‘Comfort, amusement and healthy occupation’: report on Birmingham asylum, 1850

The following report presents the findings of a visit from two ‘lunatic commissioners’ and was presented to the town council at the quarterly meeting on August 6th, 1850. The report can be found in the archives held by the Library of Birmingham, BCC1/AA/1/1/2

Birmingham Borough Asylum, July 8th 1850

We have this day officially visited this asylum, have gone through its different wards, galleries and sleeping rooms and have seen all the patients and have particularly examined and conversed with many of them. There are at present 137 in all, viz. 72 males and 65 females all of them except one being paupers belonging to the Borough of Birmingham, with the exception of one also who came from the Northampton Asylum, all the patients have been recently brought from the asylums at Birmingham, Haydock, Duddeston and from the Borough Workhouse.

At the time of our visit the patients with scarcely an exception were tranquil and comfortable. No one was under mechanical restraint or in seclusion such restraint has not hitherto been used in a single instance, and seclusion is only used occasionally and for short periods.

Considering that the house was opened for the reception of patients so recently as the 3rd of June last, we think that its present condition reflects great credit on the care, activity and good sense of those to whom the conduct of the establishment is more immediately entrusted and justifies a well grounded expectation that this asylum will soon take a high rank among similar institutions. The arrangements appear to us to have been made on a very liberal scale; and much has been done and more is proposed, and is in progress with a view to contribute to the comfort, amusement and healthy occupation of the inmates.

We have made the various enquiries which the statute directs with respect to the management of the institution and its inmates and the information which we have received on these points has been very satisfactory.

We found different apartments and galleries perfectly clean and thoroughly ventilated. The dress and persons of the patients were clean and neat, their bedding also was very clean and comfortable and in all respects of excellent quality.

A very large proportion of the patients were employed in different ways; and a still larger proportion of the patients will be usefully and profitably employed as soon as the necessary tools and utensils can be procured for them.

The dietary appears to be very liberal and on all sides we found the patients strongly express their sense of satisfaction at the change they had experienced in their removal from private asylums and from the workhouse to their present residence.

W. Mylne       J. R. Hume

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