Garlands 1906

Garlands 1906

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A Late Starter...

The Cumberland and Westmorland Joint Lunatic Asylum - from here on in will be referred to it's more commonly used name, the Garlands Hospital - opened on 2 January 1862 with accommodation for 200 patients. Although Garlands was built in the height of the Victorian lunatic asylum era, it was one of the last County institutions to be constructed. 

Original legislation stipulating that every county in England should construct a lunatic asylum was passed in 1808. The 1808 County Asylums Act was passed specifically 'for the better care and maintenance of lunatics, being paupers or criminals in England'.  Although the Act laid the basis for the English county asylum network, it had a very limited impact, with only 8 counties building an asylum by 1825. (L. D. Smith, 'Cure, Comfort and Safe Custody': Public Lunatic Asylums in Early Nineteenth Century England London, 1999, p. 24)

It was not until 1845 that further legislation was introduced to make it a necessity for every county in England and Wales to build a lunatic asylum for their pauper population. More counties now complied, as the pressure from above increased, and as the pressure upon their existing institutions also increased. As mentioned above, Cumberland and Westmorland's institution - it should be noted that the two counties received assent that they could open a joint institution, for which each county would be charged separately for its patients, but housed in the same asylum - did not open it's doors until 1862, thus making it one of the last areas to do so. The delay in creating such an institution was down to finance. The local government board was responsible for finding the funds necessary for purchasing a suitable site and building the new asylum. In total, the building of the Garlands Hospital cost £32 043 7s 4d, around £1.4 million in today's money.

In the decades before the creation of the Garlands Hospital, the insane of Cumberland and Westmorland were either housed in the workhouses of the two counties, or sent to Dunston Lodge private asylum which was just outside of Gateshead. Of the initial 186 patients sent to Garlands upon its opening, 146 were sent directly from Dunston Lodge. One of the reasons why the building of a county asylum in Cumberland and Westmorland could no longer be delayed was that the agreement with Dunston Lodge was coming to an end, and the problem of where to treat their pauper lunatics had to be solved.

Before the 1845 County asylums act, the English lunatic asylum was regarded as a place of horror, degradation and destitution. It was only used as a last resort, to lock away the insane population to protect them from harming the public, regardless of the threat they posed to themselves. However, the expansion of the county asylum network, together with the advances in psychiatric medicine led to an approach of moral treatment in the latter half of the nineteenth century. No longer were patients shackled to beds, violently treated and regarded as animals, now a healthy diet, exercise, employment in work and therapy became the normal practice.

Therefore, the Garlands Asylum, as many others of its era, was not a place of incarceration to be regarded with horror. It was one of many in the country built specifically for a programme of moral treatment, by pioneering doctors of the age. It was a place the mentally unstable came for serenity, a proper routine and a degree of care they could not get elsewhere. The change in attitude towards the asylum was no more apparent than by the admission records. Originally built to accommodate 200 patients, by 1909 the hospital had expanded to the extent that it now housed 846 patients.  Some historians have viewed this as a great increase in the number of insane persons, I, however view this as an altered view of the asylum by the public. Thus, because the asylum now treated it's patients humanely and had an excellent recovery rate of non-chronic cases, families were more willing to admit their relatives than they would've done when the asylum held the horrific reputation of the past century.

This blog is a small part of my ongoing PhD research into the Garlands Hospital. I am attempting to write the asylums history as it is one currently unwritten.

Any stories you may have about the history of the Garlands Hospital, Carlisle, please use the comment box to share them. I would love to learn as much as possible about this undiscovered institution.