Private madhouses

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This podcast aims to show the part played by commercial enterprise in the care of the mentally disordered, and also how varied the responses to mental illness or impairment were in different parts of Britain. Most madhouses prior to the mid-nineteenth century were private and were for the better off. They resembled modern nursing homes for the well-heeled elderly, providing mainly personal care and medical interventions when necessary, to a small number of paying patients. Private madhouses grew in numbers during the eighteenth century when they spread to provincial towns and cities. Most were small institutions for better-off sufferers, in which patients might expect to dine and converse with the owner’s family, and to pray with them – an important sign of intimacy in the past. There were, however, also some pauper ‘farms’ around London in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century: large dormitory-like buildings that catered for the more docile lunatics, and for idiots and imbeciles.

Image of the week: view of Ticehurst private madhouse, c. 1829
Full Bibliographic Record: Wellcome Library Catalogue L0032450
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

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