Garlands 1906

Garlands 1906

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Voices of Madness Conference 2016: ‘The Pauper Experience of Insanity, 1862-1902’

Last week, I gave a twenty minute presentation at the ‘Voices of Madness’ conference at the University of Huddersfield for fellow academics, based on my PhD research over the last few years on the Garlands Lunatic Asylum Carlisle.

In the talk, I explained the key focus of my research so far; the fact that mentally unwell paupers in the latter half of the nineteenth century were continually shifted around the different institutions of care. Through using examples from the Garlands patient records, I gave four stories of individuals who were transferred numerous times in and out of the asylum from either the workhouse or the family home. Through this blog post I want to share these stories with you.

The first two examples I recounted were those transferred several times from the family home to the asylum and back again. To begin with I told the story of Jacob C, whom I have mentioned in my previous blog post, therefore I will not repeat his story this time. Next, was Thomas S, who was admitted to Garlands by his family when his condition became erratic and unmanageable; and was admitted on seven separate occasions between 1878 and 1905.

His intermittent bouts of insanity were caused by religious mania and the fact that he was always deemed to be ‘weak-minded’.  His mother Ann was his main carer, as his father had died shortly after Thomas was born in 1861. His siblings do not seemed to have been involved either, as when Ann died in 1903 Thomas ended up in the workhouse shortly before his final admission to Garlands. On his first admission on 8 June 1878, Thomas was aged just 17, described as an errand boy who was smart and active from Penrith. The trigger for his admission was his noisy and out-of-character behaviour. He suddenly became very religious, and refused to sleep or eat. He also began having fleeting delusions of a religious nature. It was these delusions which were a common factor of his bouts of insanity on each occasion he was admitted to the asylum. For instance, on his second visit in August 1889 he was described as thinking he was Christ; he had began preaching to the neighbours; and he thought he was the saviour and was going to pull down the walls. This behaviour clearly upset his mother enough to seek the assistance of the asylum doctors, and on his third admission in 1895 she was noted as stating that he was unmanageable and that she will not stay in the house alone with him. On each of the seven occasions Thomas came to the Garlands Asylum, he was discharged recovered back to the home he shared with his mother after three to four months. His final admission however, in September 1905, lasted until his death in the asylum on 28 November 1928.


As well as the asylum, the workhouse remained an important receptacle for the care of the mentally unsound, and provided those without any family support of their own with a place of care. Similar to when in the family home, the trigger for a patient’s removal to the asylum was the display of particularly unruly and unmanageable behaviour in the wards of the workhouse. This transfer of care was present in the next two examples. The first, Sarah M, was admitted to Garlands in May 1890, aged 26, and was transferred directly from the workhouse at Brampton.

She was suffering from mania, and was becoming unmanageable due to her constant delusions that her food had been poisoned. Sarah had been in the workhouse since the death of her mother in 1884, who she had lived with and had been her sole carer. Her father was described as having ‘a violent temper’ in her case notes, and this seems to explain why in the 1871 and 1881 census’ her father Patrick was not living with her and her mother Mary in the family home. Sarah had two brothers and one sister living at the time of her first admission to the Garlands, but they seemed to have distanced themselves from her and her unruly behaviour, as the stigma of an insane relative was a great source of shame.[1] Sarah remained in the Garlands for five years, during which time she showed no signs of recovery. On 5 July 1895 she was deemed harmless enough to be transferred back to Brampton workhouse to receive care in its infirmary. This often happened when the asylum experienced periods of overcrowding, and to relieve pressure those deemed ‘harmless’ to themselves and others were transferred to workhouses to carry on their treatment. The effect of this shift may have freed up spare beds in the asylum wards in the short-term, but in the long-term it had a detrimental effect on the health of the transferred patients. Sarah was returned back to Garlands in July 1897 for her obscene behaviour, running about the wards with her ‘clothes tied up to her waist’.[2] What is interesting to note in her case record from 1897, is that she is stated to have no known relatives, whereas on her first admission in 1890 it mentioned both her mother and her father. This suggests that her family further alienated Sarah from their lives as the poor law authorities were not aware of her living siblings; and we can firmly assume that they were not in contact with each other through letters or visits. Her second stay in the Garlands did not last as long as her first, as she was again discharged back to the care of Brampton Workhouse on 25 Aug 1898. This time Sarah remained in the workhouse for a substantially longer period, but still suffering from the mania she was first troubled with in 1889. On 27 January 1913 Sarah was admitted to Garlands for the final time, once again being transferred from Brampton workhouse, aged 50. She was to remain in the asylum until her death in 1930. Sarah’s case is not unique, it is one of many I have come across which portray the transitory nature of asylum provision in the latter half of the nineteenth century. We can never know for sure if Sarah’s condition was curable had she remained in the care of the asylum for a longer, sustained period, rather than being continually transferred to and from the workhouse. Sarah even came to prefer the asylum to her life on the outside, as stated in her case notes in October 1891; ‘[she] has no interest in her former life, [and is] contented and happy to remain here’.[3] Thus, the asylum provided a familial context to those who otherwise lacked this supportive framework.

The final example is Matthew G, admitted to Garlands for the first time on 20 September 1901, aged 66.

He was transferred from Fusehill workhouse in Carlisle to the asylum, where he had been suffering with mania for six weeks. Like Sarah, Matthew was listed as having no known relatives, and he was noted as being single. However, Matthew offers us a somewhat different set of circumstances, as he migrated to Carlisle from Ireland where he was born. Irish migrants posed a problem for poor law authorities in this period. Migrants who had settled in a county were not liable to be paid for by the authorities of the poor law unions in which they now resided. The cost of maintenance of a pauper in either the workhouse or the asylum whilst receiving treatment for their mental affliction was paid for by the poor law union from which they were born. In the case of a patient who was born in Ireland, such as Matthew, the costs for their care and maintenance could not be recovered from their home country, as they had a different system of relief. ‘Alien patients’, as such cases came to be known as, were viewed with contempt as they became a burden on the poor law rates. The close proximity of the Garlands Asylum to Ireland, and the attraction of casual labourers to the coastal towns of Cumberland, meant that the ‘problem’ of alien patients was a persistent one during this period. A high number had migrated to England to escape the famine of the late 1840s and since then had been employed in seasonal, low-skilled jobs, finding it hard to support themselves and their families. In the 1889 Garlands annual report Dr Campbell, the medical superintendent, explained the problem of alien patients in monetary terms:

…up to the end of 1889…£15,761 has been expended here on Irish and Scotch patients who had no settlement in England…the Irish lunatic is more noisy, dirty, troublesome, and quarrelsome than the English or Scotch, he is more treacherous, and owing to this, more dangerous, and the more miserable his previous outside surroundings were the more critical and complaining is he about the food, clothing and bedding in the asylum…[4]

Matthew was viewed as a typical ‘alien’ patient and it is clear that with no family of his own he came to rely on the workhouse and the asylum when his health began to deteriorate towards the end of his life. Matthew was in the Garlands on two separate occasions, being discharged unrecovered back to Fusehill workhouse in the interim. On his second admission in October 1902 it was stated that in addition to his failing memory, he had become violent, had struck other inmates, and began experiencing delusions that there was a conspiracy against him. He continued his abusive behaviour in Garlands, and seemed to live up to the perceived reputation of the typical Irish lunatic. In his case notes throughout his second bout of treatment he was repeatedly described as ‘quarrelsome’, and received several bruises through fighting with other inmates. Matthew died in Garlands in November 1904, aged 69, of tuberculosis with no listed next of kin. From the cases of Sarah and Matthew, it is evident that those who lacked a family support came to rely on the poor law authorities for help, and remained life-long receivers of its provision, albeit in a number of different institutions, and for a number of different reasons.

These are just a small number of cases which I have come across in my PhD research into the Garlands Lunatic Asylum, Carlisle, which portray the transitory nature of mental health care in the latter half of the nineteenth century. My PhD aims to tell as many stories of the patients who underwent treatment at the Garlands during the latter half of the nineteenth-century. Please feel free to contact me ( if you require assistance in finding your ancestors who were in the Garlands during this period, or if you have any interesting family tales.

[1] Suzuki, Madness at Home, p. 121.
[2] CACC, Reception Orders 1897, THOS 8/4/1/39.
[3] CACC, Female Casebook 1888-1892, THOS 8/4/40/2, admission no. 3359.
[4] CACC, Annual Report 1889, THOS 8/1/3/27, p. 17.

Monday, 5 September 2016

The Role of the Family

Often overlooked by many institutional histories of the Victorian lunatic asylum is the role of a patient's family in their admission, discharge and treatment whilst in such an establishment. In my latest chapter of my PhD I am attempting to redress this imbalance by recounting the stories of patients at the Garlands Asylum, Carlisle, to ascertain the role their families played. This blog post is going to examine one part of the family involvement by looking specifically at the admission process.

The Family as Primary Caregivers
In the first instance of an illness, be it mental or physical, the family have always been, and often remain, the primary caregivers for their relatives. For centuries prior to the introduction and expansion of the county lunatic asylum network in the Victorian era, the treatment of a mental condition was administered in the family home. As the asylum as an institution of care became increasingly commonplace, families became increasingly willing to admit their relatives. Thus, as Adair, Melling and Forsythe assert, the lunacy legislation of the nineteenth-century signalled an intervention into family life, as it allowed for the lunatic population to be shifted from the private to the public sphere. (R. Adair, B. Forsythe and J. Melling, ‘Families, Communities and the Legal Regulation of Lunacy in Victorian England: Assessments of Crime, Violence and Welfare in Admissions to the Devon Asylum, 1845-1914’, in Bartlett and Wright, Outside the Walls, p. 165.)

The decision to commit a relative to the asylum was often signalled by a deterioration in their behaviour. Violence and erratic behaviour were seen as disrupting the accepted boundaries in society and the domestic sphere. For instance, in 1887, Ann C described her husband's behaviour which led to her having him admitted to the Garlands Asylum:

he wanders about all day, and comes home generally very dirty and without his shoes and stockings…this morning a man fetched him home having found him in a midden [compost] heap…he has torn up his clothes…and has set fire to articles of value. 
(CACC, Reception Orders 1887, THOS 4/1/29).

Thus, her husband’s destructive and unmanageable behaviour had become too much for Ann to bear. The added worry that he had wandered off into the community and had to be returned by a stranger would also have been a great concern as his insanity was visible to the surrounding neighbourhood, which had a deep stigma attached.

Family as Causing Insanity
In this specific chapter of my PhD I will also explore a relatively un-researched aspect of insanity and its causes in this period. Some of the cases I have come across in the records in the nineteenth century are clearly caused by a disruptive home life, and directly by the family itself.

One example is that of Dinah L. She was admitted in June 1899 suffering from melancholia caused by ‘domestic trouble’ and ‘unpleasantness at home’. Four days before her admission, for reasons unstated in her admission records, she left home due to her inability to cope in the domestic setting and was found wandering barefoot in a friends garden by a neighbour. At the time, Dinah was living with her husband Thomas, and several of her ten children. Her last child, Edith, had been born in 1892 when she was 45. It was stated in her case notes that she had been feeling melancholic and frequently felt suicidal for the seven years since Edith’s birth. We cannot know for certain the exact trigger for Dinah leaving home which led to her admission, but in her notes she was described as having two black eyes and several bruises on her limbs. Along with the description of ‘unpleasantness at home’ and her injuries, we are led to assume that Dinah suffered some form of domestic abuse from either her husband or her children. Whatever the case, we can see from her asylum record that she was anxious to leave her home and in July 1899 in her Garlands case notes she was described as saying ‘she is very happy in the asylum…and has no desire to leave’.[1] She had been married to Thomas for 29 years, and since 1871 had given birth to 11 children, of whom 10 survived. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the demands of what was clearly a hectic domestic life had taken their toll on Dinah. After receiving treatment in the asylum for some months, Dinah’s health improved and her suicidal thoughts subsided enough for her want to return home to her family. She was discharged recovered on 19 October 1899, and remained living with her husband in Kendal until her death in 1911, never returning to the Garlands with any further problems. Thus, the respite offered to her during those months in 1899 was enough to return her to her usual physical and mental health which had become so weak due to her domestic situation.

One additional example of the family causing insanity is that of Ruth A, who was admitted on 18 November 1891. Ruth’s insanity was caused by the death of her five month old baby. However, what is interesting about this case is that the passing of her child was caused by her administering a lethal dose of laudanum to the infant. To us in the twenty-first century this seems shocking, but in the 1890s laudanum, and various other derivatives of opium, were dispensed freely by pharmacists as a remedy to soothe a variety of illnesses in children, and also in adults. Riddled with the guilt that she had been the cause of her child’s death only one week previous to her admission, Ruth was described as being ‘a pale, depressed looking woman’. She had become very inattentive and neglectful of her other children as a result of her condition, and due to this depression, her husband, Robert thought it necessary to admit her to the Garlands for specialist treatment. Whilst in the asylum, Ruth told the doctors she thought she would be safer here because she was so afraid of herself. After three months of treatment, Ruth was deemed well enough to be returned home on 16 February 1892. Although, this did not last; and she was readmitted to Garlands on 8 April 1892, suffering from melancholia due to the ‘worry about the poisoning of her child’. Ruth’s mental health had clearly deteriorated, so much so that she felt suicidal and believed she would never be forgiven for the death of her youngest child. It seems that Ruth herself instigated her own readmission to Garlands as she did not trust herself and could not stay at home. I think that in her own mind, Ruth came to see the asylum as a place of refuge, similar to the previous case of Dinah L. In being incarcerated in Garlands she believed she was protected from being able to access the drugs she had once used recreationally and which had killed her child. Ruth remained in the asylum for three years, and was finally discharged as recovered on 17 December 1895.

These are just a small number of cases which I have come across in my PhD research into the Garlands Lunatic Asylum, Carlisle. My PhD aims to tell as many stories of the patients who underwent treatment at the Garlands during the latter half of the nineteenth-century. Please feel free to contact me ( if you require assistance in finding your ancestors who were in the Garlands during this period, or if you have any interesting family tales.

[1] CACC, Female Casebook, 1899-1902, THOS 8/4/40/5, admission no. 4754.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

The Victorian Criminal Lunatic: A Shocking Case of Child Neglect

During my recent PhD research into the Victorian lunatic asylum, specifically the Cumbrian institution (Garlands Lunatic Asylum, Carlisle), I have come across several cases which have sparked my interest. One such case is that of Jane Ann Shaw, admitted to Garlands on 11 July 1888. Jane came to the asylum after her arrest - which took place in April 1888 along with her husband Joseph - for wilfully neglecting their two children aged six and four. The article below from the Lancaster Gazette on 21 April 1888 details Jane and Joseph’s arrest in detail:

Whilst detained in Carlisle Gaol, it became evident to the authorities that Jane was not in possession of her normal mental health, as she was having delusions of people on the wall of her cell and she tried to climb after them. On 4 July 1888 Jane was ordered to be sent to the asylum as she was found ‘guilty but insane’. Also, on the same date, after 3 months in prison, her husband was discharged from Carlisle Gaol.
            On admission to the Cumbrian Asylum Jane was classified as suffering from dementia at the age of 34, which in some part was caused by her chronic alcoholism. She was described as being very violent and suffering from hallucinations of hearing and of sight. The asylum suspected that she was in the early stages of general paralysis, which was primarily caused by syphilis. Her conduct during her stay at the asylum was regarded as manageable. On several occasions she was noted as talking and gesticulating to herself, but she was able to undertake regular work in the laundry. Between 1900 and 1904 there is a surviving visitor’s register, in which Jane is visited on several occasions by her niece and her sister, but never by her children or her husband. The last I can ascertain about Jane is that she remained in Garlands at least until 9 March 1918, as this is the last page of her casenotes I can view due to access restrictions in the archive. The closest I can get to understanding the time and place of her death is a search on ancestry which returns a 'Jane A Shaw died March 1919, Cumberland', as an educated guess I assume this is the Jane in question.
            As for the family she left behind, her youngest child Joseph Henry died in 1894 aged 10, but the details of his care in the years whilst Jane was incarcerated seem a mystery and I cannot find any details of him on It seems that whilst Jane was in the asylum, and when Joseph was released from prison, both Ada and Joseph Henry remained in the care of their father. In the 1891 census they are both listed as living with Joseph, a railway engine driver, in Orchard Street, Carlisle. What is interesting from this entry, is that another, elder child is also listed, Jane Ann, aged 11. Jane is not mentioned in the newspaper reports for the child neglect case so we can only assume that she was either old enough to care for herself (aged 8 at the time) or was in the care of relatives. 
            Moving forward a decade, things seem to brighten for Ada, as in the 1901 census she is listed as 'Ada Westward' wife of Fred Westward. They lived in Carlisle, and interestingly her father Joseph, now aged 58, also resided with them. Even more interesting is that on the 1901 census Joseph is listed as 'widowed'. From the Garlands records we know that Jane his wife was still alive until at least 1918. It therefore seems that the stigma of a wife who is incarcerated in a lunatic asylum, formerly a criminal lunatic, was too much to bear, and he began telling people, notably the authorities, that he was a widower. It also seems that Ada, and possibly Jane, went along with this lie too. Jane, the younger, is much more difficult to trace, as I can find no mention of her after the 1891 census.
           Jane Ann Shaw's story is just one among several I have uncovered in my research of the Garlands lunatic asylum, Carlisle. My PhD aims to tell as many stories of the patients who underwent treatment at the Garlands during the latter half of the nineteenth-century. Please feel free to contact me ( if you require assistance in finding your ancestors who were in the Garlands during this period, or if you have any interesting family tales.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Letter Writing in the Asylum, 1897-1900

As a rule, historians of the lunatic asylums of the Victorian era work with sources which were written by the medical men in charge of a mentally ill patient’s care. Comments about the nature and cause of a patient’s insanity was therefore a second-hand account and a real sense of the malady escapes us. However, in my research of the Garlands lunatic asylum, Carlisle, I have come across a number of letters written by the patients themselves. In this blog post I shall give a sample of these letters which give a fascinating insight into their state of mind at the time of writing. These few letters were photographed from the male patient case book for the period April 1897- March 1900. The letters are an extremely piecemeal collection, slotted into the casebook alongside the patient’s details. Often they survive as single documents, and it is unclear why these certain letters were kept as opposed to others which they will have written.

Letters Portraying Patient Delusions
One theory I have is that the letters were kept as indications of their insanity. The delusions experienced by the mentally ill were often portrayed in letters they wrote. For example, one patient admitted in November 1898 was under the delusion that he was a meteorological observer and he wrote frequent reports – in the form of letters – to Queen Victoria. The case notes reflect this as they commented that; ‘he says the Queen has appointed him to take charge of the meteorological stations in this district and that he has to send daily reports to Sir Robert Scott’, and also that he was ‘constantly going to the window to make “observations” as to the state of the weather etc. He sees “lightening” and hears “thunder” nearly every day.’ Along with this letter to Queen Victoria there is also a drawing of plans for a royal Indian palace. The drawing is extremely detailed and includes architectural dimensions with accurate measurements. Thus, as well as portraying his delusions, the letter and accompanying drawing displays his intelligence and that he was able to maintain rational thought whilst labouring under irrational fantasies.
Another patient also displayed his delusions through letter writing as he wrote letters to ‘Sergeant Instructor Prince’ requesting he bring his uniform to the asylum so that they ‘can show the foreign table of nationalities how they can be reformed.’ He signed the letter ‘Private I Wills’, when in fact he was an eighteen year old draper’s apprentice from Wigton. His attack of mania was however only short lived, and after an eight week stay at Garlands he was discharged recovered.

Heartfelt Letters to Loved ones
Some of the letters I have come across in the patient case notes display the patient’s anguish at being confined and being absent from their family and friends. One example is a patient writing to his father: ‘Father of my tenderest care. I write to you...hoping you are surviving.’ The letter is extremely long, includes many long, rambling sentences and is clearly from a person who is missing his usual surroundings accompanied by loved ones. From the tone in which the letter is written, the patient is worried about his father’s health and would like more than anything to see him, but his health is preventing him from doing so:

I ‘acknowledge all the many gifts you gave me and for all your great many kindnesses and kindness you have held the post of your present abode. Steadfast and steady I long you cling with all your might...I conclude by giving you my best favours with every utmost skill, be sure and receive my answer and I believe in you so faithful until death. Reflections sore and sweet.’

Letters of Protest
Part of many patients’ maladies was the failure to understand their mental illness. This resulted in many protests of sanity and outcries against their incarceration. Often these protests were in the form of letters. The first example was of a patient, F. Penrice, suffering from mania, who wrote to the Earl of Carlisle:

‘Having been wrongfully detained here not having any explanation of the meaning of this, I solicit your assistance in this case...C. Wedgwood may have some information. He having decoyed me from the station leading me to expect I was accompanying him to another place altogether. I consider I have been here much too long.’

He was recorded as expressing ‘absurd delusions’, such as that all his insides had been bored out of him several years previously, and that he is the Duke of Cumberland.
The second example is from a patient who continually wrote to the superintendent of the asylum to notify him of the (false) cruel treatment he received from the asylum attendants, calling them ‘liars’ and ‘scoundrels’. He accused the head attendant of failing to report these supposed instances and covering them up. He told superintendent Dr Farquharson; 

‘if I was you I should open my should not take you long to see him in his true light...he is the slimiest sneak that I have had the misfortune to be in company with and have come across.’

These protestations, I believe, are evidence of the patients’ unwillingness, and more likely their inability, to come to understand their removal to the asylum due to their weakened mental states. The unfamiliarity of their surroundings caused them to invent stories of abuse, and to protest against their confinement in order to return to a place they feel comfortable in.  

These letters are a rare glimpse into the mental affliction of pauper patients of the Victorian lunatic asylum. This forms just one part of my ongoing PhD research into the Garlands Asylum, Carlisle. I am fascinated in writing history from below and bring the voices of the asylum back into contemporary consciousness. Any questions, queries, or stories you have of the Garlands I would love to hear them. I also assistant those researching their ancestors in the asylum, if you require my help please do not hesitate to contact me at

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Family and Community History Article

Just a quick update on my progress with my research into the Garlands Asylum.
Sorry I have not posted to this blog in a while, I have been busy in the archives, writing the initial chapters of my PhD and attending some interesting conferences.
I have also had my first academic article accepted and published in the latest edition of the Family and Community History journal. To access the journal follow the link below. Access is free through a university or similar institution, without this there is a fee to access the journal.

'An Undiscovered Victorian Institution of Care: A Short Introduction to the Cumberland and Westmorland Joint Lunatic Asylum':

The article is a brief flavour of what my PhD will aim to address. Any questions or queries you may have about the asylum or my research please do not hesitate to contact me on

I have helped several people to trace their ancestors in the Garlands Asylum, if you would like me to this for you please contact me at the email above.