Holloway Sanatorium

Holloway Sanatorium (now known as Crossland House) in Virginia Water (Holloway Drive) was the creation of two remarkable men, Thomas Holloway and William Crossland. This is perhaps the first genuine attempt to care for, and treat, those suffering from mental illness in the UK.


Thomas Holloway was born on the 22nd September 1800. He amassed a huge fortune in the first part of its life making and selling patent remedies. Together with the Italian Felix Albinolo, he developed an ointment which after 1834 they marketed as Holloway’s Ointment. Seeing the potential in patent medicines, Holloway soon added pills to his range of products.


A key factor in Holloway’s enormous success in business was advertising (the cost of which bankrupted him at one stage). The sales of his products made Holloway a multi-millionaire, and one of the richest men in Britain. Holloway's products were said to be able to cure a whole host of ailments, though scientific evaluation of them after his death showed that none of them contained any ingredients which would be considered to be of significant medicinal value today.


Thomas Holloway is best remembered for the institutions which he built. Not only the Holloway Sanatorium, but also the Royal Holloway College, a college of the University of London, located a short distance away from the Sanatorium in Egham. Both were designed by the architect William Henry Crossland.


Holloway became interested in the prospect of building a sanatorium in 1864 after attending a public meeting in which Lord Shaftsbury attempted to raise £5000 for a middle-class asylum. The reasoning behind this was that the mentally ill poor would be sent to the workhouse, while the rich could afford to attend a private institution. Shaftsbury was concerned about the self-employed middle classes whose businesses and families would suffer if their owners became incapable.


Holloway, now rich and famous, and looking for ways to spend his vast wealth, became committed to the cause. In September 1871, he sought the advice of Edward Pugin (The son of Augustus Pugin) and informs him that he intends to build an asylum for 200 paying patients, and has a budget of £40,000, a considerable sum at the time. A competition is held to design the new building, which was jointly won by Crossland, Salomans and Jones. The plans showed a French renaissance style building, loosely modelled on the Cloth Hall at Ypres, Belgium, and the Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley, France.


Philanthropic and somewhat eccentric, Holloway died of congestion of the lungs at Sunninghill on the 26th of December 1883. Perhaps he should have tried some of his own pills.


After a period of decline, from 1994 onwards the Sanatorium underwent a major refurbishment by Octagon Developments Ltd. The site has now been converted to houses and flats, but the main building can still be visited from time to time, courtesy of the Heritage Open Days initiative.



1800 Thomas Holloway born.
1834 William Crossland born.
1864 Holloway becomes interested in building a sanatorium after attending a public meeting in which Lord Shaftsbury attempted to raise £5000 for a ‘middle-class’ asylum.
1871 Holloway seeks the advice of Edward Pugin and informs him that he intends to build an asylum. Following a competition, Crossland is awarded the contract.
1873 The first brick was laid by Thomas’s wife Jane Holloway.
1883 Thomas Holloway dies. He is buried in the churchyard of St. Michaels and All Angels, Sunninghill, Berkshire.
1885 The building was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales (later to be King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra).
1908 William Crosland dies.
1930 Beechams Pills Ltd acquires Holloways Pills Ltd.
1948 The National Health Service takes over the running of the Sanatorium.
1949 – 1950 Holloways Pills Ltd. ceases trading and the company is liquidated in 1952.
1978 A fire burns down the Sanatorium’s cinema. The cinema, three wards, the sewing rooms and the electro-convulsive therapy rooms were badly damage. All patients were safely evacuated.
1981 The NHS declares the hospital redundant.
1988 The property is bought by Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, and remains in his ownership until his death.
1994 Property developers Octagon submit a scheme to restore what is now classified as a Grade I listed building. The scheme is accepted.

The Entrance Hall

The roundels in the ceiling bear the initials of Thomas Holloway and Jane Holloway.


The Staircase

Note the strange creatures lurking between the columns.


The Great Hall

Note the hammerbeam roof.


The Chapel

Crossland didn't think to include a chapel in his original design, so this was something of an afterthought.

  • Photos and main text by Malcolm Kinross (March 2020)


  • Verity Holloway, The Mighty Healer, Pen and Sword Books Ltd 2016

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