Fiddington House – a brief history.

We do not know where these typewritten notes came from but they tell the story of the origins of the Fiddington Asylum.

Typed notes on Fiddington House, an asylum at Market Lavington

The notes transcribed

In 1816 a Mr Willett, linen-draper in Devizes took premises* in Market Lavington which he named the ‘Market Lavington Retreat’. The Gazette of March 27th 1817 carried an advertisement for this home for the insane. The conductors announce that they have taken for their model the celebrated ‘Retreat at York’, and describe their grounds as ‘pleasantly situated with several acres of ground appropriated to horticultural pursuits, calculated to induce the patients to take bodily exercise’.

The Asylum filled so rapidly that in 1832 when Fiddington Hill Farm and Manorial Rights came up for sale Mr Willett bought these new premises and enlarged and adapted them. It was 1834 before the patients were transferred to their new home where they now had fifteen acres of garden and grounds for recreation. A press notice advertising Fiddington Retreat speaks with enthusiasm of the lovely surroundings, and stresses the fact that there is now ample space for ‘maintaining these distinctions desirable according to the circumstances of life’.

Ann Saunders, in her book entitled ‘Russell Mill’**, says, ‘Uncle Willett and Aunt established a lunatic asylum. My aunt made the house comfortable and uncle made it lively. He laid out the grounds and built the house at Fiddington’.

*Those first premises were at Palm House, High Street, Market Lavington

** We have a photocopy of this book at Market Lavington Museum

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6 Responses to “Fiddington House – a brief history.”

  1. William Barnes Says:

    On researching family history I came across my grandfather x 4 who left a will in which he was in the employ of a Robert Willet Esq of Fiddington house Wiltshire .This was in the mid 1800 are there any records of employees at this time ,my grandfather was Joseph Ashley of Market Lavington he died in 1849, his wife was named Pamela . The history of the Fiddington house and Willet family are I find so interesting a visit in the near future is a must thank you for the information .

  2. Becky Barker Says:

    Hello, Are there any records of asylum admissions in 1841

  3. Jeanette Pepper Says:

    Was Fiddington House still an asylum in 1950 or was it turned into private accommodation

    • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

      We believe it was an asylum until the early 1960s.

      • susan loveridge Says:

        Can you tell me if there is any information of the people who lived there in 1950. I have searched for details of my late father and we know he was on the electoral register in 1950.
        Can you advise of people who worked there lived o the premises

  4. marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

    Thank you for your comment, Susan. I do not know of a list of people who worked at the asylum, but they do appear on censuses. The most recent one I have to hand is 1901, but presume 1911 and 1921 are now available, but these are probably too early for you. Our blog has lots of entries about Fiddington House. If you go to the current page at https://marketlavingtonmuseum.com you can put Fiddington House in the search box and hit return to find them. However, they don’t list the staff or patients. Sorry

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