Asylum history revealed on web
Ancestry.co.uk has published more than 840,000 asylum records on the web for the first time.
Digitised from documents held at The National Archives, the three collections (MH 94, HO 20 and HO 145) provide details of patients committed to more than 300 mental institutions between 1820 and 1912.
This includes people deemed to have been ‘criminal lunatics’, who were either transferred from prisons on grounds of insanity, or found not guilty and sent to asylums instead.
Although the nature of their crimes varied, patients were often treated harshly – despite their illness. A note regarding Aaron Bywater, for instance, states that he should be “left constantly handcuffed and chained by night”, after having killed a fellow inmate at Shrewsbury Gaol.
“It’s clear that the mental institutions were truly terrifying places by today’s standards,” said Ancestry’s Miriam Silverman. “Not only are these records interesting from a social history point of view, they are valuable for anyone looking to find out if one of their ancestors was a patient.”
Inmates in the day room at Broadmoor, 1867