Claybury, Redbridge

A little-used name for what is basically the northern part of Clayhall

Repton Park, formerly Claybury hospital, Jeroen Komen

The De la Clay fam­i­ly lived here in the Mid­dle Ages and it’s not clear whether the fam­i­ly brought its name from else­where or gained it as a result of liv­ing here. If the lat­ter, it’s still unclear whether the place was named after the ter­rain and then gave its name to the fam­i­ly or vice ver­sa. This kind of uncer­tain­ty crops up with sev­er­al Lon­don place names and is enough to put any­one off the whole sub­ject.

In the 19th cen­tu­ry Clay­bury Farm stood where Clay­bury Broad­way now runs par­al­lel with part of Wood­ford Avenue (beneath the bot­tom left cor­ner of the map below). To the north was Clay­bury Hall and its sur­round­ing park­land, laid out in 1789 by Humphry Rep­ton for the own­er, James Hatch.

Hidden London: Claybury Hall, Essex, by Abraham Pether

On the edge of the park the jus­tices of the Coun­ty of Mid­dle­sex built the pala­tial Clay­bury men­tal hos­pi­tal (orig­i­nal­ly ‘lunatic asy­lum’) in 1888–93, as a self-sup­port­ing com­mu­ni­ty with capac­i­ty for 2,500 res­i­dents. At the same time, Clay­bury Hall was extend­ed and con­vert­ed into a pri­vate asy­lum.

By the 1930s Clay­bury hos­pi­tal had become world renowned for the treat­ment of men­tal ill­ness. Capac­i­ty had expand­ed to 4,000, and the hos­pi­tal had its own oper­at­ing the­atre, radio rebroad­cast­ing sys­tem, bank and post office.

Hidden London Repton Park chapel, now a swimming pool, by Susan McKenna
Rep­ton Park swim­ming pool

In the 1960s staff here pio­neered a ‘ther­a­peu­tic com­mu­ni­ty’ approach to psy­chi­a­try and Clay­bury con­tin­ued in use as a men­tal hos­pi­tal until 1997.

Prop­er­ty devel­op­er Crest Nichol­son sub­se­quent­ly con­vert­ed the hos­pi­tal to hous­ing, with the aid of an enabling grant. Clay­bury Hall, which had lat­ter­ly served as the head­quar­ters of the Waltham For­est health author­i­ty, was also restored and con­vert­ed into apart­ments.

Like oth­er adap­ta­tions of Vic­to­ri­an hos­pi­tals, Rep­ton Park – as it was rebrand­ed – also includes new homes in the grounds, in this case mews and town hous­es. A health club occu­pies the hos­pi­tal’s restored Great Hall, with a swim­ming pool in the chapel.

Most of the hos­pi­tal’s grounds have become Clay­bury Woods and Park. Now owned by the Lon­don Bor­ough of Red­bridge, the park has wild­flower-rich mead­ows, rare acid grass­land and ancient oak and horn­beam wood­land.

Postcode area: Ilford IG5; Repton Park is in Woodford Green IG8
Website: Repton Park Residents Association
Further reading: Eric H Pryor, Pictorial Review of Claybury Hospital, Forest Healthcare Trust, 1996
* The aerial image of Repton Park at the top of this page is cropped from an original photograph at Flickr, copyright Jeroen Komen, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic licence. Any subsequent reuse is freely permitted under the terms of that licence. The photograph of Repton Park swimming pool is copyright Susan McKenna and is reproduced here with her kind permission.