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Thomas Holloway Thomas Holloway

Holloway (1800»1883) was a man who amassed a huge fortune in the first part of his life making patent medicines. He then spent the second part contriving ways in which to spend it.

With an Italian, Felix Albinolo, he developed an ointment  - which after 1834 he marketed as Holloway’s Ointment

His advertising claimed that the ointment possessed a ‘healing genius". However, when analysed it was found to consist of nothing more than yellow bees wax resin, lanolin and olive oil. In later life Holloway became something of a recluse and died in 1883.

Holloway became interested in the prospect of building a sanatorium in 1864 after attending a public meeting at which Lord Shaftesbury attempted to raise £5000 for a ‘middle—class asylum’. Holloway, who at this time was rich, famous and looking for ways to spend his vast wealth, became committed to the concept.

Crossland House

Crossland House - the centrepiece of the Holloway Sanatorium - was the inspired creation of two remarkable men, Thomas Holloway and William Crossland. Between them they were responsible for the conception and construction of two of this country’s outstanding Victorian buildings The Royal Holloway College, Egham and the Holloway Sanatorium.

In 1871, Holloway initiated a public debate through the pages of The Builder, inviting suggestions as to `How best to spend a quarter of a million or more', a sum of money that he very soon doubled. In fact, it was his wife who was to suggest a college for women as the means by which Holloway's money might effect what, in his own words, he wanted to achieve: `the greatest public good'

ln September 1871, Holloway sought the advice of EW Pugin to whom he declared that he intended building an asylum for two hundred paying patients spending £40000 or more on the building - a considerable sum at the time. A competition resulted in thirteen entries all of which were examined for their architectural merit by Professor Donaldson and a TH Wyatt.
The winning entry was by an architectural triumvirate of Crossland, Salomans and Jones. The building was to consist of three storeys; the upper storey being exclusively devoted to sleeping accommodation, male and female patients being kept distant on either sides of the central entrance and Great Hall.

The first brick was laid by Jane Holloway in June 1873 and the building was opened in 1885 by the Prince and Princess of Wales - whilst attending the races at nearby Ascot.   By the time it was finished the cost had risen to a staggering c. £350,000 – the equivalent of c.£12m today.

Work on the building began in the spring of 1873 when a clerk of works was appointed. Crossland received his first commission payment of £300 on 2nd March 1874. Once started, Holloway was determined that building should go forward apace. When he decided on the use of Portland stone in place of ornamental bricks work was not allowed to start. Crossland had to set aside all his carefully planned working and detail drawings, hurriedly drawing up alternatives as they were required by the masons.

There was a very large workforce on the site. It is recorded in connection with the neigbouring Holloway College that there were at times as many as 900 masons employed. The building accounts of the sanatorium include costs of advertising for masons, not only locally in Surrey and Berkshire, but as far afield as Birmingham and Manchester.

By the time the institution was ready to admit patients new regulations had come into force and Crossland had to revise the internal arrangements to comply with the new safety regulations. Interior decoration was lavish: J Moyr Smith of Putney decorated the Great Hall at a cost of £400. These decorations, restored to their former glory, can still be seen today.

A contemporary account of the sanatorium is of interest, it is probable that much of the content came from Crossland and Holloway: Holloway himself must have been pleased with the report for he subsequently sent a monetary gift to the author.  We reproduce some of it here:

“On alighting at the Virginia Water Station the traveller becomes aware of a tall tower, recalling to mind the outline of the famous belfry tower of Ypres. In guide-books the magnificent tower of Les Halles in the old Flemish town which is said to have given its name to "diaper" fabrics, is comically referred to as "reminding one of the Victoria Tower, Westminster." In fact, the Ypres tower is of very fine thirteenth-century work and has served as a model for many towers of later construction, including that of the Holloway Sanatorium. The chief difference between the latter and its prototype is that it is of red brick with stone dressing
Built on the top of a slight eminence the Holloway Sanatorium, with its tower standing in pleasure grounds 22 acres in extent, is a conspicuous object in the richly-wooded country which inspired Sir John Denham with some of his finest verses. Commenced some seven years ago by Mr Thomas Holloway, the Sanatorium for Curable Cases of Mental Disease was originally intended by the founder as a gift to the nation, perfect and complete as it stood. Mr Holloway resolved not only to make a gift of the building, but to invest an additional £50,000 as an endowment, which raised the cost of the whole foundation to £350,000! The purpose for which it is designed was defined by the founder to be “the succour of persons of the middle-class afflicted with mental disease”.

The handsome appearance of the exterior is amply borne out by the interior decorations and arrangement of the building, which when furnished will be ready at once to receive patients. Built of red brick, dressed with stone, in the style called indifferently Tudor or Early English Renaissance, the effect of the structure is highly creditable to the Architect, Mr W. H. Crossland, whose handsome town hall at Rochdale proves him a worthy pupil of Sir Gilbert Scott. The front elevation recalls in its general features some of the finer models of the Tudor period, such as Littlecote built before the stern dignity of the Gothic had quite yielded to the grace of the Renaissance. The interior decorations have been designed and executed by various hands, under the direction of Mr George Martin. With the exception of the massive grey marble top of the balustrade, the whole of the entrance hall and staircase is painted and gilt over the stone.
This was an afterthought of kindness towards the persons for whom the building is intended, and four hundred of whom it is planned to accommodate.”

A board of trustees managed the Sanatorium until the complex passed into the hands of the National Health Service after the last war: A local resident reports that it was a common sight to see patients wandering around the village in their pyjamas!! It continued operating as a hospital until December 1981 when it became redundant. A serious fire led to its permanent closure

For 14 years, the building lay in a derelict state. The lead was stolen and water saturated the interior, creating massive damage to the infrastructure and decorations.  It is reputed to been used by the SAS for training missions. One of its other, more obscure, claims to fame whilst derelict is that it is featured extensively in the 1970 music video with Bonnie Tyler’s hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.

Over the ensuing years, various property developers attempted to put together various schemes to renovate the buildings and develop the site. in 1994 developers Octagon submitted a scheme which was accepted by the planners and proved the salvation of this Grade I Listed architectural wonder for the nation.


Restoration proved to be a daunting task. The first job was the central tower. All external brick and stonework had to be cleaned by hand and totally repointed with a specially matched lime mortar. Then all the rainwater hoppers and gutters were replaced to standards acceptable to English Heritage.
Specialist restorers were employed on day-work rates. The renovation work on the hall and stairway leading to the Grand Hall took six months to complete. Wet rot had eaten into the ends of the massive pitch pine hammer beam roof. Repairs were carried out using modern epoxy resins cast around interlocking glass-fibre reinforcing rods.

The Building gets a mention in Bill Bryson's Book "Notes from a Small Island" as it was here that he met his wife - who was a nurse at the Sanatorium.