Images and documents relating to the pauper inmates from the late 19th century. Sad that the handwritten letters were never sent to the intended recipient.
An evocative fragment of an outsider’s impressions of the Asylum after spending some time there is preserved in the archives. Sadly these are not dated and the author’s name is unrecorded, but the style is that of the late Victorian era. He begins with some general impressions of life at the asylum:
“It fell to my lot to accompany the attendant on some few occasions into the whole of the eleven wards on the male side, our duty being to distribute the medicines, etc., required in each.
To make a tour of a large asylum in this way is surely impossible without experiencing feelings of a very mixed character. Particularly saddening is it to go through the wards set apart for idiots and imbeciles. Here are located those patients for who, humanly speaking, there is, I suppose, no chance of recovery – men of all ages, whose mental development is scarcely in advance of that of the average child, and who in many cases would appear to be almost at the level of the brute, certainly not superior to the degree of reason which we term instinct.”
He describes Mr Z., a private patient, who occupied a small suite of rooms, for which it was noted a considerable sum was charged per annum: ”Mr Z. had a tremendous sense of his own importance. The leading English, French and American newspapers were regularly delivered to him through the post, and these he diligently read, devoting a large part of the forenoon to their perusal. After absorbing the contents of these papers, under some hallucination that he was the director-in-chief of the world’s doings, he would write alarmist notices of forthcoming events, covering sheet after sheet of foolscap, and these he would put in conspicuous places for the information of those whom it might concern. His writing table and the walls
of his room I have seen covered with these announcements and with voluminous notes of his mightiness’s ideas on current political topics. But for the disorder and the absence of works of reference, etc., his apartments might have been mistaken for some editorial sanctum…….His eccentricity also extended to dress. He was, of course, required to don the ordinary male attire, but in addition he invariably wore as a kind of mantle one of the bright-red bed coverlets belonging to the institution in such a fashion as to indicate that his desire was to pose as a prophet! Unfortunately, the illusion was dispelled and the effect destroyed by the fact that he affected a most unprophetic head gear in the shape of a dilapidated modern straw hat…
…Another peculiarity was his almost Trappist silence. Rarely, indeed, was he known to converse with anyone but the charge-attendant of the ward to which he was attached, and even then in the fewest possible words…….Perhaps the most noticeable eccentricity he displayed had reference to his food. He laboured under the delusion that he was the intended victim of a continual conspiracy to poison him… In order to frustrate any design on his life, he conceived the idea of living solely on milk and eggs. I believe he was satisfied that eggs could not be tampered with, as they were delivered to him with the shells unbroken, but he had serious doubts about the milk, which he insisted on taking from the delivery can himself, carefully measuring the allotted quantity into two pitchers, and requiring the stores delivery staff to stand quite clear of the milk-can whilst he did so.”
If you do nothing else today…………spare a thought for Harry…..
He entered the asylum aged 5 years and stayed until his death aged 10 years.
Admitted to The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Menston 16th July 1892
Age at admission … 5 years
Facts Observed … Never still, always crying, cannot talk, epileptic fits.
Other Facts Communicated … Mother cannot do anything with him, destroys anything he can, dirty in his habits, puts everything he can into his mouth, hurtful or otherwise.
Mental State … Is one of idiocy. No information can be elicited from the patient, as he is too young to give any, besides he is unable to speak. The patients mother says that he was able to speak when two years old he had a series of epileptic fits at that age, since then he has not been able to talk. The mother says all the other children are healthy and have not suffered from fits. She looks a fairly healthy woman. The father is a temperant man. There is some colateral heredity in the family.
Physical State … The child is fairly well nourished; free from marks identifying scars, the boy was in a filthy condition pestilence of body and head. Skin and body covered over with dirt. Hair light coloured, irises brown, pupils equal. Seems well formed.
First Admission … Patient is very noisy and continually walking about, crying etc. Taken food, passed water had been put into a side room last night.
Respiratory System… Healthy
Causation……………Congenital Defect – Fits
July 21st 1892 … Has had a fit every night since admission. Is dirty in habits. Takes food very well, he’s in good health, transferred to Epileptic Ward.
August 17th 1892 … Has frequent fits as before, is an untidy, mischievous, restless, destructive imbecile and requires constant care and attention which he gets from the other epileptic females. Is in feeble health but well nourished.
October 2nd 1892 … No medical change mentally and bodily. Has glandular swelling in neck, treated with Syn Feri Iodide so improved a little bodily.
Jan 12th 1893 … Is rather more feeble bodily glandular swelling improved but fits are frequent and several, condition not as satisfactory as formerly. Takes food well but tends to vomit after it.
February 4th 1893 … No material change since last time. Still feeble and has frequent fits.
April 21st 1893 … No mental change, bodily condition much improved is mischievous and dirty in his habits.
July 16th 1893 … Strong and in good general condition has however occasional enlarged glands in his neck which disappears under Syn Feri Iodide. Takes food well, fits fairly frequent and followed by considerable salivation.
March 3rd 1893 … No change mentally or bodily.
J R Whitwell
October 25th 1894 … Patient has fits of comparative frequency for the period of these attacks is very teary and miserable. He eats his food intently with great enjoyment but cannot speak. The glands of the neck developed into an abscess of considerable size which was opened and has healed very well. He has very little mind and bodily condition is distinctly poor.
April 21st 1895 … Fits are not as frequent as formerly and are not as strong. Cannot speak at all but makes some unintelligible noises. In fair bodily condition.
September 20th 1895 … No change mentally or bodily.
December 29th 1895 … Patient is an epileptic imbecile. He does not have fits very frequently but at long intervals he will have several in rapid succession. He gives very little trouble from excitement or violence, but is negligent and requires considerable attention. He is dumb and can only make some quite unintelligible sounds. Bodily condition fair.
March 2nd 1896 … No change mentally or bodily.
R W M
June 2nd 1896 … No change to report in this patient’s condition.
December 10th 1896 … This boy’s condition is comparatively satisfactory. He is comparatively free from fits. His health is fair he is happy and contented, appreciates attention from some patients but has no intelligence. LMD
April 22nd 1897 … No change mentally or bodily. A J
September 26th 1897 … For the last two days he has been confined to bed and is suffering from meningitis. His hair has been removed and cold lotions are constantly applied to the head while he is receiving sedative treatment and is kept on light diet. His temperature has varied from 102 to 104 A J
October 1st 1897 … He is still very ill, his temperature reaching 104 today. He is at times quite unconscious and lies without moving, while at other times he tosses about and screams incessantly. He takes a fair amount of light nourishment.
October 5th 1897 … Since last note he has shown signs of improving, his temperature is lower and he is much more settled. S E
October 10th 1897 … His temperature is now normal, he is free from restlessness and is taking some notice of what goes on. He is however much reduced by his illness. S E
October 22nd 1897 … He is still in a very feeble state though a little stronger than at last note and able to be out of bed for a few hours daily. He is very thin and is receiving nourishing diet. S E
October 29th 1897 … Patient has got much feebler since last note, he is very emaciated. He does not take his food well and requires tonic and stimulant treatment.
November 7th 1897 … Patient has had to remain in bed all day sometimes since last note he has had almost no appetite and is going steadily downhill despite treatment.
November 8th 1897 … Died today at 9.15 am W J P
Name Harry Bell Sex Male Age 10
Occupation Nil M.S. or W. Single
Previous Abode 9 Chevin End, Guiseley
Died November 8th 1897 9.15 am
Apparent Cause of Death Acute Tuberculosis
Unusual Circumstances or injuries at Death None
Present Attendant E Martin
Mechanical Restraint within 7 Days None
William James Penfold
Pictured are the admission details from 16th March 1893 for Jonas Pearson age 30, along with a heart rending letter, obviously never sent, for this troubled young man who spent a lot of time praying.
We do not yet have much more information on his time at the asylum, but he appears on the buriel record we have uncovered. He died on 10th May 1905 age 42 and lies in the unmarked buriel ground row 6, grave no. 10. You can see a plan of the cemetery in the unmarked graves section.
James Metcalf: Age: 64 years Previous Place of Abode : Workhouse
Admitted on 4th February 1892
Facts Observed: States that old Jack and his gang get him turned off whenever he obtains employment, that the tea offered him contains poison, both of which are delusions.
Other facts communicated: Clayton workhouse, he will not take tea as it contains arsenic.
Supposed cause: Unknown Not Epileptic Not Suicidal Not Dangerous
Patient is very deaf this makes his examination very difficult. He has many delusions but no definite ones can be made out as he is very reticent with regard to them. He has hallucinations of sight often standing before a window and gesticulating violently as if someone was standing outside. Has hallucinations of taste also thinking at times that his food is poisoned and putting aside some as eatable portions and some uneatable. Also distinct hallucinations of hearing, persistent talks to himself. Is good worker in garden, fair bodily condition. Herbert Barraclough
Dec 29th 1895: Patient is practically unchanged and retains all his delusions. At times he will suddenly strike out at anyone near him, apparently owing to his hallucinations. He is usefully employed on the land. Takes food well is in fair bodily condition.RWM
Mar 25th 1897: Patient has hallucinations of hearing and delusions believing people pull his ears. He works fairly as a gardener and is in good bodily condition. WJP
April 15th 1899: Demented, very deaf and has hallucinations of hearing. No hair on his head or body. Works in garden. WJP
Oct 7th 1899: A very aged looking and feeble little man considerably stooped. Absolute absence of hair from every portion of his body and head. His teeth are also quite vanished is very deaf but fairly good humoured. He works well – still suffers from delusions and hallucinations, says people call him and pinch him and pull his ears. TOF
April 29th 1902: This old man maintains his physical condition fairly, but he becomes more feeble in his movements, mental state unchanged.
Feb 5th 1903: This old patient looking flushed and more than usually feeble this morning, was found to have a temperature of 102, sent to bed.
Feb 8th 1903: Pulse is very irregular.
Feb 9th 1903: This patient has just died. Heart failure was evidenced all day yesterday, and he became comatose last night.
William Johnson Admitted: 28th May 1892 Age : 27 years Single
Previous place of abode: Workhouse Supposed Cause : Unknown
Relatives Similarly Affected: Sister an idiot
Facts Observed: He is of a sullen disposition and I have seen him breaking over the wall of the building and break windows. He refuses to answer questions and is quite incoherent when he does speak.
Facts Communicated: The Master informs me that he is constantly escaping from the premises if not carefully watched and was found one night by the river side divesting himself of his clothes. He exposes his person to women and children. He is frequently found playing with pebbles and throwing them into his mouth.
Not Epileptic Is Suicidal Is Dangerous To Others
October 24th 1894: Patient is very dull stupid and demented. His memory is very defective and he does not know his own age
Jan 4th 1896: Patient gets excited at times but is generally fairly quiet and orderly. He does not answer questions very readily.
July 27th 1897: Patient has been somewhat suicidal and dangerous to others for which causes he has been sent to ward 4. He is now very depressed talking much to himself. His bodily health is fair. WJP
Oct 20th 1897: Patient continues to be very depressed, he will not converse much and always appears in mental agony. His bodily condition is fairly satisfactory. WJP
Oct 5th 1898: He is excited and exalted. He says the Queen is his mother and he has more right to the throne than any man living.
April 15th 1899: Has a delusion that he is Rip Van Winkle and after 21 years in this asylum is entitled to take to the world again. Is wrongfully detained here and wants a title William Vth and 5 millions as compensation. Health fair, works in ward.
October 19th 1899 This patient is silent and reserved and rarely speaks except in reply to a direct question, he is still considered to be suicidal. He is rather poorly nourished but his general health is fair. The last two notes appear to refer to some other patient most probable Wm Johnston.
Jan 23rd 1900: This patient continues reserved moody and taciturn exhibiting little pleasure or interest in his life or surroundings, but being capable of some employment and in fair general health though not robust.
April 17th 1900: Patient is not so depressed as he was and is not now considered actively suicidal. Bodily condition remains about the same.
Feb 14th 1901: Maintains a sullen and depressed attitude. He is engaged in a little ward work, and his physical condition shows no variation.
Nov 21st 1901: Suffers from hallucinations of hearing; he continues sullen, depressed and apt to be impulsive at times. Bodily health is satisfactory. WA
Nov 21st 1902: This patient remains very taciturn, taking little or no interest in his surroundings. He does a little ward work and is in fair bodily health.
Jul 18th 1903: This patient continues silent and reserved with outbursts of abusive and threatening language. Bodily condition poor and reduced.
Feb 20th 1904: Still often abusive and threatening especially at night. Sullen, reserved and suspicious, bodily condition poor.
No further record.
The Letter of Doodles never sent home.
James Lund Engine Driver Admitted: 12th February 1892
Age: 36 years Married Religious Persuasion: C of E
Facts Observed: His conduct and conversation restless, and violent if contradicted. Says he has been to the devil and come back to heaven. Throws his letters in heaps on the table and calls them by different names of persons, wanders from our subject to another and is incapable of rational sustained conversation. I heard him say that he had put one of his children on the fire to burn her up with hell fire.
Other Facts Communicated: Saw him break the windows in his wife’s bedroom who is lying ill, delusions in (mania). His watch was found which he had thrown through the window. I the undersigned saw the small timepiece and the other things in the bedroom thrown all over the floor in confusion, broken. Albert Gill
Supposed Cause: 1) Losing his situation. 2) His wife ill in bed and delusions he had sat with her all day. Patient is of poor physique musculature.
Patient has been increasingly restless since admission. Enters into conversation readily and says he has been doing what England expects every man to do “his duty” – he has been doing as much good as he could. Comforting people etc. This latter being his special business, says he had 3 devils in his house and he cleaned them out and now he has “3 little angels – nice little angels” in his house. Says he had 3 come to him last night in his sideroom. = very frequent use of the word 3. Says his wife has been confined on her death bed, and his mother has been pulling her to hell, but he saved her.
February 15th 1892: Patient stood this morning holding onto a chair with one hand and occasionally striking out his hand and with his right leg kept continually moving on the floor making considerable noise. He refused food and was fed forcibly.
March 10th 1892: Patient varies much from day to day. Is fairly quiet and rational at least easily managed at other times is rowdy and violent. Requiring feeding.
April 21st 1892: Patient is on the whole a little quieter and easily managed than formerly. Bodily function fair.
May 13th 1892: Is quieter than formerly but his conversation is nonsensical. Eg wearing a ribbon in his button hole which he says is an intricate piece of machinery etc etc. Bodily function satisfactory.
June 29th 1892: On the whole there is no satisfactory mental improvement. Bodily condition satisfactory.
December 20th 1892: Patient is apparently improved mentally and helping usefully in the ward. He however, has said that he could ‘take it out’ in the magistrate who sent him here. Bodily condition good.
January 19th 1893: Patient today discharged for 2 weeks trial.
February 3rd 1893: Patient finally discharged.
Suicide of E. E. Bage – A Patient
The Medical Superintendent reported that Eliza Ellen Bage, admitted on 26th March 1908, and chargeable to Bramley Union, had escaped from the asylum on the evening of the 20th November 1908, and was found dead on the railway near Guiseley next morning, having been decapitated by a train. The patient was an inmate of Sick Ward No 16 and a Suicidal Card had been issued and was in force with regard to the patient. Although every enquiry had been made by the Superintendent from the Charge Nurses and other in the Asylum, he had been unable to discover by what means the patient left the Asylum.
A Coroner’s Inquest was held and the Verdict of the Jury was that the patient had come to her death by being run over by a train on the Midland Railway in Guiseley Township.
The circumstances of the suicide had also been duly reported to the Commissioners in Lunacy but no communication had been received from them.
All content copyright protected.