Stories


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 […]

Asylum ball detail

padded cellsmall

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 […]


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 […]

padded cll small

Alice Cox

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 […]


Children in the asylum: Part 2

Glenside Hospital Museum

Admissions of children aged 11 to 16 As the age of those admitted increases there are profound differences. To be able to make comparisons I developed a database. The analysis shows there were more of them: twenty-three 15-year-olds and forty 16-year-olds. Their chances of recovery improved with age; 46% of those aged 15 or 16 […]

Elizabeth

Francis Willoughby Jones small

Young children in the Asylum: Part 1

Glenside Hospital Museum

The asylum admission books record many tragic stories but the most heartrending were of children admitted to the asylum. There were not many; 96 or 1.8% of the admissions between 1861–1900 were children aged 16 or under and of these only ten were under 11. The youngest was Rosina Smith who was admitted aged just […]


Discovering Glenside Through its Objects #5: Every name is a number

Glenside Hospital Museum

  One wall of the museum is devoted to a series of black and white photographs of patients from the nineteenth century. The images are of men and women, old and young, mostly from working or trade backgrounds. Some are housewives, some are maids and there are a smattering of artists and artisans. Sitting just […]

3 women patients

stuffed badger

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 […]


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 PART 2 Dennis Reed

EPILEPSY PART 1 Dennis Reed

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 […]


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 […]

img_3153

‘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 […]

teapot3

arthur-artist-picture

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 […]


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 […]

image-5-keys-bunch-copy

poster2

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 […]


‘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 […]

glenside-early

img128

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. […]


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 […]

childidiot2

Harriett Abbott

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 […]