Conolly Dell was formerly part of the grounds of The Lawn, the home and private asylum of Dr John Conolly after his retirement as Superintendent of Hanwell Asylum where he worked from 1839-44, He pioneered humane treatment and non-restraint of the mentally ill. Part of the grounds of The Lawn were given as public open space in 1911, named in his memory, with a memorial surmounted by a winged figure. The sloping garden has a series of ponds, rockery garden and fine trees.
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Conolly Dell is a small park in a shallow depression that was formerly part of the grounds of The Lawn, which was the home of Dr John Conolly after his retirement in 1852 until his death in 1866 and the park is named in his memory.
Dr Conolly was Superintendent of Hanwell Asylum from 1839 and became celebrated for introducing innovative techniques of humane treatment and non-restraint to asylums. Hanwell Asylum, or more properly the Middlesex County Asylum had been built in 1831 on 55 acres in what was then largely open country. It was one of a number of such asylums established following the County Asylums Act of 1808 that authorised county rates to be used to provide better facilities for the mentally ill, in particular to accommodate paupers. John Conolly's mother was a descendent of the poet Tennyson; at the age of 18 John became an ensign in a Cambridgeshire regiment and travelled much in Ireland and Scotland. He began to study medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating in 1821 having written a thesis on 'The State of the Mind in Insanity and Melancholia' whereupon he studied for a short time in Paris before becoming a successful GP in Stratford upon Avon, where he was twice mayor and an alderman. He worked in London between 1827 and 1830 after which he became physician of asylums of Warwickshire, before finally becoming resident physician at Hanwell in 1839, where he promoted the then novel idea of humane treatment of the insane, first practised by Pinel in France, William Tuke in York in 1792 and others. His predecessor at Hanwell, Dr William Ellis, was also an advocate of humane treatment of patients. Dr Conolly's techniques were innovative. He encouraged games and outdoor recreation as well as supervised outings, and a Bazaar was set up where patients' handiwork was sold and the profits returned to benefit the patients.
After he retired from Hanwell Asylum Dr Conolly ran a private asylum at Lawn House, with four patients 'of unsound mind' recorded there in the 1851 census. Part of the grounds were given as a public open space in 1911, according to the an article in the Asylum Workers' Journal of Mental Science, 'thanks to the liberality of Dr. Maudsley', and it was also 'suitably laid out and equipped'; seen from the Great Western Railway, it was 'a pleasant resting-place for the eye from the rather uninteresting streets adjoining it'. A memorial to Conolly was erected in the small park, the plinth of which still exists although the winged figure surmounting it is no longer in place. The park was described in 1956 as 'pretty Conolly Dell' and now has good tree cover including eucalyptus, conifers, and ponds with a thriving colony of smooth newts (Nature Conservation in Ealing). The small park has its original railings and gates.
In 2009 Ealing Council's Leisure and Parks Service began working with the Conolly Dell Working Group on a number of projects to restore the garden. These include restoration of the ponds, which subject to funding is due to be completed in 2012. Other projects include planting around the ponds to increase biodiversity, a new bog garden, new benches, restoration of the Conolly Monument including a new Hanwell Phoenix, and other improvements to the shrubs and rockery. This is one of a number of projects resulting from Brent River Park's designation as a Priority Park in 2009. In 1976 Brent River Park was created following proposals by the Brent River and Canal Society, which was established in 1973 to set up a linear park and improve the Brent Valley river corridor. Brent River Park covers 400 hectares along its 7km length, and includes larger formal parks such as Brent Lodge Park, Churchfields Recreation Ground, Pitshanger and Elthorne Parks (q.q.v.) and open space, golf courses, sports grounds, allotments and privately owned land. Brent River Park received £400,000 in 2009 under the Mayor of London's Priority Parks scheme, which was matched by £487,000 from Ealing Council.
The Asylum Workers' Association 'Journal of Mental Science', 1911, 57: pp512/3; Middlesex County Times, 23/11/1929; 1/9/1956; Nature Conservation in Ealing; Richard Essen, 'Ealing, Hanwell and Greenford', Sutton, 1997.