Stories


Discovering Glenside Through its Objects #4: Creature Comforts

Glenside Hospital Museum

One area of the museum has been dressed as it would have been during Glenside’s pauper lunatic asylum days, using the original furniture from the  Victorian Board Room. There is a large mahogany dining table and chairs to seat twelve. The lower half of the room has the original dark wood panelling. Above, the walls […]

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EPILEPSY PART 2 Dennis Reed

Epilepsy and the Lifton Family

Glenside Hospital Museum

Nowadays epilepsy is not seen as a psychiatric condition and a person with epilepsy is unlikely to be treated by a mental health unit. In the nineteenth century it was different as the Lifton family were to discover. In 1861, when Bristol Lunatic Asylum opened, the Liftons were a fairly prosperous family. Isaac and his […]


Epilepsy in the Asylum

Glenside Hospital Museum

When I was a nursing assistant working on an elderly male psychiatric ward in the early 1980s I witnessed patients having grand mal epileptic fits about once a week. At first I found it quite frightening, but later I became quite blasé about it, although I did wonder why they were so common. Epilepsy only […]

EPILEPSY PART 1 Dennis Reed

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Language and Disability: who cares? (I do)

Glenside Hospital Museum

Laurine Groux-Moreau reflects on language and disability at the History of Place event which took place at the MShed on Saturday 3rd December 2016. This was originally published on Laurine’s blog  Language and Disability: who cares? (I do) https://ohmyfrenchness.co.uk/en/home/language-and-disability-talk-at-mshed/ For a few months now I have been involved with History of Place, a national project […]


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‘Good roast beef with potatoes, cabbage and gravy’: asylum food 1861 -1900

Glenside Hospital Museum

Patients Arthur Nichols and John Weston both write about the asylum food. Their experiences can be compared to both the official reports from the Asylum Visitors and Commissioners and other documentation on the asylum farm and menus. Most of the time Nichols viewed the food quite favourably, which is interesting considering he was from a […]


Letters from Bristol Lunatic Asylum, 1884–1889

Glenside Hospital Museum

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 with an insight into him […]

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Discover Glenside through its Objects #2: Unlocking the Past

Glenside Hospital Museum

Helen Bolton continues her journey round the museum. The object – or objects – that first caught my eye when I stepped into the museum were two sets of fairly ordinary looking keys. One was draped casually over a mug commemorating Stoke Park (a hospital for people with learning disabilities and sister institution to Glenside […]


Discover Glenside Through its Objects #1: A Visitor’s Journey

Glenside Hospital Museum

To enter the museum, you step through a heavy wooden door to a small side-vestibule that leads you into the church. On one side is a glass case displaying objects that give a first taste of what is to come: a ceramic bed warmer, an ancient enormous thermometer for testing bath temperature, and an early […]

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‘Life in a lunatic asylum’

Glenside Hospital Museum

Extracts from the book by patient and author John Weston. In his book ‘Life in a lunatic asylum: an autobiographical sketch’ describes the Airing courts where the patient’s exercised, as he saw them in the 1860’s. These same Airing courts can still be seen today if you visit Glenside Hospital Museum, they are part of […]


Historians are like a detectives: discovering John Weston

Glenside Hospital Museum

A couple of years ago I was in the Welcome Institute Library, (which is very pleasant) looking up stuff about the Bristol Asylum. I came across a small book of 104 pages entitled ‘Life in a lunatic asylum: an autobiographical sketch’. It was written anonymously and published in London, by Houlston & Wright in 1867. […]

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Idiot

Glenside Hospital Museum

Another ‘idiot’ is in the news. Last month a man wearing a fake suicide belt hijacked a plane flying from Alexandria to Cairo. Seif Eldin Mustafa wanted to see his ex-wife and so he forced the pilot to fly to Cyprus where she lived. After his arrest, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry was […]


Photographs of asylum patients: an analysis

Glenside Hospital Museum

Asylum photographs: a snap shot in time part 2 by Paul Tobia. During the 1890s the asylum began to take photographs of the patients and place them in the case notes. Most have survived and I have now an archive of over 700 of these photographs which have been digitally restored. I have chosen the […]

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Two patients, two photographs, two conditions

Glenside Hospital Museum

Asylum photographs: a snap shot in time part 1 by Paul Tobia. Poor mental health can strike at any time. In Victorian Britain it could be caused by a skin disease or as now old age. While photographs capture a very short period of time and the sitter could look very different a few seconds […]


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Words have power

Glenside Hospital Museum

In recent years there has been a movement to call attention to the widespread use of ableist language. If you don’t know, ableist language is any word or phrase that intentionally or inadvertently targets an individual with a disability. So using words like crazy, idiot, lame etc. to describe someone is ableist. Some people think […]


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 […]

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Ann Blannin with her art piece. A brain.

In Search of Self: art inspired by the Museum

Glenside Hospital Museum

On 12th September for Bristol Doors Open Day 2015 we are launching an exhibition of art done by the custodians of our collection. On the day some of our volunteers will be in costume reflecting different aspects of the building’s history. Come and spot the wounded First World War soldier dressed in blue, the Victorian […]


Now I know my ECTS

Glenside Hospital Museum

Guest post by volunteer Ted Aylmer. Visit his interesting Bristol history blog here. There are so many interesting and amazing artifacts at Glenside Hospital Museum, that sometimes it’s difficult to know which ones to write about. As ECT is an area that fascinates many people and, since we have a few different models of ECT machines, and one […]

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Beaufort War Hospital & The New Discipline of Orthopaedics

Glenside Hospital Museum

This photograph shows a typical hospital workshop between 1916 and 1918. Beaufort War Hospital became an Orthopaedic Centre in the summer of 1916. Orthopaedics was a relatively new medical discipline. Up until the 1890s, orthopaedics was a study limited to the correction of deformity in children. Beaufort was selected because of its existing workshops and […]