Tone Vale Hospital – Somerset

Tone Vale Hospital was built in 1897 and closed in 1995. This is now pretty much totally converted into homes, and a few leisure services.

The main recreation hall is really the only derelict piece of interest left. Situated bang in the middle of the development, it contains a curious selection of junk – presumably from people now living in the converted parts…

  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
  • Thumbnail of Tone Vale Hospital
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366 Responses to Tone Vale Hospital – Somerset


    I worked here during student holidays in 1958. Several of the patients seemed more sane than the staff and begged me to intervene with management to get them out on parole as they had been wrongly diagnosed as sectionable under the mental health act. I was too young and unknowledgeable to argue and risk being dismissed. It was particularly disturbing to know of patients who were forced against their will to submit to ECT but not obvious that they suffered long-term harm as a result. The sense that the staff always presumed in their own favour even though they knew they were out of their depth on the subject of treating mental illness successfully came over strongly. I learned that there was little prospect of anyone being rehabilitated to normal life and that the most the staff could do was to experiment on the patients and keep them subdued with suitable medication. Those people who were placed in an adjoining wing and were less seriously disturbed, predominantly those who had had nervous breakdowns, did seem to have a fair chance of recovery. To quote “Yes Minister” it seemed to be a piece of Civil Service logic – “Something must be done; this was something, therefore this was to be done”!

  2. christopher witts says:

    Hi I spent nearly 1 year here as a patient, and used to be a patient at merryfields children unit, as my mum and dad did not want me, since then i have moved to portsmouth and got a family and built my my life.. But the tone vale hospital will always haunt me for the rest of my life, as i was inserted with drugs which made me go silly, to shut me up,, and hey all i got it tourettes, which is very mild and i am now 41 years of age, i must come down there 1 day to have a look and see wot it looks like now……

  3. mark adams says:

    hi i was a patient in merryfields childrens unit i was taken and left there because my parents said i had a bad temper although i have tried to block most of it out i know i used to receive beatings from members of staff so i can relate to what you are saying the thought of what happened to me there scares me to death i am married now and have 3 children it would be interesting to hear from anyone else who went there i am now 46

  4. janet bliss says:

    My father, John Pears, worked at Tone Vale in the 60s and early 70s first in Accounts and then in Supplies. I worked at the hospital during school holidays at the OT Pet Farm, in Accounts, Supplies, X-Ray and Records.

    I saw many incidents of abusive behaviour to patients but also incidents of kind, compassionate interactions.

    My father died on Sunday (1st Feb) and I would like to pay tribute to the exemplary way he ran the Supplies Dept during his time there.

  5. Ellie Jasper says:

    I was at Merryfeilds in 1993 for one year I was there because I was out of control. They did very little for me ther including not diagnosing the illness I now suther from. The whole place was out of control. Illeagal drugs were rief, as was selfharming. Things with now good with me but the place still haunts me.Iwould be interesting to compare notes with anyone who was there.I am now 31

    • David Allen says:

      I was a petient at merrifields in 1992 and would like to get in touch/contact with anyone who was a patient there either around the time I was there or at any other time. If you’d like to get in contact email me at my names David Allen

  6. Susan P says:

    I was a patient on Mary Ward my time in Tone Vale will haunt me for the rest of my life. I was only 16 years old and in a mixed adult ward. All i know i was druged and abused by male staff I still have problems going out 34 years later.All i needed was love. I do remember the awful back wards and being made to help in wards where the elderly were dying the smell i can still smell it today.Corridors full of old men and women wondering not knowing where they were. it was terrible. Thank god it will be never like that again

  7. trinity says:

    hey im 15 years old and its my dad who has converted the old tone vale and i would be for ever great full if you could email me as ive heard so meny storys and it intrest me very much to hear others i have allso me giffted with being able to talk to the spirts here in tone vale ive been sykick since i was 7 so please email me as my arnty is writeing a book on the place to so is trying to find storys thank you

  8. kenny says:

    I was put into merryfields in 1977- 1979 under a sec 28 but these 28 days lasted 2 years. yes i was a bit out of control but hay i was a kid, but some of the things that happened to me and some of the other kids are now totally illegal. i was 14 yrs old and never took drugs, within 8 hours of arriving i was pined on the floor and given an injection by three members of staff all because i wanted to go home. i remember a young boy of 7 getting badly beaten by two members of staff because they couldn’t handle his problems. i personally wittensed sexual abuse by staff members. i tried to run away from the unit three times and twice i was caught by the police and my punishment was days on end in the TIME OUT ROOM which was a small room with one mattress and a thin sheet and nothing. the drugs they gave me and the other kids would keep us quite and unable to do much at all, the drugs they gave me was ligatel and mogadon i was given this three times a day. i totally lost two years of my life out of my face. since merryfield it took me 37 years to stop being drug and alcohol dependent. Ive now been with my partner for 10 years and am now happily settled. i hope other people who read this remember how it was. and if anybody would like to get in contact to chat at any time please leave your e-mail address and i will get back to you. p.s i wish you all all the luck in the world.

  9. DMA says:

    Very interested to read the comments about Merrifield Unit, especially those made by Christopher Witts and Kenny.

    I was a patient there myself during the second half of the ’70s (I definitely knew Christopher, and I think I knew Kenny too – not sure without a surname).

    I don’t think I witnessed the kind of horrors described by Kenny, but it was certainly a grim place. Some staff were caring and had integrity – others less so (much less so!).

    Yes, abuse did take place there. I don’t recall the ‘time out room’ as such (described by Kenny), but I do recall a so-called ‘baby’s punishment room’ – perhaps it was the same room? I remember a young teenage girl with learning difficulties being confined in there (though the door was unlocked) with all her clothes taken from her. I remember seeing her standing naked in the doorway while a visitor to the Unit was asking me for directions somewhere. To my shame, I was more concerned that the visitor shouldn’t see this naked girl, rather than drawing attention to her and how this was a terrible abuse.

    I also remember two very young male victims of sexual abuse (by an older boy) being told, in front of a gathered meeting of all the kids, that they had to share the blame for what happened as they had ‘got their weapons out’.

    By the way, Christopher and Kenny, you won’t know me from my initials as my surname has changed, but you may remember that I wrote to Fred Clarke (brother of Arthur C Clarke) asking him if he’d come and give us a talk (he lived very closed by) – and he did!

  10. DMA says:

    Having made my comment (above) I’ve thought more about it, and if anyone is still suffering from traumatic memories of Merrifield or Tone Vale (as some people clearly are), then I would personally recommend that you consider finding a Human Givens therapist (just Google ‘Human Givens’). Unfortunately, Human Givens isn’t widely available on the NHS (though it is in some places) so it will cost a bit (my own therapist in Brighton charges £60 a session). I know everyone’s different, but I’ve found Human Givens to be the most helpful psychological therapy I’ve come across.

    Incidentally, I did wonder a few years ago whether it would be worth starting a Merrifield Survivors group/website – but I didn’t do anything about it as I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be to dwell too much on the past.

    Also, I didn’t put my email address on my last posting as I wasn’t sure about putting it on a public forum connected with this particular subject, but if Kenny (or any other Merrifield survivors) would like to get in touch, you can contact me at:

  11. LG says:

    I work close to what was the mental hospital, it is now apartments and looks absolutely beautiful, I made enquiries about the building as I was not aware of it’s history – all I was told was that it was previously a mental hospital and that it is haunted, so I looked it up on the internet and I have read all of your comments, my heart goes out to all of you who have suffered under the hands of ‘the caring society’ and I do hope that you can find some peace from the past. Good luck to all of you for your future. L

  12. Lu says:

    Hi – interested to see this site. I was an inmate of ‘merry’ fields in the early 1990s. Ellie – I am sure I knew you. Did you have long blond/brown hair and under Doctor Kenny by any chance? This place is so haunting and only exacerabted my current mental health problems instead of making me better.

  13. Jem says:

    Hi, I know this is a long shot, but I am trying to find some information about my late mother.Was anyone ( Staff or Patient ) at Tone vale in 1939? Like i say its a long shot, but you never know?

  14. christine says:

    hi, i was in merrifields in 1991 found that some of the staff were good but some had very limited training which made there handling of situations pretty bad.

  15. Julia Myers says:

    My grandparents James Binding and Emily Broomfield met at Tone Vale when they were both working there.They married in 1908 and came to Canada. My grandmother remembered with sadness the patients who were admitted and then forgotten about, One woman who had what must have been a depressive episode, had her husband and children emigrate to Australia. Because she had no one to sign her out she was required to remain, even after she recovered. My grandmother had some nice pieces of crochet to her by a patient. One time another patient called my grandmother over and hit her and knocked her out. My grandparents said that the patients and staff got together for dances, which we quite jolly. (not the dangerous patients, of course.) My grandmother was a very kind and gentle person, and did what she could to help her patients. Before working at the hospital, my grandparents had worked as servants from the time they were children.

  16. Cathy says:

    I was admitted to Merrifields in the late 80’s. With adolescent behavioural problems!!. I was one of the lucky ones who was never pinned and injected with sedatives, or pinned and forced to have metal clamps in the mouth to be fed. But we all saw it. We were just “children” suffering from one form or another of Mental illness. I remember “escaping” to goto the shop situated in Tone Vale where we witnessed adults young & old wandering the corrordoors in zombie like states. What I saw & how issues were dealt with by “The Professionals” regarding patients will forever be with me & it’s frightening. Even now at nearly 35 yrs old, something can happen & I am right back to Taunton, Merrifield & Tone Vale. E-mail:

  17. night rider says:

    I worked there 1988-90 and thought it was a hell of a strange place, and yes some of the staff were more in need of treatment than the patients it seemed !! I lived on site and was in the nurses home (not a nurse btw) or involved with patients at all. It was one of those places that was VERY spooky . I had a very bad time career wise whilst I was there and was so glad to hear it had shut.


    i was in maryward tonvalein1973 on mary ward i rember dr friskin staffnurse tutt sister hanson and many more would like to get hold of my records for my drs does anyone remberme

  19. Geoff says:

    I wish to record my sincere thanks to all contributors for all the posts on this site. It is important that these things are remembered, good or bad. In particular I thank those that have traumatic memories and/or experiences to relate. I hope that sharing them helps and wish you all the very best for the future.

  20. DAVID F ROBINSON says:

    I was admitted to Merrifields childrens unit, and was there from Oct 1957 to Oct 1958. I was given two kinds of tablets and also iron tonic. Me and other patients were forched to have ECT against their will. It was about the worst year of my life. My parents got me out of the place. I am now 61< still haunts me now and stll have flashbacks

  21. liz says:

    I was a patient on Mary and Olivia wards as a young teenager in the late 60s and early 70s. I was anorexic. I think I threw a glass and ended up on a back ward where we used to be herded up the main road in overalls and wellies to wash eggs at the local chicken farm. It was so humiliating. We had a very strict regime of activities and no privacy. We slept in a dormitory and had to bath in a communal bathroom. I am still not sure what therapeutic effect all this was meant to have. I have rebuilt my life over the years and now have a good career and a grown up family. I shall never forget the treatment I received. The only good thing to come from that time is that I make sure that the people I have looked after never experience what I did. The previous postings are very disturbing. Would it be possible to bring this treatment of young children to the public attention as others have done.

  22. DMA says:

    I agree with you, Liz, the treatment of children at Tone Vale/Merrifield should be brought to wider public attention.

    As it happens, I am working on something along these lines – but don’t hold your breath (I came across this site in the earlier research stages for my ‘project’). Meanwhile, however, I’d support anything anyone else might have in mind for doing this.

    By the way, I can’t believe I said in a previous post (above) that I didn’t witness the kind of horrors described by another poster. The thing is (I think), if you’re exposed to these things for long enough they become ‘normal’, and in the years following they stay with you, but somehow it’s such a long time since you last noticed how horrific they were that you just accept them. But once you start itemising the things you witnessed and experienced (as I’ve been doing in the course of what I’m working on) you start to realise how scandalous it all is.

  23. tina devereux(anderson) says:

    hi i was in merrifield childrens unit for many years as my parents didnt want me i was told i was an uncontrollable child yeah right! i was later told years later that i should never have been put there but hey i was.And some of the things i saw was well should never have happened really the treatment of the kids was so wrong and that is what they were kids im now 39 and have 4 kids of my own but will never forget the years i lived there and tone vale and merrifield was pulled down years ago to build houses .I also spent some time in tone vale why ask my parents when i was 17 the drugs they gave me were horrible and i didnt feel human at all.

  24. tina devereux(anderson) says:

    just wanted to add what i wrote i remember the awful times when one of my friends was always getting pinned down and given injections and also remembering the way they forced fed the anareixcs its all coming back now sadly and the agression from the staff was unbelievably rough to say the least.After leaving merrifield i self harmed as i thought it was the norm and had been there for so long i was there from 1981 till 1986-7 and seeing my friends being pinned down and striped naked and put inthe time out room i have also had a drinking problem but its sorted now but living in a place like merrifield does make you change

  25. christine says:

    definatly agree with you there tina about the self harm. I learnt more about self harm in merrifields then i already did, also became more sneaky with it. Trouble with some places like this is you could be admitted with one sort of problem, needing to or not, and end up learning alot more about other things which rub off onto you as well.

  26. missy says:

    i just found out that my best friend was in tone vale from the age of 8 to 14, and i am sickend to know he was given electrike shock treatment for all those years, he is such a sweet person now, i couldnt understand how he ever ended up there, he still finds it almost too painfull to talk about. and those years haunt him still.

  27. christopher witts says:

    Hi everyone, i just popped back to this website to have a look, and its really good that other people have left comments further specially kenny which i do remember well he use to look out for me and help me when i was in trouble i would like to shake his hand 1 day and say THANK YOU.. There was so much more which went on there which would take hours to write, not just went on in merrifields also tone vale.. I have also just found out that there are still a few of the old staff from merrifields who are still currently working with children down in the taunton area ? I would love to go and knock there door and ask them why they treated me and other pupils the way they did. I have 1 of the names which i wont mention over the air on this website, but for example,i had tourettes and sometimes i kept spitting, which i dont do now,this member of staff said if i dont stop spitting he will take me to the toilet and make me spit untill i fill one of the toilet pans up, so the next day i still spat. so he dragged me to the toilet held my head over the pan and forced me to spit,instead i was violently sick as no one had pulled the flush after they had been to toilet?? I was then told not to tell no one about this otherwise i would loose a weekends leave ? I would love to meet him again and let him try and do it again i think it would be the other way round now. I feel that was child abuse ? Like i said there is so much more, i wont even start on tone vale, oh and there was brooklands home in Langport part of the merrifields chain ? I have a very good memory, and these last couple of weeks every thing is coming back to me, its like being haunted i even wake up some nights thinking about it. If anybody wants to get in contact or wants to write a book or require a story or anything please feel free to contact me i wiil leave my e-mail address at the bottom. I would like to send my biggest love and best wishes to all the people who went through what I and many other people did.xx . email me at ,

  28. DMA says:

    Chris, I’ve emailed you with what information I’ve got. Good luck, and let us know how you get on.

  29. christopher witts says:

    Thanks DMA, will do.. Might even go to take a break magazine or maybe a newspaper and try and get this nightmare out of my mind , there must be someone out there whos interested in a story which made so many children suffer in the 70s and 80s due to the poor running of this unit and hospital ??

  30. SJR says:

    I am from Brighton but I lived for a short time in Wiveliscombe and I often drove through Cotford St Luke when it was being built. I was interested in this building and found out it used to be a hospital for mental health patients but this is the first time I have ever known the true extent of what went on in that hospital and I am absolutely horrified. My heart goes out to all of you who suffered at the hands of these monsters. I am a therapist based back in Brighton now and many of you sound like you have rebuilt your lives but I truly hope you can all find the outlet you need to lay these terrible memories to rest. I think you are all very brave and my thoughts are with you. SJR

  31. Christopher James Witts says:

    Thanks for that SJR, Thats a nice comment.. Im only about 56 miles from you based in Fareham, Portsmouth, maybe you could give me some therapy if i travelled , I will pay you …

  32. SJR says:

    Hi Christopher
    Thank you for your response. I’m afraid I won’t be taking on any more clients until the new year as I am so busy. I would be happy to let you know as and when I am taking clients or alternatively if you want to find a therapist in your local area you could go on the BACP website. Hope you find someone suitable. Best wishes. Susie

  33. Nic says:

    I worked here converting it into new flat’s it was a cool place to work as when i worked there not much had been touched so we had loads to explore i only wish i had taken picture of it now


  34. Christopher James Witts says:

    Thanks susie, Take care x

  35. richard rice says:

    just been looking at the comments very intresting. my mother was sent to tone vale in the early 80s mid 80s. bit of a long shot does anyone remember a margret cotty/rice being treated at tone vale? would be good to hear from you.

  36. K59 says:

    Oh My God, I live in Bridgwater and am in my thirties and grew up knowing that Tone Vale was not a nice place to go but I had no idea what happened there. I didn’t even know about Merryfields. I work with children in care and do my best to make sure they have the social skills they need for a better future, I do my best to make sure they know that someone cares. Reading these stories has shocked me and I hope all of the former residents stay safe and find some sort of closure. Best Wishes X

  37. steve hunt says:

    I was in merrifeild for a while and even tho i’m 41 now i still have memories both good and bad,the use of drugs to “control” troubled kids was abundant,morning meetings were a farce,Dr Zinner use to spend more time making pots than worrying about his patients.The education there was laughable,one teacher blatantly carrying on with another but trying to hide the fact.Time out to punish those they couldnt control.All i can say was is certainly changed the way i grew up

  38. DMA says:

    Steve, I well remember Dr Zinner and his pots, and Dr Bakker (and Dr Bailey, too, Zinner’s predecessor). I don’t remember any ‘blatent carrying on’ between teachers, but I do remember one particular teacher who, though entertaining, was an outrageous and extremely vocal racist. His successor was an improvement, however.

    Educational deprivation is certainly one of the terrible things Merrifield inflicted upon kids. I now have two degrees, but I still regret my lack of a general secondary eduction, and I very much feel for those who were less fortunate than me in dragging themselves forward.

    The Merrifield staff (Unit, as opposed to School) were a mixed bag; some were well-intentioned but useless, some did their best under difficult circumstances, and some were sarcastic at best and sadistic at worst. It’s a wonder our story has never got out, but this site clearly shows that the pressure is building. I don’t think the secret buried under the new houses and greenery of Cotford St Luke is going to stay secret for too much longer (well, not if I have anything to do with it).

  39. steve hunt says:

    hi dma
    yes Dr zinner was the classic nhs doctor lol patients came a close third on his priorities,i heartily agree with your comments about education,i actually went to kingsmead for a while but was treated as the nutty freak from the kids loony bin,the staff there were in best sufferable they seem to derive pleasure from ordering us about and telling us what we could do and when id be lying if i said there wasnt a knock on effect from being there i still think about times there and still sends shivers down my spine

  40. Christopher James Witts says:

    The whole set up was a joke, and i wont forget wot happened to me and dr zinner was italian he was the one prescibed me valium 4 times a day ??? we need to all get together on a reunion and try and get a story to the papers ??

  41. steve hunt says:

    i dont think ive seen anyone from my days at merrifield,i often wonder how their doing?i know one girl committed suicide as for the others i dont know,often wonder if their haunted by memories as i am

  42. Christopher James Witts says:

    Hey steve do you remember me, i was also known as Timmy busch, as that was my nick name timmy, I was always interested in d. j ing which i have been for the last 25 years, also my mum and dad used to have an ice-ceam business out of wellington used to go on and on about music and transit vans etc,, was you there when jo cadick and mr pledger and mr nugent etc.. if not sorry you dont know me ? I hope your ok bud im 42 now and based in Fareham near Portsmouth.. you must have had the same doc as me zinner was a ????.. LOL x

  43. steve hunt says:

    yes i remember u tim,i think i knew u before merrifields aswell,i remember jo caddick and martin carpenter,andy cole,maggie sure your familys ice cream buisness was near the dolphin pub in wellington

  44. Christopher James Witts says:

    yes mate it was , and we had a depot next to the dolphin the landlord was bernie and jackie ., all our vans were called Mr softee, thats spooky bud ? andy cole i remember him , do you remember cindy kellow annette sexton, and heather the one who used to bang her head on the wall and make her self bleed ? bless her ,, also the foot therapist janet wilkins , hey if you remember me bud we went through F…..G hell , I am still doing ice-cream now and d.j ing, i went to court fields school as well , small world , bring it on mate lets hear more xx

  45. steve hunt says:

    yes its a small world bernie n jackie green had the dolphin i went to courtfields with their son andrew,i can only recal a few of the kids at merrifield,brian love,shaun o driscoll,adrian smith,jason powell,howie jones,melanie lomax,pete saunders do u remeber Avril silk one of the teachers? howard thomas was my teacher(for want of a better word)as for the staff,carol thomas,johanna,jerry mogg,mr n mrs mackie,bob and pete

  46. Christopher James Witts says:

    yep i remember andrew green we use to play together and go out on our bikes,and swimming at the sports centre, do you remember maria barratt from court fields she was a right manky smelly bird ?? i remember jerry mog dont remember aviril but she was prob there. Mrs owen was my teacher at merryfields , sandy was my key worker she was canadian, mr cook he used to run the train room down by the time out room, he also used to live in wellington, where are you living now mate….

  47. steve hunt says:

    i vaguely recall maria from courtfields,im living in minehead now moved about a lot over the years

  48. Christopher James Witts says:

    ok mate , i was ad d.j. at butlins down there for 6 months back in 1984 at a club called busbys above the regency.. I spect its changed a lot since then.. Take care mate if you find any pics from the past please send them to me at……… cheers…

  49. christopher James Witts says:

    Thank you everyone for being so nice and understanding on this site about this nightmare from hell , I think it is best if I put the things from the past behind me..However I will be coming down there in the next couple of months just to have a look and maybe have a pint in the pub down there ? Or 2 ? ? And maybe take some pics to bring home so I can remember where I spent some of my child hood at.. Hopefully somebody will be able to tell me where to go and take a photo of Merryfields as im sure I would not regonise it again.. Id like to say a big thanks to For letting me put all my comments and feelings on this website, It has helped me get over this torture from the past and now im gonna put it all to bed now…. I LOVE EVERYONE OF YOU ON HERE,, TAKE CARE. Regards Chris xxxx

  50. DMA says:

    Rather bizarrely there’s a residential road in Cotford St Luke called Merrifields, which is roughly where part of Merrifield Unit used to be (there’s a photo of the street sign on Friends Reunited on the Merrifield School page, along with a few other Merrifield-related pics, including Gerry Mogg, Janet Wilkins and Frederick Pledger, plus some kids, including Geraint).

    There’s also a Bethel Mead in Cotford, which is roughtly where the main (lower) entrance to Merrifield used to be – presumbably named after Dr Bethel, the psychicatrist who started Merrifield in the first place (and who later took his own life). Apart from that, there’s nothing to see (although the Tone Vale chapel is now a pub – no doubt the one you’re planning to visit, Chris!).

    I’ve been back once, earlier this year, but I don’t need to go again – besides, it’s about 150 miles away!

    It’s particularly freaky seeing so many families with kids living there; most of them probably have no idea that their houses stand on land where so many kids went through hell. At least some of us have got on with our lives since and have done pretty well (I’m in touch with one who has done extremely well, and another who, very sadly, is terminally ill).

    Best wishes to all Merrifield survivors – drop me an email if you feel like it.

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