Dr Paul Tobia’s articles


The fickle press and the asylum

Glenside Hospital Museum

By Dr Paul Tobia Whether the local press reflects public opinion in the late 1800s it is difficult to know because there are rarely any other sources, but they do give an insight into attitudes to mental health care. Bristol had produced many newspapers since the Bristol Post Boy was first published in 1702. When […]

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The Other

Not ‘Us’ but ‘The Others’

Glenside Hospital Museum

Article by Dr Paul Tobia   Being laid up in bed for the last week with what my wife is determined to label as ‘manflu’ I have had lots of time to think and have considered the question why do research on Bristol’s Victorian psychiatric hospital and does it do any good. Does Glenside Hospital […]


Harriet Nowland

Labelling. Putting people in a box is it ‘jail’ or ‘home’?

Glenside Hospital Museum

Article by Dr Paul Tobia Up until now I have concentrated on the patient records from Bristol’s purpose built asylum in the nineteenth century, but in this article I begin my exploration of  the period 1900-1915 before the asylum became Beaufort War Hospital in1915. This period, often called the Edwardian era, has been characterised as […]


The ‘Good’ Doctor

Glenside Hospital Museum

Pretending to be someone other than oneself is an attractive prospect, you can forget your insecurities and adopt another persona more confident and  talented than yourself. This is what the acting profession is based on and to a certain extent it is something we all do. I know that when I went to work as […]

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Reclaiming the insane

Glenside Hospital Museum

Throughout history those with mental health problems have been depicted as ‘other’, thus distancing them from the general population. At Glenside Hospital Museum in Bristol, we are very lucky to have unique collection of photographs, paintings and drawings of the patients and the environment of the Bristol Lunatic Asylum which later became Glenside Hospital.  They […]


At the Mercy of the Doctor

Glenside Hospital Museum

Article by Dr Paul Tobia History is often portrayed as a series of narratives in which great men (and they always seem to be men) changed the world with their strength and leadership, intellect or malevolence. This view of history has been challenged, as economic, social and cultural factors can be shown to be more […]

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The Lunatic Asylum Ball

Glenside Hospital Museum

Bristol Lunatic Asylum took leisure activities for patients seriously. It was seen as part of supporting the patients to regain their health. They had a small library and organised a number of sports activities including cricket. Each week they had a concert which most of the patients attended. In 1864 bagatelle boards and a skittle […]


The Padded Cell Part 2: the most frequent visitor

Glenside Hospital Museum

In the late nineteenth century the medical journals of Bristol Lunatic Asylum list which patients were placed in the seclusion room.  The name which occurs most often was Hannah Llewellyn. Over a number of years starting in 1873 she was regularly placed there, usually the reason given was ‘excitement’ or ‘fighting’(Medical Journals, BRO 40513/J/7 and […]

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The Padded Cell Part 1

Glenside Hospital Museum

At Glenside Hospital Museum there is a replica of a padded cell, a small room with cushioned walls. One panel is thought to be from the late nineteenth century, you can see layers of colour as the room got repainted from pink, to blue and then pale yellow, another panel is the door from the […]


Children at the Asylum, forgotten pasts: Part 3

Glenside Hospital Museum

To rescue their forgotten pasts I have chosen a further four children to illustrate the diversity of their health problems and experience in the asylum.   Henry Kane   Henry Kane was admitted on May 24th 1898 from the Bristol Union Workhouse. He died of tuberculosis seven months later. Aged 15 he suffered from what […]

Alice Cox

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Life in Bristol Lunatic Asylum, Arthur Nichols’ letters 1884–1889

Glenside Hospital Museum

Article by Dr Paul Tobia Arthur Nichols is an interesting character. He spent roughly five years at the asylum before being transferred to the Hanwell Asylum in London. The Bristol Lunatic Asylum’s notes on him as a patient, held at Bristol Records Office, include several letters from him to various friends and family, providing us […]


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Between the Devil and the Angels

Glenside Hospital Museum

Asylum Lives blog post by Paul Tobia This blog starts with the lives and experiences of people who suffered from mental health problems from 1861 to 1900 at the Bristol Lunatic Asylum, which later became Glenside Hospital. It will be run by Glenside Hospital Museum and myself, Paul Tobia. Initially it will be based on […]