In 1777, William Barkley, a wealthy London barrister, acquired several fields in Upper Halliford, and shortly after, built Halliford House there as his country residence. The house provided a home for four generations of the Barkley family, and from1841 to about 1945 the house became a Private Asylum.

Owners of Halliford House included a young married couple, Charles William Barkley and his wife Frances. They circumnavigated the world in two quite remarkable sea voyages between 1786 and 1794, trading in valuable sea-otter fur pelts obtained by barter using small iron and copper items, so sought after by the inhabitants of N. Canada and Alaska.

Frances was the first Englishwoman to visit the shores of Hawaii, British Columbia and Alaska aboard their ship the ‘Imperial Eagle’. Charles’ charting of what is now known as Vancouver Island was so important, that today’s place names of Barkley Sound and Frances Island shown on the world’s maps, are lasting memorials to this amazing couple. The British Columbia archives at Victoria hold a collection of Barkley related material which is of great historical importance.

Nowadays, Vancouver Island has a popular tourist attraction, the ‘MV Frances Barkley’, providing daily pleasure cruises amongst some of its smaller islands, during which the incredible Barkley story is told to passengers.

A relatively recent book (Ref.1) tells the story of their two voyages. Six of their crew were murdered by inhabitants during exploration of a small island along the coast of Vancouver Island. Charles named this island Destruction Island, a name it still bears today. Charles lost command of his first ship the ‘Imperial Eagle’, following a dispute with the all powerful East India Company, but an arbitration board finally awarded him £5000 compensation (£700,000 today). On the homeward leg of their second voyage, they arrived at Mauritius in June 1793 unaware that England and France were again at war. They were briefly arrested and their brig the ‘Halcyon’ seized, which unfortunately left them with a great financial loss.

In England they lived at Halliford House between about 1810 and 1830, and in 1822 inherited the house from Charles’ brother John. In 1816 and 1824 their daughters were married at St. Mary’s Church, Sunbury. Following Charles’ death in 1832, ownership passed to their younger son C.F.Barkley, and after his death in 1845, his wife Annie Elizabeth Barkley inherited the Estate.

In 1841 Dr. Joseph Seaton, MD became a tenant at Halliford House and opened an Asylum there that same year. The 1851 Census shows just four patients, but by 1881 this number had grown to about twenty-one, cared for by up to eighteen staff. The 1861 Census lists the House as a ‘Special Lunatic Asylum’, but by 1881 the Census again records it as being a ‘Private Asylum’. The 1891 Census shows Dr. David Edwards, MD as Medical Superintendent with twenty-seven patients, a matron and twelve staff.

The 1901 and 1911 Census returns show Dr. William Haslett, MD (later Sir William) as Superintendent of the Mental Asylum with twenty-six patients identified by initials only. The 1939 Register shows Dr. R.A.Stewart as Medical Superintendent of the Asylum.

After demolition of the derelict house in about 1957, some of its grounds were later opened to the public as Halliford Park

Ref.1- The Remarkable World of Frances Barkley

By Ken Battle