©Wellcome Library, London

More than 1000 workmen were employed to build this huge asylum and 10 million bricks were made and laid. It was completed within 19 months at a cost of £300,000 and visitors to the Great Exhibition were offered guided tours. Its ‘cheerful Italian style of architecture' was much admired but within 5 years the building was out of date. The wards were dark, tunnel-like, ill-heated, sparsely furnished and unpainted, with lavatories opening direct into the gallery. To prevent escape attempts, the small gothic-style casement windows opened only an inch at the top, and in the corridors they were merely ‘panes of thick opaque glass embedded in the walls'. Each day, 100,000 gallons of Colney Hatch sewage was spread over its own farmland but much escaped into the local brook and polluted the ‘splendidly wooded village of Southgate'. The foundations were insecure, the flooring was porous and stank of urine, the roof cracked, and the Italianate arched ceilings gave way. In short, the building remained in a continuous state of repair for the next 100 years.