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Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Today, in this more refined culture of ours, we no longer use the term " Lunatic Asylum ". Except in the more general sense, to explain  someones eccentric actions, and unless in a private conversation, you won't here the word Lunatic uttered much either. Political Correctness they call it, but our ancesters not only used this and other terms, but in some places, viewing the antics of the deranged, was a pastime which paid, well it did for some. There were no Public Asylums during the 18th and early part of the 19th century, hence, at least in the cities and large towns, advertisements could be seen that offered to look after your afflicted relatives, for a fee of course, and not only that, but these places claimed to be able to cure them as well. The Landed gentry, and the rich, had always hidden away the family members who displayed behaviour that wasn't concidered normal, like marrying beneath what the family took to be the social level they had reached. Very convienient for them, especially if an inheritance was at stake. The fee's were high, and when the owner of the premise's thought the money was running out, the " patient " was declared  " sane ", and ended up back home, or more likely, on the streets. It was only when the antics that some got up to made a bit of news that anything came to light, for the records are scant and far between. Here's one though, the records for which have survived.


Edward Meredith, appears to have been a well known local character around his home town of Lentwardine, near Ludlow, Shropshire.  Well known that is as the local idiot, and an idiot with a nick-name, he was called " Ned of the Toddin ". Don't ask, I haven't got a clue, perhaps it refers to an old part of Lentwardine from the past. On this occasion, he was reported to have just returned from the " Country ", after some years away. Safely locked up somewhere no doubt and released after the fee's went unpaid. The reason for supposing that, is that when he got home, in January, 1739, he was informed that his mother had died some weeks before, and had been buried in the Churchyard. They took him to the grave, and then he went off back to the house, about a mile away. Little did they know what he would do next, for in the dead of night he sneaked into the graveyard, and dug the old girl up, carefully replacing the soil. Then he humped the Coffin on his back, and set off back home. Once there, he prised off the coffin lid, removed the shroud, and placed his late mother in a chair in front of the fire. Next he broke up the coffin, and with it started a fire, to warm up the shrivelled corpse, holding a conversation with the deceased. This went on until first light, when he wrapped his mother up, and deposited her in the loft of the cottage. The villager's knew exactly what he had done, but, fearful of what he might do in the dark hours, waited until the dawn before informing the Parish Officials. There are no records of what happened to Edward Meredith, but there are for the by now much abused corpse of his mother. Taking no further chances, they had her re-buried, this time in the Church itself, and to make it harder, they put her underneath a pew. Which itself means the old dear must have had a few bob when she was alive, and well respected about the place.


Some years before, and in the mighty city that was London, they had opened a place for the deranged, The Hospital of Bethlem. It didn't take the local inhabitants long to give it a nick-name, " Bedlem ". The Hospital soon aquired a reputaion for allowing in the general public, well those that could afford the entrance fee, to gawp and make fun of the poor folk who found themselves behind it's grim walls. There was a scandel in 1729, when a woman managed to escape, minus her clothes, for she used them, tied together, to let herself down from a window. Instead of seeking some shelter or help. she spent the next few hours carousing around the streets, stark naked, terrorising the population. It took several stout men of the local watch, to wrestle her to the ground, and finally truss her up like a chicken, before the excitement died down. It did however receive a response from the authorities, who ordered the Hospital, " not to take in anymore incurables, idiots, or mopes ", unless they were of the more well behaved variety. At least they didn't operate a policy of discrimination, for one establishment positively guarenteed, " No men Lunatics allowed ", proudly displayed on a notice, nailed on the gate. Mind you, this was 1726, and the poor soul's were an uneducated lot.


This last bit may keep you amused for a while. At one Lunatic Hospital, the sewage facilities, a tunnel to the river, about 500 yards away, was in need of a bit of work, so they called in the bricklayers. They were a bit careless, and a patient, managed to gain access to the area, and seeing the open passageway, climbed down. She was a very deluded woman, and believed the tunnel would lead her to Hell and the Devil, for she thought herself to be one of his followers. The crude sewer, after about 300 yards, passed under some houses, the privies of which also had access to it, and at the moment she reached this point, several young ladies were engaged in using the privy. When a voice called up from the depths, enquiring who they were, and what they were doing, panic ensued, and there was a mad dash to escape from the evil that lurked below. A small crowd quickly formed, and when one brave soul asked the voice where she was bound, it replied " I am on my way to Hell, but I have got lost ". Matters were soon sorted out, and after being drenched in a conciderable quantity of water, the woman was lifted out of the vile muck, and returned to the Loony Bin. The young ladies seem to have suffered no lasting harm from this dreadful experience, but I bet next time they used a privy, it wasn't that one.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 9, 2013 at 11:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

An couple of enquiries from beyond our borders next, which have puzzled the writers for a few years. In the old paperwork of a long dead grandparent, there is a reference to the gentleman being incarcerated in a Lunatic Asylum in Northfield, Worcestershire, in the 1920s. The writer wonders, what he was doing in an ayslum, so far from his home, in Lincolnshire. The Asylum in question, was the old Rubery Hill Mental Hospital, in Rubery Lane, which was opened in 1882. The explanation as to why he was there, is that he came to the Hospital during the First World War, probably badly wounded, and suffering from " Shell Shock ".  Thousands of wounded soldiers were treated here, not just in this war, but in the one that followed as well. Where he was located, and on which site is another matter, for in 1905, they opened a second unit, in Tessall Lane, called the Hollymoor Mental Hospital. For those whose relatives may have died there during the period, there is a burial ground, located roughly halfway between the two Hospitals, in Rubery Lane. Rubery Hill was finally closed in 1994, and Hollymoor in 1995. The records I believe are in the National Archives at Kew in London. The other enquiry concerns two more Worcestershire Mental Hospitals, the oldest one being Powick, near Worcester, which opened in 1847, and also, during the two Wars, was turned into a Military Medical Establishment. So when you see the words Lunatic Asylum in any records from the time, you can be assured, that the man in question was there for life saving treatment, and not locked in a padded cell. The Hospital closed in 1989. The last one was in Bromsgrove, and purchased in 1899 by the County Council, Barnsley Hall.  After alterations, it was opened in 1907, when it partly acted as an overspill for the one at Powick, and like the others, it saw many wounded soldiers of both Wars. This was the last one in the County to close, which it did in 1996. Now you may wonder why all these wounded men ended up in Worcestershire, well I have to say this. All the Hospitals were set in some lovely surroundings, well they were at the time they housed all those men, and pleasent views are an aid to recovery. Far better than looking at a grimy and blackened brickwall.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 4, 2013 at 3:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The Wednesfield Lunatic.1889.


Now here a little tale from an era when the population was already agog with news from the smokey capital, London. Thomas Haywood, an electrician and fitter of the new fangled lights, was employed by Lord Burton, at Rangemore Hall, near Burton-on Trent. He was a quiet man, sober in his habits, but he had that air of strangenes about him that made folk a bit wary. He was unmarried, spending his time on leave at his relatives house, in Grassy Lane, Wood Hayes, Wednesfield. No one knows what started it all off, but one Friday afternoon at the Hall, he had a very queer turn. His eyes glazed over, and with a look of pure evil on his face, he began to run violently around, screaming at all and sundry, that he was Jack the Ripper. As we all know, old Jack was active in 1888, the year before, and as he hadn't yet been caught, the servents at Rangemore Hall fled to safety. No one was harmed though, for Thomas Haywood ran out of the Hall, and vanished into the woods that covered a large part of Lord Burtons estate. No one went looking for him, better safe than sorry, so a message was sent to his relatives in Wednesfield, and the Police were informed. The next day, after arranging for a large posse of over 40 men, the Police began a search through the woods. Their quarry though had fled. As word had spread, Haywood was soon spotted, and the chase proper began. Finally they caught the madman, for he was attempting to escape by Swimming down the Turnpike Road. No. it wasn't flooded, it hadn't rained for several days, but there he was, walking down the road, his arms going ten to the dozen in a swimming motion. A strange thing though was that his clothes were absolutely saturated. Arrested for being a Lunatic at large, it soon became clear that behaviour of this sort was common in his family, as a relative told the Court, 5 of his family had all gone the same way. Poor old Thomas, all that swimming, and the only place he managed to reach was the Burton-on -Trent Lunatic Asylem. Was he though, as he claimed, Jack the Ripper ? We shall never know, he was a very deluded man, perhaps he had suffered one too many Electric shocks.



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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 16, 2013 at 2:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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