • support residents to take additional methods to make it harder for a thief to break in

There will be a Watch Coordinator and other activities. Volunteers will be needed.

Anyone with interest in the scheme is invited to a meeting at The Community Road, Sexton Close on 25th January 2016 at 7pm.

For more information on the local Labour Team and what they do, visit

Why the Tories won’t stop jeering Jeremy Corbyn

As I began watching Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday I was immediately embarrassed by the Conservatives childish reaction to Jeremy Corbyn.

Once again Mr Corbyn took to the dispatch box and was instantly subjected to a tirade of jeering from the other side of the House, which was so awkward to watch that it made me wince. Wince because I knew that as I was watching this childish display so were another 250,000 people. A quarter of a million people watching an elected Member of Parliament being shouted at by 300 buffoons.

So why do the Tories consistently jeer at Corbyn? Because they’re scared. Scared of a new Labour Leader who takes an approach they haven’t seen before and which they haven’t yet developed a way to counteract. Scared by a man who, unlike their own leader, is able to contain his emotion under pressure. A man who doesn’t get visibly agitated when the questions aren’t going his way. A man who, unlike Cameron, won’t tow the party line when he’s told to.


Reconnecting with the public

When Jeremy Corbyn began to ask David Cameron questions from Labour supporters at his first PMQs, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I was concerned that the approach could be construed by the Tories as desperation on behalf of the party to find any possible way to reconnect with the voters that they lost in the 2015 General Election.

What actually happened was that it personalised the questions. For the first time, Cameron was directly answerable to a member of the public; in front of thousands of people. People, like me, who often feel that they don’t have any sort of voice past their local Councillor.

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying it was a clever move. First of all it makes potential voters feel that they are valued, that their emails and letters are being read and that the Labour Party is actually listening to them. Just like a company making their customers feel valued, it’s a proven marketing strategy to hold on to.

Secondly, it puts the wind up the Tories. They simply hate the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is asking questions which matter to people who work hard every day to make ends meet. Even more, they hate that Corbyn is asking questions for the people which the present Conservative government have attacked time and time again; teachers, nurses, unskilled workers, low earners, the disabled and now students.


If they’re jeering, they’re fearing

OK, so that’s a pretty poor slogan, but it works for me. If the Tories are jeering Jeremy Corbyn they’re doing so to stop him from being heard. They don’t want the public to hear what he has to say so the best they can do it to try and drown him out. Of course it doesn’t work as the Speaker of the House persistently reminds MPs that the public want to hear the questions…and the answers.


Whilst I’m on the subject of answers…

Why does David Cameron insist on answering questions with questions? The entire point of PMQ’s is that the PM is asked a question and gives an answer. David Cameron is a persistent offender dodging questions or replying with an attack. Today was no different. Last week it was jibes about the time it took Jeremy Corbyn to reshuffle the Shadow Cabinet; totally irrelevant to the questions he was asked.

However, it’s good for Labour. The public aren’t stupid and sooner or later they’re going to be as fed up with the Conservatives approach as I find myself.

I wrote to Jon Bercow in June 2015 and I’ll leave you with my email and his response:

Dear Mr Bercow,

This week, the Leader of the Opposition was given the opportunity to ask six questions. However, the Prime Minister once again refused to answer the questions, generally responding with another question. Surely the entire point of the debate is for the PM to answer questions; if he constantly insists of responding with another question it completely defeats to point of the process. As if it isn’t disrespectful that Minister’s insisted on shouting whilst Harriet Harman was talking it is even more so when Mr Cameron then refuses to give a straight answer.

Later in the debate, Cat Smith asked a question and was then subject to a sarcastic and flippant response from the PM. Surely this kind of debating isn’t conducive to engaging the public?

Perhaps it would be prudent to remind Mr Cameron that the name of the half-hour debate is ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’, not ‘Leader of the Opposition’s Questions’!

His response:

Dear Mr Hicks,

Mr Speaker would like to thank you for your email of 6 June and to reply on his behalf.

The Speaker has asked me to explain that he is the servant of the House and can only operate within the powers which the House has granted him. These do not include the authority to adjudicate on the content or quality of questions asked and answers given in the Chamber. Such a power would, in any event, be inconsistent with the requirement for the Speaker to act impartially, since it would necessarily be a political act. The most that the Speaker can do is to remind the House of the purpose and expected form of questions and answers, and to exhort Members and Ministers to bear this in mind. Ultimately, Members take responsibility for their own choice of words and you may therefore wish to draw your concerns directly to the attention of the Prime Minister.

Mr Speaker thanks you for taking the time to write in with your kind words and feedback.

Kind regards,


Jade Knight | Secretary to the Speaker’s Secretary

House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

It was worth a go I suppose!

Jada Pinkett-Smith Oscar’s ‘People of Color’ rant was a self-serving exercise

Jada Pinkett-Smith

I’ve just seen Jada Pinkett-Smith complaining that there weren’t enough “people of color” nominated for Oscar awards this year and as a result she (and a number of other celebrities) have announced they will boycott the event.

For a start, I find the term “people of colour” awkward. What colour, exactly, are we talking about? I’m white. Well, unless I run 10 metres and then I’m a bit red. Last time I checked, white was a colour. So was red. Is she accusing the Oscars of being racist?

Or is she just upset that her husband didn’t get an award?

I don’t look at my peers and see a “colour” – so why does she? I also didn’t see many Downes Syndrome actors win Oscars. Or people suffering from Cerebral Palsy. I didn’t see any Welsh. There were also no monks awarded. In fact, I didn’t see any fat people, either. Perhaps fat people only get Golden Globes.

Most importantly here, however, is the Jada Pinkett Smith is factually incorrect; and I can prove it.


Jada Pinkett-Smith is wrong – and the facts prove it.

I was shown a post on Facebook in which a member had heavily researched the statistics and found the Jada Pinkett-Smith was actually wrong. Factually wrong.

Leondre McBride’s Facebook Post is quoted below. Feel free to follow the links. He’s really don’t a great job here:

Being the Free Black Thinker that I am, I did some digging on the Oscars winnings.
In the last 20 years:

15% of Best Leading Actors were black
10% of Best Supporting Actors were black
5% of Best Leading Actresses were black
20% of Best Supporting actresses were black

When you count an average percentage (15+10+5+20) you get the sum of 50/4 = 12.5%.

According to the US Census Bureau Data 2014, blacks are around 13.2% of the US population. In 1990 it was 12.1%. In 2000 it was 12.3%. In 2010 it was 12.6%.

Guess what this means!!! Blacks are actually almost perfectly represented at the Oscars! But wait, that cant be because Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike said othwrwise! But yall just go back to making us look stupid because you get all emotional without fact checking anything. Let the news and social media decide when you get upset, then try and make people believe you aren’t dumb.

The big problem with most of you is that you cant make up your minds. You claim you don’t need the approval of “white people” and then you beg and whine for acceptance and approval. If you have your pride, what does it matter who accepts you and who doesn’t?

Final Thoughts:

  1. Stop being so quick to jump on whatever is trending without having done any research on it. Most of the time you end up looking stupid
  2. Stop begging for acceptance by those who (at least in your mind) hate you. You look pathetic and convoluted
  3. If they’re racist and dont want you there, why would you want to be there? Go start your own and make it available to people of all colors. If youre going to go make yours mutually exclusive based on race, you cant complain about ‪#‎OscarsSoWhite‬. It would be the height of hypocrisy.-The Free Black Thinker

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (but the continuity struggles)

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, was my favourite film since Return of the Jedi. It was excellent in so many ways. The use of CGI was great (and not over the top), the sound effects were brilliant and the entire film left me craving the next episode.

Sadly, there were some continuity issues that I just couldn’t get my head around.


Watching Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on 3D Imax was awesome
Watching Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on 3D Imax was awesome

Stormtroopers – redesigned, but weaker than ever

It was my 10 year old son who pointed this out.

The Storm Troopers are now redesigned, with aerodynamic suits of armour. So why is it that they die as soon as they are shot? I mean, what’s the point of all that armour and a helmet if it offers absolutely no protection whatsoever?

Holographic communicators in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens are a thing of the past

Of course there are no cellphones in Star Wars. However, in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, we saw a number of scenes where various characters – loyal to Darth Sidious (also known as Chancellor Palpatine played by Ian McDiarmid and later to become the Emperor) gave instructions to his moles within the control of the Jedi order via a holographic interface to kill all Jedi’s. This message is spread to all of the supporters of the Dark Side who are secretly spying on the


Darth Vader turned good in the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’ – so why is Kylo Ren obsessed with him?

At the end of Return of the Jedi, as Darth Vader is saying his last goodbyes to his son, Luke, Darth is saved from the Dark Side. We later see him – in ghostly apparition – smiling next to other deceased Jedi’s. So surely this would make Darth Vader a traitor in the eyes of the Dark Side?

So why is Kylo Ren so obsessed with being more powerful than him?

Who, exactly, is ‘Finn’ and where did he come from?

So quickly into Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we discover that Finn has had enough of being a bad guy and wants to run away back to mommy and daddy.

Within an hour he’s holding a light saber and appears to have some elements of the Force within him.

But where did he come from? What is his history? And why is he one of the very few black people in the galaxy?


Daisy Ridley (Rey) acts a less than genuine role

Daisy Ridley (Rey) struggled at times. You could almost see in her eyes that she just couldn’t believe she was actually a main character in one of the most hotly anticipated films of the 21st Century. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? Acting alongside the real Han Solo, Chewbacca, Luke Skywalker and a sober Carrie Fisher.

She got better as she went on, but in some places she was quite wooden and almost awkward to watch.

Old Luke Skywalker, still as sulky as ever
Old Luke Skywalker, still as sulky as ever

One thing remains true: Luke is still a sulky little brat

So Luke – after failing to train his nephew properly resulting in him turned to the Dark Side – has run away to the secluded Skellig Michael in Ireland to sulk about it [true fact].

At least his sulky persona remains true to the other films. And at least he didn’t almost commit an act of incest with his sister this time…


Things you (probably) didn’t know about Colchester

Blur hail from Colchester

Some members of the rock band Blur hail from Colchester. Band members including Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree lived and were raised in Colchester. Graham Coxon would later move to the town and meet Albarn at secondary school; and Blur would be born.


Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher worked in Colchester as a research chemist from 1947 to 1951, before beginning her career as a politician. She worked as a chemist for BX Plastics which was based in Manningtree at the time.


The Romans

Colchester was chosen by the Roman’s as the base for their very first English legionary fortress. You can still see some of the original walls in various locations around the town.



In 1884, Colchester was hit by an earthquake which measured 4.7 in the Richter Scale. Some houses in the Dutch Quarter and New Town areas still display visible damage.


St Helena

St Helena (or St Helen, consort of the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus and the mother of the emperor Constantine the Great) is the patron Saint of Colchester. She was born c.246 AD.


Humpty Dumpty

The poem ‘Humpty Dumpty’ is said to have originated in Colchester after a powerful cannon, used during the English Civil War, fell from a church tower and was damaged. There are other ideas of the origin, but an Colcestrian will tell you it originated there.