Tuesday 22 November 2016

Explore Your Archive 2016 - Hairy Archive Day

Today is “Hairy Archive” day in this year’s Explore Your Archive campaign. Archivists across the country have been scouring their collections to tweet examples of unusual references to hair and illustrations or photographs of hair or hairy things which can be found in their archives. Examples have included this photograph submitted by The National Archives of a Mrs Dawson from Grays, Essex who won 1st Prize in the Hair Competition at an amusement park known as the Kursaal in Southend-on-Sea, Essex on 19th August, 1908. Her hair must be all of 5 feet long.

Victorian gentlemen feature on many of the tweets, sporting impressive beards and moustaches so there is a preponderance of well groomed, male facial hair.

Casebook F5 in the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum archives held by West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield holds something hairy and different dating from 1843. Sadly no photographs at that time and no illustration so I’m stealing a few paragraphs from my book Proper People where I write briefly about one of the patients, including a transcription of her physician’s entry in her case notes.

Forty-one year old Martha BELL from Bilton cum Harrogate was readmitted to the Asylum on 10th February, 1831, having previously been discharged, cured, on 20th March, 1826. Her case notes contain a surprising description of Martha. 
December, 1843. Face pale, features coarse and strong, chin covered with a beard 9 or 10 inches long, which she wraps up in curl-papers: she is demented and deluded, has a most violent temper and noisy tongue if anything irreverent is said of her beard on which she prizes herself. 
On this occasion Martha BELL spent over 30 years in the Asylum before her death, at the age of 71, on 14th May, 1861.
So it not just well-groomed male facial hair which can be found in our archives!

Monday 21 November 2016

Explore Your Archive 2016

The ExploreYour Archive campaign for this year, organised jointly by The National Archives and the Archives and Records Association (UK and Ireland), launched at the weekend with the aim of encouraging the curious among us to take better advantage of the wonderful opportunity for “time travel” through accessing the archives available to everyone in our local records offices, museums and local studies centres. The family history magazine Who Do You ThinkYou Are has published an excellent article (free to download) by genealogist Laura Berry providing 25 reasons why family historians should visit archives of which there are over 2,000 from which to choose. 

Let me add to Laura’s great advice by saying that archive research is tremendous fun and can be so rewarding. Family history research is almost like doing a jigsaw puzzle without knowing quite what the final picture looks like. You’ve got lots of pieces through sitting at your computer but the picture isn’t complete. The missing bits are mixed up with others in different archive boxes so you need to search through them for pieces that fit. Solving that puzzle demands great persistence but when you have finished the result will have been well worth the effort.

I used to think that archives existed to protect their boring contents from the public and that they were only accessible for high brow academic research. That could not have been further from the truth. My epiphany happened about six years ago while studying for my Diploma in Genealogy, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies with the University of Strathclyde. That is when I first realised that there is real family history treasure to be found in the archives but one needs to go hunting to find it.

John and Eliza DAVENPORT
For my first year project I had decided to go far beyond the conventional family tree and undertake wide ranging research into the lives of my maternal great-great-grandparents. Around 1869, 55 year old agricultural labourer John DAVENPORT, having spent his entire life in the village of Wormleighton, Warwickshire moved his wife, Eliza THORNTON, and seven young children five hundred miles north to Cruivend, Inverness-shire, Scotland.  Employed as a “hedger” he and Eliza produced six more children before his death in 1891.  What was life like for the DAVENPORTs in Wormleighton and Cruivend?  What could possibly have motivated the couple to migrate to Scotland?  How might they have travelled?  I wasn’t going to find any of the answers to those questions on Ancestry or the like so I got out of the house and took myself down to the Midlands.

Wormleighton was part of the estate owned by Earl Spencer (of whom Lady Diana Spencer was a descendant). I wanted to be able to look at old maps and any other records relating to the Spencer estates to see what I could learn about Wormleighton before John made his epic journey. I had consulted The National Archives online catalogue before my first ever visit to any archive, Warwickshire County Record Office, so I had some idea what I might be able to find. There I was able to consult old maps, parish registers and obtain general background on Wormleighton. 

Local newspapers provided one nugget when I was able to read about John’s father Polemus having won a £5 prize from the Warwickshire Agricultural Society for having produced eight children. I have only ever been able to find seven of his offspring!

Archive material for the Spencer Estates are held at Northamptonshire County Records Office. It will be many a day before such a disparate collection of papers and books are ever made available online. Without being there I would have missed the second nugget, a small bound notebook known as the Estate Order Book principally used to make a note of materials that needed to be procured. In it, estate factor John SELBY had recorded details of a confrontation in March 1868 between him and John’s neighbour, John BULL over the cutting of a boundary hedge. Insight is given to the likely condition of John DAVENPORT’s cottage “….the drainage and cesspools of the sculleries, which drainage had become very imperfect”. There is a lesson here as if I had just assumed it was a shopping list of materials I would never have found the reference to John DAVENPORT. It is always worth leafing through any records you find.

I also wanted to see what was held in the Highland Archive Centre in Inverness, Scotland, the town of my birth. John had gone to work for Lord Lovat and lived with his family in an estate cottage in Cruivend near Beauly. Sadly it became clear that I was going to have little luck with old estate records which I’m told were destroyed in a fire in the 1930s. The archive did hold other records which yielded valuable information. Valuation Rolls showed the names and occupations of John’s neighbours, Kilmorack Parish Records showed that Liza was the regular churchgoer in the family but it was the Inverness Poor Law records which threw up a big surprise. I discovered an 1892 Record of Application for Parochial Relief made by the widowed Eliza on behalf of her illegitimate grandson Daniel. Not surprisingly, that document opened up a whole new line of investigation.

Having spoken to the Council Cemeteries Department I discovered where and when John and Eliza had been buried. Armed with that knowledge I took the opportunity to visit Inverness Library where contemporary copies of The Inverness Courier were available on microfiche and I was able to find funeral notices for both of them. Today that newspaper is available online but it was not at that time.

During the second year of my course, I had visited the University of Glasgow Archives which hold a surprising array of historical records including those for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Lizzie SCRIMGEOUR c 1909

 When my family history research showed that my great-grandmother, Elizabeth SCRIMGEOUR had died of influenza in 1919 in Gartloch Asylum, Lanarkshire I contacted them to see what more I could find out about her time in what I thought must be an isolation hospital. When a large brown envelope arrived containing copies of her medical records I discovered that Lizzie had spent the last 15 years of her life in and out of mental hospitals. From the age of 36, she had suffered from serious depression following the still birth of what would have been her tenth child. Her case notes alone were fascinating but imagine my reaction when I discovered two photographs of my great-grandmother.
Lizzie SCRIMGEOUR c 1918
One, taken shortly after her admission to Woodilee Asylum contrasting starkly with a second much happier picture taken during her final spell at Gartloch.

Sometimes it just isn’t feasible to visit an archive in person. My experience of dealing with archives over the telephone and by email has been universally positive. You will find that the archive staff bend over backwards to help with your research and will often suggest alternative lines of enquiry.

Inspired by my experience with Lizzie SCRIMGEOUR and having spent a short time completing some coursework in my local archive, the Wakefield office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, I returned there to have another look at their collection of material relating to what was latterly known as Stanley Royd Hospital, originally the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. This wasn’t on a personal family history quest, more to satisfy my curiosity regarding what I might find in their remarkably complete collection of patients’ case notes. I can still remember the extraordinary buzz I felt opening my first large case book to read the handwritten physician’s notes from nearly 200 years ago. I was hooked by a record set full of factual material some of which is stranger than fiction. Three years later, having trawled through an estimated 30,000 pages of handwritten doctors’ notes, visited five and corresponded with eight other archives to expand my research, I finally published Proper People. Early Asylum Life in the Words of Those Who Were There which explores the experiences of over 150 patients admitted between 1818 and 1869.

Finally a plug for Lunacy Records. My earlier post Searching Online for Early Asylum Ancestors looks at the registers available on Ancestry to help identify lunatic ancestors. If you find one, celebrate, as if their asylum case notes survive and you are allowed to access them, you may have struck gold. Beyond your ancestors age, occupation, place of abode and marital status, you may also find details of immediate next of kin, mentions of extended family members, the actual address where they lived, a physical description, what had led to their committal, how they had behaved and been treated while in the asylum and whether they had been discharged or died and if the latter, cause of death. The really lucky researcher might find personal letters or even a photograph among their records.

So leave the computer behind and go and immerse yourself in some archives. A whole new exciting chapter awaits.

Good luck with your treasure hunting!

Sunday 20 November 2016

Old "Fart" Avoids Chance Comment on US Current Affairs

To date my posts have primarily reflected my interest in genealogy and early asylum life. Being an aspiring wordsmith, I thought it was time for a change and that I should make a small tongue-in-cheek contribution to our use of the English language across the globe.

I was fascinated by the media discussion prompted by Canadian MP Michelle Rempel's use of "un-parliamentary" language in a recent debate when she passionately attacked government inaction regarding unemployment in her Alberta constituency. Rather than criticise Michelle's vocabulary I would like to congratulate her. Michelle's use of words may have narrowly averted an international incident and possibly even a lawsuit.

The moment was captured by CBC News and this video clip found its way onto uTube.

Michelle had asked "Why does this government treat Alberta like a 'fart in the room' that nobody wants to talk about or acknowledge?"

MP Elizabeth May quickly interrupted to draw the speaker's attention to Michelle's use of an "un-parliamentary" word which she spelled out -  "F A R T". Elizabeth suggested that Michelle would probably want to withdraw it, prompting a McEnroe-like outburst of "Are you serious Mr Speaker?" Michelle did not withdraw her remark.

For those of you unfamiliar with the expression, my copy of The Chambers Dictionary 12th Edition explains the meaning of the word in question and suggests that its origins date back to Old English, perhaps 5th century Anglo-Saxon.

Note that Chambers classifies the word as "vulgar slang" so not normally used in polite conversation. Certainly in this part of the UK, we parents when bringing up our kids encouraged the use of an alternative word to describe what is after all a naturally occurring phenomenon. When in company, if our kids felt they just had to make reference to a "botty-pop" they had been taught to use the much more PC word "trump", usually accompanied by blasts of laughter.

Michelle's excellent choice of words in very plain old English made it perfectly clear what she meant. She also avoided causing any confusion given recent events in the United States where there will soon be someone in a rather oval room certainly wanting to be talked about and acknowledged by everybody.

This "old fart" (n a staid or curmudgeonly old person) is going to sign off here to peruse my latest copy of  Private Eye, thus avoiding the temptation to make gratuitous links between the two definitions above which I will leave to others.

Friday 28 October 2016

Announcing Release of Proper People as eBook

Following numerous requests from the public I am pleased to announce that digital versions of Proper People. Early Asylum Life in the Words of Those Who Were There are now available to pre-order on Amazon, iTunes Store and Kobo priced at £9.99.  They will be delivered from 1st November 2016.

Saturday 22 October 2016

Speaking Engagements in 2017

Some years ago I realised that mental asylum records have the potential to enable we family historians to explore an almost untapped source of first hand information about our ancestors. Registers of asylum patients are slowly becoming available through the subscription websites and if the genealogist is lucky enough to find a match, they must then examine any surviving archives for more information. That is where they might just find that "gold nugget"........ as I did!

It is always a pleasure to take that message to other family historians so I am particularly delighted to announce five new Family History Society (FHS) speaking engagements that have recently been confirmed for next year. Huddersfield and District FHS, Chesterfield and District FHS, Rotherham FHS, Harrogate and District FHS and the Oldham branch of Manchester and Lancashire FHS have all booked dates when I will be delivering my illustrated presentation "Early Asylum Life". My aim is to take the audience back in time to experience what life was really like for inmates of an early 19th century county asylum by using material gleaned from the fascinating archives of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Wakefield. In doing so I am also demonstrating just what might be found in an ancestor's case notes.

All Family History Societies welcome visitors who usually pay a small entrance fee so if you fancy coming along to one of those events I'm sure that we'd all be very pleased to see you.

My calendar for next year is now as follows:

Wakefield Local and Family History Network
The Learning Zone,
Library Main Floor,
Wakefield One,
Burton St,
1.30pm, Monday 23rd January
Morley Family History Society
St Mary's in the Wood,
Commercial Street,
LS27 8HY
7.30pm, Wednesday 1st February
Huddersfield and District Family History Society
Town Hall,
Ramsden Street,
7.30pm, Tuesday 7th February
East Yorkshire Family History Society
Carnegie Heritage Centre,
342 Anlaby Rd,
7pm, Tuesday 21st March
Ossett Historical Society
Trinity Centre,
Church Street,
7.30pm, Monday 27th March
Chesterfield and District Family History Society
St Hugh’s RC Church,
S41 8QP
7.30pm, Tuesday 4th April
Garforth Probus Club
Garforth Working Men’s Club,
Barley Hill Rd,
LS25 1AU
10.30am, Wednesday 5th July
Bradford Family History Society
Glyde House,
Little Horton Lane,
10am, Thursday 6thJuly
Rotherham Family History Society
The Liberty Church,
Station Road,
S60 1JH
7pm, Thursday 6th July
Mexborough and District Probus Club
Swinton House Club,
20 Fitzwilliam St,
S64 8RG
10.30am, Tuesday 15th August
Harrogate and District Family History Society
St Paul’s UR Church Hall,
Belford Road,
7.30pm, Tuesday 19th September
Upper Dales Family History Group
Harmby Village Hall,
Brook Terrace,
North Yorkshire,
2pm, Wednesday 27th September 
Oldham Branch, Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society

Gallery Oldham,
Oldham Cultural Quarter,
Greaves Street,
2pm, Saturday 14th October

If you would like to discuss engaging me as a speaker for your club or society please contact me on david@scrimgeour.biz.

Monday 10 October 2016

Patient's "Drone" View of West Riding Lunatic Asylum

We now almost take for granted the ability to capture aerial photographs from a remotely controlled drone buzzing its way above our streets and buildings. Back in 1861, one talented inmate from Leeds was able to visualise what the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum would look like from a point several hundred feet in the air above and like the drone pilot today, his feet never even left the ground. With no digital photographs to work from he then captured his vision in a drawing which would be certified for its accuracy by the County Surveyor of the West Riding himself.

I first saw a print of that drawing in the Mental Health Museum in Wakefield some years ago. As someone who cannot draw to save himself, I was particularly impressed with the skill displayed to produce such an accurate view.

The artist, James WALKER, does appear in Proper People but I have today posted an article on my Early Asylum Life blog which explores his amazing drawing in considerably more detail. You'll perhaps imagine yourself flying through the Wakefield sky 155 years ago.


Thursday 22 September 2016

Wellcome Library's "Anonymous Patients" Become Proper People

When doing the research for my book, Proper People. Early Asylum Life in the Words of Those Who Were There it was always a very special “gold nugget” moment to turn a page in one of the early volumes of original case notes and find myself looking at a photograph of the person who had been a patient in the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum (WRPLA), Wakefield. The earliest photographs in the records date from around 1868 but it would be many years before all patients were routinely photographed.

Today, outside of the West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS) in Wakefield, there are two collections of similarly styled photographs of WRPLA patients annotated with apparently diagnostic phrases such as “Mania of Suspicion” or “Mono-mania of Pride”. The majority of the photographs are held by the Darwin Correspondence Project (DCP) at Cambridge University and another thirteen survive in the collection of the Wellcome Library, London.

The DCP photographs were originally sent to naturalist Charles Darwin by the Superintendent of the WRPLA in Wakefield, England, James Crichton-Browne, ahead of and after Darwin’s publication of The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals in 1872. This collection holds 30 WRPLA patients’ portraits, one photograph annotated “The Insane Ear” and five other photographs. A group photograph, thought to be a montage, has been credited to being that of a family of patients held in the Crichton Royal Hospital, Dumfries and a photograph of a female patient with “large” hair is also believed to have originated elsewhere. Three unannotated portraits are of a style unlike any of the myriad of WRPLA patients’ photographs from those times suggesting to me that Crichton-Browne had also obtained those from another source.

In recent years these photographs have been referenced by essayists and authors. In Darwin’s Camera Phillip Prodger writes about Darwin’s use of art and photography in the theory of evolution. One of the photographs from the DCP used by Phillip was that of William DENTON who also features in Proper People. William’s second photograph is reproduced here courtesy of WYAS.

William DENTON, c 1869
William DENTON was a 37 year old unmarried plasterer from George Street, Sheffield before being admitted in May, 1865, suffering from dementia. He was in weak health, had a double hernia and it was thought he showed some symptoms of General Paralysis.

Ahead of his admission, surgeon James Walker had examined William and classed him “an idiotic lunatic”. He reported that William had twice attempted suicide, was very excitable, violent and broke furniture.

William was removed to the South Yorkshire Asylum, Sheffield in 1872 where the following year he passed away following surgery for a strangulated hernia.

There will be more about the Cambridge collection of WRPLA patients’ photographs in later posts but for now let’s look more closely at the Wellcome Library portraits.

Stassa Edwards in her excellent 2015 essay The Naturalist and the Neurologist: On Charles Darwin and James Crichton-Browne referring to the photographs sent by Crichton-Browne calls them “a group of now-anonymous patients” as beyond how they looked and the diagnostic label written on their photographs nothing else had been known of them. In her essay Stassa featured four photographs from the Wellcome Library and the reader could be forgiven for thinking that they had been among those shared in the correspondence between Crichton-Browne and Darwin. Those four Wellcome Library photographs are certainly of WRPLA patients but I cannot find any evidence to suggest that they were actually sent to Charles Darwin. If they were, why are they not part of the DCP collection?

William Schupbach of the Wellcome Library has kindly confirmed the provenance of the photographs which were purchased at Sotheby's sale in London on 6th November, 1987. They had been put up for auction by descendants of Dr Henry Clarke to whom the photographs were attributed. In 1987 Henry was said, incorrectly, to have been Medical Superintendent of the West Riding Asylum, Wakefield.

So was Henry Clarke responsible for taking the portraits in the Wellcome collection? Laura Sellers of the University of Leeds has previously pointed out to Wellcome that Henry Clarke did not arrive in Wakefield until early 1876 to take up the position of Chief Medical Officer of the West Riding Prison and Convict Centre. While he did collaborative research with the WRPLA in the late 1870s he was never employed there.

The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of 17th December, 1875 carried a brief article telling us more about Henry Clarke’s background.

Henry Clarke had become a registered doctor in December, 1874 having studied medicine for the previous six years at Guy’s Hospital in London. There is nothing known to connect him with Wakefield ahead of him taking up his post at the House of Correction in early 1876. That is important as my research into the Asylum case notes has shown that twelve of the thirteen Wellcome photographs had been taken between 1871 and 1873 so it is safe to conclude that Henry Clarke was not the photographer.

James Crichton-Browne was Asylum Superintendent at the time those photographs were taken. While he may or may not have actually operated the camera it was he who had first introduced the use of photography in the Asylum, possibly as early as 1868, and he would almost certainly have selected the patients to be photographed. It is wholly appropriate that Wellcome Library now attribute the photographs to Crichton-Browne.

It is time that the “anonymous” photographs held by Wellcome Library become those of proper people as they were simply real folk struggling to cope with their mental illness and should not remain nameless exhibits from our archives. Let me first introduce you to the four patients who all featured in Stassa's essay. Their photographs are reproduced here courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London.

Ellen SUTCLIFFE, 1873
Twenty six year old Ellen SUTCLIFFE from Wheatley, Ovenden near Halifax had been admitted to the Asylum in April, 1865 from Halifax workhouse. She was married to dyer Aaron and they had two children. William Alexander had examined Ellen ahead of her committal and recorded the following observations to support the case for her being considered a lunatic.

That she is whining and crying out "Oh Dear". That she fails to reply to my enquiries, that she is desponding and now crying out loudly for her father. That Mrs Haigh tells me she has been obliged to confine her in the padded room at the Workhouse, that she attempted to throw herself and infant out of the window a week ago.

Ellen's photograph was taken in 1873.

In July, 1884 Ellen was dancing in the main hall of the Asylum when she had a seizure. Carried to bed she died shortly afterwards.

John Edward GARTSIDE, 1872
Consecutive Dementia

Nineteen year old bachelor John Edward GARTSIDE, a warehouseman from Roughtown, Mossley near Manchester was admitted to the Asylum in March, 1872.

John Edward’s insanity was indicated by “tearing his clothes also bedclothes. Attempting to strangle his mother.” He also “interrupted the service of the School Church by his incoherent manner”.

John Edward’s case notes suggest that his photograph was taken in July the same year.

He was discharged recovered in July, 1874.

Mary KEIGHLEY, 1873
Chronic Mania

Thirty two year old Mary KEIGHLEY, a married mill hand from Bradford was admitted in May, 1863 suffering from mania.

She is very restless and cannot sleep at night roams about the house all day talks all sorts of nonsense. Says she sees the Catholic Bishop with woman up stairs and other men with various women all which are false.

In Mary’s case notes her photograph is dated 1873.

Mary would spend the rest of her life in the Asylum. She passed away in June, 1896 and was interred at St Peter’s Parish Church, Stanley.

William HARDACSTLE, 1872
Mono-mania of Pride

William HARDCASTLE, was a 42 year old married labourer from Commercial Street, Morley admitted in November, 1871.

Several weeks earlier he had been knocked unconscious by a blow to the head from another man. His behaviour since had been erratic but it was his “doing his family duty” by beating his wife “for her own good” that appears to have triggered his committal to the Asylum.

William was discharged recovered in June, 1872 shortly after this photograph was taken.

Nine more WRPLA patients’ photographs are held by the Wellcome Library. Here are brief extracts from their case notes and reception paperwork the originals of which are held by WYAS in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Mary SHAW, 1871
Simple Mania

Admitted in November, 1870 Mary SHAW was a married 35 year old from Lower Hanover Street, Leeds. During her six years of marriage she had given birth to four children. Three had died at the age of two years. Six weeks earlier her new-born baby had died aged just one week old.

Mary had said she would "send her husband to Gaol then get a velvet dress and have a second husband" probably inspired by the black eye he had given her.

Despite an attack of pneumonia by the following spring she was in good health. Mary was discharged in September, 1871, just one day after her photograph had been taken.

Emma PAGE, 1873
Mono-mania of Pride
Emma PAGE was a 36 year old widow from Lockwood near Huddersfield when admitted to the Asylum in May, 1866.

Emma suffered from delusions. She believed that all her food was poisoned, and that persons, including her brother, would enter her locked house and steal her documents and valuable property. The Queen of England and the Emperor of France were going to ensure that she took possession of large properties which she had in India and America.

This photograph of Emma was taken in 1873. Her case notes also contain an undated picture of a much older Emma. She was still wearing her hair in ringlets.

Emma remained in the Asylum until her death in July, 1911 from tuberculosis. She was 81 years old.

Ellen FOLEY, 1873
Acute Melancholia
Twenty two year old mill hand Ellen FOLEY from Reform Street, Bradford was admitted in May, 1861.

Her earliest case note states that Ellen was suffering from “mania characterised by her excited manners – talking and laughing and wandering about the ward breaking the windows”.

There would be no improvement in Ellen’s mental health and in 1873 her physician described her as being “almost completely demented”. Her photograph was taken that same year.

Ellen was transferred to the South Yorkshire Asylum, Wadsley near Sheffield in 1875 from where she was discharged four years later showing no improvement in her mental condition.

Curiously, her case notes make no mention of acute melancholia, the annotation on her Wellcome Library photograph.

Sarah THACKRAY, 1873
Consecutive Dementia
When 46 year old spinster Sarah THACKRAY from York Road, Leeds was admitted in January, 1871 it was her fourth visit to the Asylum. It would also be her last.

Her committal paperwork records observations made by surgeon Frederick Holmes who had examined Sarah the previous day.

She is constantly alarmed, restless, violent and excited. Talks wildly and incoherently and believes that those about her wish to rob her of her fortune and birthright.

This photograph of Sarah is dated 1873.

Sarah’s delusions persisted throughout the next 24 years only being brought to an end by her death in June, 1895 from chronic disease of her heart and kidneys.

Nancy FARRAR, 1873
Senile Dementia

Nancy FARRAR, a 45 year old single mill hand from Horbury, was admitted to the Asylum in June, 1852. She was said to have been suffering from melancholia for about 12 months.

This photograph of Nancy was taken in 1873 when she would have been 66 years old. She is the earliest admitted patient in the Wellcome Library collection.

In August that year her physician wrote:

Patient is getting much thinner though her mental condition is unchanged. She is under the impression that everyone about wishes to injure her and that she is consumed by the fire inside her.

Nancy’s health deteriorated with age and she passed away in the Asylum in June, 1886.

Elizabeth HARDCASTLE, 1872
General Paralysis of the Insane

Elizabeth HARDCASTLE was a 40 year old domestic servant from Bramley when admitted to the Asylum in April, 1872. Her photograph was taken two months later.

The Relieving Officer for Bramley provided Elizabeth’s recent history:

Patient has always been a weak minded woman but for the last two years her mind has become more effected. Since then she has been at one time violent, at another low spirited. She has been for fourteen years in the Workhouse not having had strength of mind to earn her own living. About three days ago she struck a man, swore she would commit murder and refused to do any more work.

Elizabeth would spend six years in the Asylum before being discharged relieved in July, 1878. Nowhere in her case notes is there any suggestion that she was suffering from General Paralysis of the Insane, the annotation on her photograph.

Peter FITZSIMONS, 1872
Mania of Suspicion

Only one photograph appears in both the Wellcome Library and DCP collections being that of Peter FITZSIMONS, a 50 year old married joiner from Rock Street, Leeds. Peter was admitted to the Asylum in March, 1872.

Leeds Union physician Frederick Hall presented the following opinion having examined Peter before his committal.

Talks in a rambling discursive style. Has exaggerated ideas of his wealth and position. Imagines that he has been insulted and ill-treated. Says that for the last 2 years he has been unable to retain a situation owing to the confused state of his mind and that he has frequently contemplated committing suicide. Appearance and manner generally that of a weak-minded person.

Peter was photographed in July, 1872.

Initially Peter worked steadily in the carpenter’s shop at the Asylum but from the end of 1872 his health slowly deteriorated. His death in April 1874 was recorded as caused by General Paralysis of the Insane, tertiary syphillis, of three years duration.

Charles GOULDTHORPE, 1872
Organic Dementia

Charles GOULDTHORPE was a 51 year old married labourer from Attercliffe Road, Sheffield when admitted in June, 1872. His photograph is dated that same month.

He was accompanied to the Asylum by a police officer who had this to say:

Patient has been in the workhouse about a fortnight and while there was at times depressed and refused his food and at other times excited. At times he has been very suicidally inclined but it is not known whether he has made any direct attempt on his life. He is thought to have been a steady and sober man. Nothing is known of his family history. The present attack is said to have lasted 6 weeks, but no reliable information can be obtained.

In November, 1872 Charles was removed to the recently opened South Yorkshire Ayslum at Wadsley near Sheffield.  He passed away there in November the following year.

William WILKINSON, c 1872

Twenty eight year old William WILKINSON, a married joiner from Leeds was admitted in October, 1866.  His "vacant looks and incoherent conversation" were reported as evidence of his insanity together with "his inability to attend to his occupation from mental incapacity".

In feeble health he was assessed as suffering from dementia. Within two months both his mental and physical health had improved and William had been set to work at his trade in the Carpenter's Shop. 

By April, 1875 there had been no improvement in his mental condition and there was concern over his deteriorating respiration.

William left the Asylum that same month when he was "discharged at the urgent request of his friends".

While we do not yet know who annotated the Wellcome Library collection of photographs and how they got into the hands of Henry Clarke at least they are no longer of anonymous individuals. They were proper people with families and now we know their names, how old they were, where they had lived, why they were in the Asylum and what had become of them. There is much more to learn about each of them beyond the brief thumbnail sketches included in this article but I do hope that I have inspired more of you to have a dig around in your local asylum archives. You never know who or what you might find.