A series of mental health registers reveal the stark reality of how the mentally ill were treated in Yorkshire over 130 years ago.
As part of the Archive Awareness Campaign, East Riding of Yorkshire Archives has catalogued the registers – the Men’s and Women’s Case Books – from the Broadgate Hospital archive. Comprised of case records of individuals admitted to Broadgate between 1871 and 1906, the registers paint a harrowing picture of life for those deemed mentally ill over a century ago.
Ian Mason, Archives and Local Studies Manager at East Riding of Yorkshire Archives, said: ‘Sadly, despite our modern preconceptions of mental hospitals, some of the patients admitted to Broadgate in its early days would not be diagnosed insane today. Cases such as epilepsy and depression, which we can treat relatively easily today, were not as well understood and were considered a form of “idiocy” or “stupidity”.’
One such example is William George Marsden, 56, a gardener from Pocklington, who was admitted to Broadgate on 23 November 1905 suffering from what we would now call clinical depression. The case notes describe him as ‘dull, stupid, and lain in bed’, as well as ‘suffering from Melancholia’.
Broadgate Hospital, which was located outside Walkington, opened in 1871 and operated for 118 years, until its closure in 1989.
The records detail patients’ names, ages, marital status and the cause of their “insanity”. Angela Owusu, Archive Awareness Campaign Officer at The National Archives, said: ‘It is well worth looking at the archive catalogues at East Riding of Yorkshire Archives to see what collections they have. Though a number of these registers are disturbing, they are a brilliant example of how archives can be used to help add “meat” to the bones of your family history.’
Source: National Archives