I don’t think I have ever mentioned before – ever – that I live on the edge of a volcano.
A metaphorical one, that is, not a great hulking crater two miles away or anything.
By volcano, I mean this: remember the farmers who farmed the slopes of Vesuvius , and the city of Pompeii whch sprawled beneath the sleeping giant?
Around here, we live close to a source of power and danger off a very different sort. For we live across the forest from Broadmoor Hospital.
Does the name ring a bell? Broadmoor is a high security hospital. Home to notorious killers and psychopaths, from Richard Dadd to Ronnie Kray.
Hospitals like this never existed until James Hadfield tried to shoot George III at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in 1800. Hadfield was traumatised after the Battle of Tourcoing, against the French. He was hit eight times on the head with a sabre before being captured by the French, they said.Post traumatic stress.
And after he had taken a pot-shot at England’s monarch he addressed him.
“God bless your royal highness;” he said to him. ” I like you very well; you are a good fellow.”
Hadfield was tried and found guilty but insane.
Until then, those acquitted by reason of insanity had been released back to their families; but one couldn’t have him coming back for another shot at his Majesty.
So they passed a new law, and made a couple of wings at Bedlam to contain those who were criminally insane.
But the wings were soon bursting at the seams. So they built a new hospital, far from anywhere, but close to London. And they sent those who needed secure detainment and medical care there. To Broadmoor Hospital.
It’s a grade II listed building these days: a staunch red fortress. And now, Anywhere has come quite close, so that a village nestles there and a dual carriageway snakes past, and boys play football in its shadow, on the edge of this particular volcano.
There is rarely an escape. The last one was when I was about to get married in the early nineties.
And recently, the old Victorian building has failed its inmates somewhat. It is no longer fit for purpose.
So what to you think the beleaguered West London Health Authority proposes to do about this dilapidated Gormenghast?
There is rather a lot of talk about turning the old building into a luxury hotel.
I kid you not. Its former residents are the stuff of modern-day folklore, and developers are of the mind to create a strange tourist atraction indeed.
Work has already begun on building a state of the art modern hospital, though the hotel is still just a proposal. Our favourite fast road now has average speed cameras all along it, prior to the beginning of the construction of an access road to Broadmoor for all the trucks, bringing bricks and mortar and change for some of our most dangerous members of society.
And the old place?
If they made it into a hotel, would you pay to stay there?
The BBC new article on the possibility of a hotal at Broadmoor can be found here