Articles


Looking to the Light

New Dialogues an exhibition of Art at Glenside Hospital Museum on until the 1st April 2023 An exciting exhibition of contemporary art exploring mental health care has been launched at Glenside Hospital Museum, Bristol.  It is one of three ground-breaking new exhibitions across the UK inspired by remarkable collections relating to mental health. In Bristol, […]


‘I do not want to smoke’ GHM exhibition until 13th May

This film installation spotlights a pivotal, yet often overlooked, moment in the history of medical cinema. Bringing to life one of the world’s first attempts to incorporate the cinema into psychotherapeutic treatment, the installation showcases the short film, I Do Not Want To Smoke (2020). The film is based on a script published in the Soviet Union in 1936 […]


‘From the coal mines to war and back’ by Eddie Parsons

On the 7th October 1918 Jack arrived at Beaufort War Hospital with a severe gunshot wound to the chest. John Edward Hewitt, known as Jack, was born on the 24th of November 1899, to parents Robert and Mary Ann Hewitt in Castleford, West Yorkshire. Tragically his mother died in childbirth when Jack was only three. […]


Portraits of the Unremembered

Dr Paul Tobia, has been researching the patients at Bristol’s mental hospital, 1861-1900. Using the patient records at Bristol Archives and archives across Britain, he has created films and the many articles we have blogged on our website. Below is a beautifully drawn collection of portraits from another hospital, equally informative about people who became […]


Is there a poet in you?

Take inspiration from our poet Caroline Burrows @VerseCycle and her sonnet ‘Death of Chatterton’s Romanticised Suicide’ by using one word from her poem  anywhere in your own rhyming couplet. Share your couplets on social media using the hashtag: #ChattertonRises with your preferred name as an author, 15th February to the 12th March2021.  


Recoveries

In the ten years I have been researching the patients of the Bristol Lunatic Asylum, the thing that most struck me was the disparity between the popular view of asylums and the results of my studies. They were seen as as dreadful barbaric hellholes from which, once entered, you would never return but my studies […]


Spectrum; from A-Z by Shagufta Iqbal

For 2020, as part of Bristol Poetic City, we have a Writer in Residence: Shagufta K. Iqbal Her beautiful poem ‘Spectrum’ and social media series launches on World Mental Health Day October 10th. Go to You Tube to be entranced by her poem:  https://youtu.be/Fv4XRLmQilE Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770) is a celebrated young Bristol poet.  He died […]


‘Poetry Helps’

World Suicide Prevention Day 10th September. We have been working with poet Caroline Burrows to create an online poetry event to be launched on September 10th for World Suicide Prevention Day:#PoetryHelps, exploring what can help with #SuicideAwareness and #SuicidePrevention. @VerseCycle. Caroline has created 45 verses and with the help of many participants has created a […]


Time to Delve into archives online

Dr Peter Carpenter,  treasurer and volunteer at Glenside Hospital Museum has found this portrait in the Wellcome Collection online and researched the mystery of Louisa a notorious  ‘Madhouse’ resident from the late 1700s. The mysterious Lady of the Haystack Why was Louisa admitted in 1781 to the lunatic ward of St Peters Hospital?   Louisa […]


Time to Draw

Drawing can be very meditative and soothing, but you don’t have to start with a blank piece of paper. Suzanne Alsop, Glenside Hospital Museum volunteer is a keen colourer, ‘I have found colouring to be helpful in my own recovery and relating some of my pictures to the noble characteristics of these animals has added […]


Time to Reflect Two

Junjie Wang has also had time to reflect on her experience of volunteering at Glenside Hospital Museum. She is now a Museum Professional at the Aurora Museum, Shanghai, China, currently closed due to the COVID-19 virus.   ‘Actually, I don’t quite know to describe this museum exactly. It is small, but not simple. It is […]


Time to Reflect

Volunteer Colin Ogdan ‘a man of many talents’ writes about his experience of volunteering at Glenside Hospital Museum. I heard the Museum was looking for someone to help with woodwork for their displays and so with my engineering background and experience in education I turned up. I look at project suggestions from the team and […]


The Stretcher: Untold Stories of the First World War

‘The stretcher-bearer ferried him from hell, A wounded soldier the blast of a shell.’ Stretcher-bearers are the unsung heroes of the First World War. They were often considered to be nothing more than a porter, but they were in fact extremely brave individuals who returned to the battlefield to collect the wounded. Advancing troops were […]


Glenside: Mental Health Museum by Sophie Stammers

For those of you who have not yet visited the Museum, or are unable to get here, this post gives a real flavour of what to expect when you come. It originally appeared on Imperfect Cognitions, the blog run by researchers at Project PERFECT, a multidisciplinary team investigating issues in mental health, irrationality and wellbeing, […]


The fickle press and the asylum

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 […]


Home: from St Louis, Missouri to Bristol Asylum

ALBERT JAMES HOME (1846-1910) By Robert Home Albert James Home was born in Midsomer Norton, Somerset, then a mining town and new railway hub. The only child of William Home (1809-1880), a brewer’s commercial traveller, and his wife a local woman, Sarah Smith (1811-1890). (William had been born in Stanton Lacey near Ludlow, and the […]


Not ‘Us’ but ‘The Others’

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 […]


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

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

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 […]


One man’s war. All the way from Tasmania

Private Charles Samuel Henry Dale experienced the First World War in Gallipoli, France and Belgium, and due to the severity of the wounds he sustained was deemed unfit for active duty in the Second World War. He was one of the 29,000 plus soldiers who came to Beaufort War Hospital for treatment. Dale had enlisted […]


PEOPLE WHO SHAPED OUR WORLD

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN Dr Donal Early (1917-2004) pioneered a radical new way of treating mental illness in Bristol in the 1960s and with his wife Dr Prudence Early (1918-2017) founded in 1984 the unique and nationally important Glenside Hospital Museum. While some 100 years have passed since their birth in Ireland, the museum continues […]


Reclaiming the insane

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

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 […]


In Remembrance: capturing the history of war is not easy

This Remembrance Weekend GHM would like to thank all our visitors who gave us their family stories. Their contributions have been added to our collection to share with the generations to come. They help us remember the soldiers who came to Beaufort War Hospital during the First World War. In 2014, we began to research […]


The Lunatic Asylum Ball

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 […]


One day, two performances, 15 July at Museum

alldaybreakfast presents UNLOCKED a site-specific performance installation at Glenside Hospital Museum. Directed by Lily Mcleish An atmospheric site-specific performance in Glenside Hospital Museum, in the grounds of the former Bristol Lunatic Asylum. The performance gives voice to the patient, interweaving words found in the museum archives, accounts from former patients and experiences of people who […]


The Padded Cell Part 2: the most frequent visitor

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 […]


June 11 or June 12 Rare opportunity to draw in Museum

Drawing classes. An amazing opportunity to put pen to paper in the fascinating museum of the former Bristol Lunatic Asylum, led by a qualified teacher. Following the success of our the drawing class in February we have asked Caroline Pringle to return to the museum for two more occasions to run the class. A Sunday […]


The Padded Cell Part 1

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

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

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 […]


Young children in the Asylum: Part 1

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 #4: Creature Comforts

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

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 […]


‘Unlocked’ exhibition at the City Hall 20th-24th February 10am-3pm

  Alldaybreakfast with ‘Unlocked’, a Creative Seed Council funded project. The exhibition aims to engage audiences in discussion about mental health through art. Working as artists in residence at the Glenside Hospital Museum (which was formerly known as the Bristol Lunatic Asylum in the 1800s) the group developed the exhibition using the museum’s exhibits to […]


Epilepsy in the Asylum

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 […]


Bringing our collection to life

Participants at GHM’s Drawing Classes set about capturing our collection on paper. Using the technique of pencil and ink wash they created strong, powerful images. After some quick 10 minute drawings – a sample of the many produced are below – they moved into the heart of the museum. (See Andrew Eddington’s picture on Facebook.) […]


Drawing Class at Glenside Hospital Museum

Not to be missed. For anyone who would like to learn or perfect drawing a quick sketch of something that interests you in a gallery or museum this drawing and ink wash class at Glenside Hospital Museum will be a delight. Friday 3rd February 2017 1.45pm til 4.30pm Drawing Class Captured on Paper with Caroline […]


Language and Disability: who cares? (I do)

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 […]


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

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 […]


Discover Glenside through its Objects #2: Unlocking the Past

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 […]


‘Life in a lunatic asylum’

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

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

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

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 […]


Two patients, two photographs, two conditions

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 […]


Moron. Be aware human feelings are involved

WORDS HAVE POWER JILL ACHINEKU’S BLOG SERIES EXPLORING ABLEIST LANGUAGE FOR GHM   “He makes the same mistake as the others when they look at a feeble-minded person and laugh because they don’t understand there are human feelings involved.” The words of Daniel Keyes’ protagonist, Charlie Gordon, in ‘Flowers for Algernon’. If you were required […]


Words have power

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

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 […]


‘We are moved by war’ our exhibition hosted by Bristol Cathedral

We have a special exhibition about Glenside Hospital’s First World War History as part of Bristol Cathedral’s First World War centenary commemoration ‘We Have Our Lives’. The exhibition reminds us of the enormity of the task Bristol’s population faced as the wounded arrived in their hundreds by train into Temple Meads. Admission to the Cathedral […]


Great Doors Open Day: BIG Thank You x 3

  x 3 Thank you to the Doors Open Day team for yet another successful event. We do appreciate all the work that goes into organising the day. Thank you too to all our volunteers who came in to make sure it went to plan, and especially those who dressed for the event! Thank you […]


New Dialogues

One of four exhibitions is ‘Looking to the Light’ at Glenside Hospital Museum until 29th January 2023 New Dialogues has been a nationwide, two year-project, made possible thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which saw Outside In work with Glenside Hospital Museum (Bristol), Glasgow Life Museums (Glasgow), and the Mental Health Museum (Wakefield). It […]