Inspiration for Belle Vue – 1: the Asylum14 May 2020

Writers are often advised ‘write what you know’ but given Belle Vue is about murder, satanic orgies and mistreatment in Victorian lunatic asylums I am not putting my hand up to any of these! However I was inspired to write about each aspect from visiting and reading about the three, the connections between them and from there my imagination took over…

I live near a block of luxury apartments which was converted from the original Leavesden Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles – a name not to be reckoned with now. When it was built the asylum covered 93 acres and while much of the old ground has been built over there are still large tracts of parkland and a few surprises in out of the way places such as the old cemetery and derelict fire station!

As I walked past the main building (shown in the photo above) it stirred my interest and I searched for more information about its history. Finding other pictures of evocative old asylums either in ruins or also converted into residential accommodation, I soon had lots of story ideas and started jotting notes for what would become Belle Vue.

The old cemetery (a long way from the main asylum building) fascinated me but when I went back this Xmas the overgrown, unkempt and spooky graveyard had been tidied up. But the brooding atmosphere still remains.

Leavesden Asylum Photo 4

There are a few headstones and plaques in the ground but most interesting are the many sunken shallow graves with no markers. I read somewhere that  the pauper lunatics were buried in hessian sacks instead of coffins about a few feet underground and once the bodies disintegrated the graves dipped. I did take a couple of photographs but it is difficult to see them so here are the entrance with its evocative lychgate (above) and one of the larger headstones. The name on it says Eliza Weekes but I can’t make out the date (below).

Leavesden Asylum Photo 3

Next instalment – Inspiration for Belle Vue – Murder: at Leavesden Asylum and a hanging…