What can the 1921 Census tell us about our Chiswick residents?

From 1892 to 1928 Chiswick House was operating as a mental asylum. Our volunteer archivist, Cluny Wells, is trawling the archive and has uncovered some fascinating findings from the 1921 Census.

The 1921 Census of Britain


In 1942, a fire in the Office of Works destroyed the Census taken in 1931 and, due to the subsequent outbreak of World War II, there was no Census in 1941. Therefore, the 1921 Census provides the only records we have for a large chapter of our history.

From 1892 to 1928, Chiswick House was leased by the Tuke brothers who used it as a mental health institution. Chiswick House Asylum, as it was known, was licensed to take around 35 private patients who had accommodation in the wing buildings. These wealthy, upper-class patients would have felt very much at home at Chiswick. The Tukes tried to maintain the atmosphere of a country house and retained much of the decorations that had been added by the 6th Duke. They pioneered a new approach to treatment and the patients wandered around the House and Gardens freely and pursued their creative interests.

Chiswick House in 1920 from the Historic England archive.

At the time of the 1921 Census, the main inhabitants were medical staff and patients. The sole remaining Tuke brother, Dr Charles Molesworth, lived at Chiswick with his wife Mary and daughter, also named Mary, in the Gatehouse.

Dr Charles Molesworth Tuke in 1910, taken at his daughter Vera’s wedding party.

Our own archive tells us, that at the time of the Census, Chiswick was home to 37 patients (19 female and 18 male). Helping Dr Tuke to run his establishment were 26 medical staff comprising 14 female nurses, including a Matron and 11 male attendants, plus a Head Attendant. Running the house were 28 female domestic servants and a governess. Additionally, the Grounds were maintained by five male gardeners and two female gatekeepers.

Some notable Chiswick House residents at this time included the Dalton and Aspland families. Joseph and Elizabeth Dalton lived here with their son and daughter and Henry and Annie Aspland. Both wives were listed as gatekeepers. Anyone familiar with our archive will recognise the names Aspland and Dalton, who were once our head gardeners.

These are some initial findings from this Census, I will keep digging and see what else I can find…