Hospitals for the mentally ill

Discussion in 'Institutions' started by Daft Bat, Apr 11, 2015.

  1. Daft Bat

    Daft Bat Administrator. Chief cook & bottle washer! Staff Member

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    I used to live in St Albans, Hertfordshire and grew up in the knowledge that we had many local hospitals for the mentally ill and, as they were called then, the mentally handicapped.

    There were five local to me:
    • Napsbury, in London Colney
    • Leavesden, near Watford
    • Shenley
    • Hill End
    • Cell Barnes

    If you find that you have London ancestors who were enumerated as Imbecile or similar in the censuses, it is always worth checking the hospitals in the surrounding counties if they go missing in later censuses. St Albans was a popular place as there was a very good railway link to and from London. This also applies to other areas outside of London. Sadly, many had the attitude that the inmates were far enough away from their families in London to not be an embarrassment, but close enough to visit.
     
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  2. Blackmogs

    Blackmogs Moderator. General Dogs(cats)body. Staff Member

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    Eastry (in Kent) and surrounding area 'imbeciles' which included deaf were put into the Eastry workhouse. Then with the introduction of the NHS and the abolition of the Poor Law (1948) the Eastry workhouse was renamed and called a hospital. I am not sure when they started to differentiate between an hospital/asylum/hospital for mentally handicapped. When I worked there in '83 it was the latter.
     
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  3. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    Good advice as usual Jan.

    One of my relatives Henry James Vines, followed what I imagine to be a fairly normal journey into the system in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was or became epileptic and presumably because this prevented him working in his trade of boot and shoes manufacture he entered the local workhouse in Wellingborough. He had a wife and several children who stayed outside which I found quite strange.

    He was then sent to the local asylum just outside Northampton, maybe because of his epilepsy again but possibly because he was irrational by Victorian standards in other ways as well. I don't know. Then the Great War was fought and the asylum was commandeered by the War Dept. to be a hospital for wounded servicemen and my relative was moved to another asylum in Radcliffe on Trent near Nottingham. His family remained in Irthlingborough, Northants throughout.

    He contracted TB in one of the institutions which I read was quite common and he died of that disease in 1917.

    So Jan's advice to search around is borne out by his experience. To make matters even harder, however, the hospital records were inaccurate. In the 1911 census when he was in the first asylum he was recorded as H J Vine. In the second asylum he was down as JHV!
     
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  4. Blackmogs

    Blackmogs Moderator. General Dogs(cats)body. Staff Member

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    Tony, an archivist at Wilts RO told me that sometimes people went into workhouses because that was the only place that 'health' care was available to most people. I have a family like yours, the mother went into a workhouse and her family (quite large) stayed outside. The archivist told me it was probably because they couldn't care for her. Your story is sad though, epilepsy is misunderstood enough even today never mind then :(
     
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  5. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    ....and that's only half the story! Some of you may recall the rest of the story which I've related on here before. This was the 6 year old boy who was tied to a chair by his father and beaten so badly that the neighbours had to rescue him and the father was sent to prison for 4 months with hard labour.
     
  6. Lusmum

    Lusmum Active Member

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    My mum was a nurse in an Asylum in the 1920s...secure unit...padded cells the lot...some young women were only in there because they had a baby out of wedlock...my mum got beaten very badly by a patient who was in a padded cell....mum broke the rule that there had to be 2 nurses before you opened the door...the person in the padded cell asked fro a drink of water and mum thinking she was calmed down as she was very polite...opened the door on her own to give her water and paid the price of black eyes broken ribs and numerous other injured parts.....it was usual then to only put initials on a census of the patients....some really bad things went on..a patient would be put in a bath of cold water and given an electric shock....mum spoke of seeing a woman smothered between 2 mattresses...you can't believe these days that they were places of torture and not a caring place for mentally ill people...
     
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  7. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    The violence in asylums is in some respects understandable I suppose, especially when there may have been little distinction given to inmates who would have been condemned for criminal behaviour and other inmates confined because of their mental illnesses. The relative above was recorded on his hospital records as having been beaten by staff and other inmates and having beaten staff and other inmates. Nice places!
     
  8. spison

    spison Well-Known Member

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    As some of you may recall I discovered that I had a criminal lunatic who spent 17 years in Bedlam Hospital (now the Imperial War Museum) between 1837 and 1854. When I received his records he was officially diagnosed as depressed. I would have been too!
    Jane
     
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  9. Ma-dotcom

    Ma-dotcom A Bonza Little Digger!

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    I have just found a Lady with same name & birth year as one I've been looking for on 1939 Registry :- Napsbury, in London Colney.
    Middlesex Colony Middlesex Colony , St Albans R.D., Hertfordshire, England.
    since then have tried to find any female of same age b. similar year, found
    b.18 May 1893 Female Incapacitated Single sch.6 sub.28
    Ref: RG101/1669G/002/42 Letter Code: DFQQ
    these 4 appear on Free Bmd- June 1893
    Chorley
    Tunbridge,
    London C.
    St. Olaves
    ...........
    I've looked about on several sites linked to this & found many queries but few answers.
    My particular Lady mentioned here in another thread, b.1893/4- her Mother died in 1912 & I've not seen her anywhere else.
    Is there any way of finding patients names etc. & release or death records from this institution?
    @Jan #1- I'm guessing these people didn't appear on any electoral registers? was there any other form of register other than 1939?
     
  10. Flook

    Flook A True Gentleman. Rest in Peace.

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    The National Archives has a page on Napsbury's records. The link to the Wellcome Library and the London Metropolitan Archives don't work - you would have to google for them separately.

    You might well find that access to any patients' records may be embargoed for a certain number of years because of patient confidentiality.

    See here>
    http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/hospitalrecords/details.asp?id=18
     
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  11. AnnB

    AnnB Editor in Chief who is Hot off the Press!

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    Although it doesn't answer your question Wendy, you might find the entry for Napsbury on the Lost Hospitals of London site interesting.
    http://
    ezitis.myzen.co.uk/napsbury.html
     
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  12. Flook

    Flook A True Gentleman. Rest in Peace.

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    Unfortunately there are no census-type records between 1911 and 1939 and so you're mainly reliant on sleuthing!

    I've worked out who your lady is and I'm fairly certain you can ignore the St Olave find as she has 3 forenames and the 1939 register seems to be meticulous in putting down all initials if a person has any. I think that has to be a reasonable assumption. Also, St Olave Registration District is in Southwark, south of the Thames, and she would have been much more likely to have been transferred to somewhere like the Epsom cluster of mental hospitals.

    I think you can also rule out the Chorley one as there is a marriage to a William in Chorley in September 1915 and she appears under her married name in the 1939 register.

    The Tonbridge one is interesting because I haven't been able to trace her in the 1901 or 1911 censuses and there's not an easily identifiable marriage or death for her. Although this makes her a possibility, the likelihood is far less than the London City one because it's unlikely that she would have been admitted to a mental hospital in Hertfordshire unless the whole family had moved to north London or north of London. So that is less likely, although possible.

    The London City one is a much better bet. In 1911 she is living in Minories (that's a street in the City of London) and the place of birth is Bishopsgate which is also in the City of London and therefore matches the birth entry on FreeBMD. I can't find a baptism for her but her sister B was baptised in St Mary Magadalene, Bermondsey in May 1888. Her mother and the man she was now living with appear to have married in the City in March Quarter 1902 - although why he was called by 2 completely different forenames when he married is a very nice mystery. Finally, I'd put money on the fact that the child age 1 is G's illegitimate daughter (and we know the surname of the father as well!).

    I haven't got any further than this. I think the last one is your best bet for being the patient in Napsbury but whether that fits in with other information you have I don't know.

    Apologies to anyone else reading this in that it lacks names, but confidentiality was requested in Wendy's previous thread.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2016
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  13. Ma-dotcom

    Ma-dotcom A Bonza Little Digger!

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    Ann & Flook, thank you.I will delve into those can't remember if they came into my searches Yesterday or not.
    Flook as always a Gem of the finest carat if you know what I mean. I was grasping as straws & allowing for a girls growing up & deciding which name to use. Have often found people using 2nd name or only one of two.
    {-(^^)-}
    So far I've taken marriages from 1911 & tried to check them out in 1939 with only one result as mentioned earlier by A.M. Not found either with other family groups. You've almost put my mind at rest concerning my Lass being in care. she was also baptised in St.Mary Magdalen. other children nott, which made me wonder if she was poorly or some-how afflicted.
    Some times it take a lo-oong while to find who or what your seek. sigh
     
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  14. Dogsday

    Dogsday Well-Known Member

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    My father worked at the Royal Albert Hospital Lancaster built around 1870 & originally called 'The Northern Counties Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles' & later 'The Royal Albert Idiot Asylum', they didn't mince their words in Victorian times, black was black & a spade a spade, well at least when it suited ;)
     
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  15. Archie's Mum

    Archie's Mum Always digging up clues

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    And sometimes caused by lead poisoning. Sad descriptions.
    I have an aversion to that word ‘idiot’. I cringe when I hear someone use it.
     
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  16. PeterG

    PeterG Well-Known Member

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    We live in mealy mouthed times. I cringe when someone says "passed" instead of "died".

    It is interesting to read this extract from the 1881 census report about the terms imbecile, idiot, lunatic etc.

    No accurate line of demarcation can be drawn between the several conditions indicated by these terms. Speaking generally, however, the term idiot is applied in popular usage simply to those who suffer from congenital mental deficiency, and the term imbecile to persons who have fallen in later life into a state of chronic dementia. But it is certain that neither this nor any other definite distinction between the terms was rigorously observed in the schedules, and consequently no attempt has been made by us to separate imbeciles from idiots. The term lunatic also is used with some vagueness, and probably some persons suffering from congenital idiocy, and many more suffering from dementia, were returned under this name.
     
  17. TonyV

    TonyV He who cleans up after his ancestors...

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    I am certainly no etymologist but I'm fairly sure that the use of the word "passed' has its origins in the Christian belief of a life after death and "passed' is effectively shorthand for "passed over into a better life". In that respect and given that we are generally far less Christian (in the strict meaning of the adjective) than in ages past, it is really a continuation of a word used to soften the impact for relatives of a dead person who either believe in heaven or who cannot yet get to grips with the idea that the dead person has gone for good. It is nothing new and I doubt that we are more mealy mouthed these days than our ancestors were.

    I had a relative who was classified as "imbecile" in a workhouse and while the description is abhorrent to our current tastes it seems that it was also a difficult one at the time and was used somewhat thoughtlessly from what Peter has told us. Times and tastes change and I certainly agree with the idea that these days political correctness has trumped common sense.

    Tony
     
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  18. Dogsday

    Dogsday Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps they should have called these poor people abnormal, but then again what is classed as 'normal' in these modern days?

    On many census' the term pauper is used even when we can see the person is living in with a family, to me a pauper was someone who had next to nothing, almost a beggar but the census only meant the person had no means of supporting themselves. Times seem to change the meanings of words.
     
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  19. Flook

    Flook A True Gentleman. Rest in Peace.

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    I really don't agree. The problem is that we don't make the effort to find out how terms and phrases were used contemporaneously with the document in question and we're too quick to judge those in the past for not having the knowledge we now have. I'm fairly certain that in 100 years time people will think that what we now believe to be normal or acceptable will make them believe that we were all slightly bonkers.

    I was with someone recently who thought it was outrageous that the 1939 Register described most women as performing 'unpaid domestic duties' as that didn't show how much they actually contributed to a household's economy. Personally I think the phrase does its job well for the time.

    My problem is with describing anyone who ever donned an army battledress as a 'hero'. They weren't. Many soldiers were not in combat units and never fired a shot in anger or got anywhere near the front line. Calling everyone a hero only diminishes those who did perform heroic actions.

    That's my two penn'orth anyway....:)
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2019
  20. Dogsday

    Dogsday Well-Known Member

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    I think calling people that have mental problems abnormal is a lot kinder than calling them lunatics, imbeciles or idiots.

    I don't pretend to judge those in the past for their knowledge or ignorance of mental illness but I think 'Hospital for the Abnormal' sounds better than 'Asylum for Idiots & Imbeciles' & it's the so called well educated 'normal' people who decide what an institution will be called & which people to put into them. I agree with you Flook about 'unpaid domestic duties' & hero soldiers & I apologize for making you Rant.
     
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