25 Wray Park Road, Reigate, Surrey RH2 0DF
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1958 - 1985

Mental handicap

In 1958 a group of 16 mentally handicapped children aged between 5 and 10 years were transferred from the Fountain Hospital to Brooklands, a large detached house in Reigate.  Brooklands was to be the setting for an experiment by the New Zealander, Prof. Jack Tizard, a psychologist based at the Maudsley Hospital.

As soon as there were enough suitable staff, the children were divided into two 'families' of eight, each with two housemothers concerned primarily with the same group of children.  In this way, intimate relations between individual children and particular adults could be fostered.  There was no formal instruction and much of the day was spent by the children in play, interest being the motivating force.  The children had many opportunities to talk to the staff and to the other children, and were encouraged to do so.  A control group of 50 patients, matched as far as possible in their IQ rating as the Brooklands children, had been selected and were given similar training at the Fountain Hospital.

The 'Brooklands Experiment', as it became known, concluded in 1960, after three years, and showed that children removed from large institutions and place in small homely groups with a better staff ratio developed much more rapidly than those left behind.  The experiment was one of the earliest attempts to show that alternatives to mentally handicapped institutions were possible, and that such patients could be housed advantageously in far smaller units within the community.

Between 1959 and 1962 the old stables were converted into a school room and, by 1971, the school had become the Brooklands Day Training Centre, with facilities for 40 subnormal and physically handicapped children of varying ages, 25 of whom came from the Ellen Terry Home and Brooklands, and 15 who were bussed in by Surrey County Council.

In 1963 the Fountain Hospital closed and administrative control of Brooklands was transferred to Queen Mary's Hospital in Carshalton.  During the reorganisation of the NHS in 1974 it then came under the control of the St Helier and Queen Mary's District, part of the Merton, Sutton and Wandsworth Area Health Authority. As it was outside the geographical area covered by the District, it was managed on an extra-territorial basis.

Brooklands closed in 1985 with 21 beds.

Present status (November 2009)

 Brooklands was demolished and its site now contains Brooklands Court, built by McAlpine Retirement Homes in 1987.  The retirement development comprises 20  1- and 2-bedroom sheltered apartments in a single building, with bungalows at the rear of the site.

The Brooklands School survived and its original 1960s building has been extended several times.  It is now run by Surrey County Council  as a community day special school for children with learning difficulties.

Brooklands Court
Brooklands Court

Brooklands School
Lyle JG 1960 The effect of an institution environment upon the verbal development of imbecile children.  Journal of Intellectual Disability Research 4, 14-23.

Tizard J 1960 Residential care of mentally handicapped children.  British Medical Journal 1 (5178), 1041-1046.


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