LUNATICS - THE MAD POOR OF WORCESTERSHIRE IN THE LONG NINETEENTH CENTURY
In 2013 the museum published Lunatics - The Mad Poor of Worcestershire in the Long Nineteenth Century. In this academic publication, Dr. Crompton writes about the history of patients in pauper lunatic asylums 'from below'. This thoroughly researched publication is available to purchase from just £10.00.
Dr. Crompton's intention in writing the book was to provide some explanations of the archival evidence that is extant of the Worcester City and County Pauper Lunatic Asylum that opened in Powick, about two miles West of Worcester on 12th August 1852.
A brief summary of the chapters can be found below:
CHAPTER 1 CREATING THE WORCESTER CITY AND COUNTY PAUPER LUNATIC ASYLUM
The first Chapter of the book explains how and why the pauper lunatic asylum was created. It explains that the 1845 Lunatic Asylums’ Act (8 & 9 Vic. c. 126) required that all County and County Borough Authorities should provide an institution to house pauper lunatics in their area. These poor mad individuals had previously been in workhouses, those kept at home by relatives and ‘friends’ and those in private lunatic asylums, usually referred to as ‘madhouses’, which were run by so called ‘mad doctors’. Many of these poor insane individuals were unsatisfactorily treated at Parish expense. The Chapter explains how the size of the local pauper lunatic population was estimated; which determined the size of the pauper lunatic asylum that was necessary. It then explains how the pauper lunatic asylum was planned and financed and then opened under the auspices of the Poor Law Board, but overseen by the Lunacy Commission.
CHAPTER 2 THE MENTAL CONDITIONS TREATED AT POWICK ASYLUM 1852 TO 1912
Chapter Two identifies the mental maladies treated at the Powick Pauper Lunatic Asylum: Dementia, Idiocy (and imbecility), mania (and monomania) and melancholia, all of which were the terms used in the nineteenth century. Indeed this chapter uses definitions taken from Daniel Hack Tuke’s Book, a Dictionary of Psychological Medicine, originally published in 1872 (reprinted in 1892). The intention of doing this is to provide information that is contemporary the patient’s treatment in the asylum. The chapter also explains that these mental afflictions were often complicated by three different complicating factors: chorea, epilepsy and paralysis (usually referred to as ‘general paralysis.
CHAPTER 3 BEDDING DOWN THE INSTITUTION AT POWICK LUNATIC ASYLUM 1852 TO 1872
Chapter Three investigates what Powick Pauper Lunatic Asylum was like when it opened; how it was organised managed and staffed. This section of the book was informed by the Visitor’s Committee Minutes, by the Reports of the Lunacy Commissioners, who made regular inspection visits to the institution and by Inspection Committees of Poor Law Guardians who inspected patients who were in Powick Asylum at local Poor Law Union expense. The House Committee Minutes that described the day to day running of the asylum were also used. The Annual Reports on the asylum were the only documents about the institution contemporaneously available to the County Community, and the limited amount of information these reports gave meant that rumours abounded in the county about the nature of the Powick Institution and the treatment it provided.
CHAPTER 4 PAUPER, PRIVATE, CONTRACT AND CRIMINAL PATIENTS AT POWICK ASYLUM 1852 TO 1872
Chapter Four investigates the four types of pauper patients: paupers, private patients, contract patients and criminal lunatics incarcerated at Powick asylum between 1852 and 1872; an approach that demonstrates the variety of patients considered to be pauper lunatics, but it also reveals much about the way that the Worcester City and County Asylum was run.
CHAPTER 5 POWICK PAUPER LUNATIC ASYLUM 1852 TO 1872: THE PATIENTS' VIEW
Chapter Five investigates the voluminous Patient’s Notes from Powick asylum; 35,500 pages of notes on almost 10,000 patients incarcerated in the asylum between 1852 and 1912. Unfortunately about 40% of the notes about patients at the institution were lost at the time the asylum closed in the 1980s, when some material was stolen or destroyed. The notes on Powick Institution’s Patients were complete up to 1906, but after that they became patchy. The One Hundred Year Access Rule for Public Documents containing personal details means that some of this material is unavailable. The pages of Patient’s Notes that are available have been digitised so they are available via the George Marshall Medical Museum Website in the ‘Patient’s Note Archive’. The intention of making this material available was to make the records of Powick Patients available to genealogists, historians and other interested parties. The author’s personal motivation in collating and using these records was to write the ‘History From Below’ of pauper lunatics in Powick Asylum. The Archive can be used successfully in this way and it is hoped that other people will be encouraged to reconstruct the ‘Asylum Careers’ of Powick Patients. This will further the usefulness of studies based on a ‘History From Below’ approach. It is also hoped that this book will aid the writing of such histories by giving them a meaningful context.
The Conclusion to this book draws together the inferences drawn from the book’s content. However as a Postscript the author has included the ‘Asylum Career’ of Henry Bushell (alias Doctor Bushea) a man born in Worcester, which he left as a young man, He returned to his home town over fifty years later when he was transferred to Powick Asylum, where he died. This man’s ‘Asylum Careers’ illustrate well the level of chaos that a mentally disturbed individual might experience.
doctor sherlock's casebook
Worcester's Medical Museums are pleased to offer for sale a History of Medicine publication by Dr. Frank Crompton.
Doctor Sherlock's Casebook: Patients admitted to the Worcester City and County Pauper Lunatic Asylum at Powick, August 1854 to 1881
£12.00 each, for details of how to purchase this book, please contact the George Marshall Medical Museum on 01905 760738. We can also post the book to you for an additional charge.