The Journey to the District Asylum: Royal Asylums, Private Madhouses, and Stirling District Asylum

11 Feb ‘16

4.00PM - 6.00PM
Speaker: Dr Iain Hutchison, University of Glasgow

Venue: A96, Pathfoot Building, University of Stirling

The surviving records of Stirling District Asylum, opened in 1869, and known locally as Bellsdyke, were recently deposited with the University of Stirling's archive collection where they have been cleaned, repaired and catalogued in readiness for their use as a valuable research resource.

Institutional confinement of people with mental troubles prior to the opening of Bellsdyke and other district asylums was made by "the Royals" -  a network of seven asylums that catered for both pauper and private (i.e. fee-paying) patients -  in accommodation that befitted their social stations and economic circumstances. The modest fees for lowly paupers were nonetheless too high and "extravagant"  in the eyes of some parochial boards administering the Poor Law and this enabled privately-run "madhouses"  to offer an alternative. This structure of dual provision began to change following probing investigations in 1855 and the implementation of the Lunacy (Scotland) Act in 1857. The Act resulted in the gradually construction of district asylums, such as Bellsdyke, for pauper lunatics - a development that was to see the Royals direct attention solely towards private patients, and the closure of private madhouses.

This paper will trace the roles of the Royals, private madhouses, and district asylums in nineteenth-century Scotland. It will endeavour to gauge inmate experience, with particular reference to Stirling's Bellsdyke Asylum.

Iain Hutchison is Research Associate in Economic and Social History at the University of Glasgow.

He is on the Board of the worldwide Disability History Association and, more locally, he is a member of the board of trustees of Disability History Scotland. He is reviews editor for H-Disability.

He has recently been working on the history of Glasgow's Royal Hospital for Sick Children, funded by Wellcome and other bodies; and on the Leverhulme-funded "Matrons to Microbes"  project where he has been investigating the history of infection control at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and Glasgow Royal Infirmary.  However, he is primarily an historian of disability and most recently was the research historian for the HLF-funded "Seeing Our History"  project for RNIB Scotland.

This event is free and is open to staff, students and members of the public.

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