Institution Information - Gartnavel Royal Asylum
Parish/County: Partick, Govan, Lanarkshire
Alternative Names: Glasgow Royal Asylum; Gartnavel Royal Hospital
Location Map: Click here to see a historic map showing the institution.
Other institutions: Click here to see a list of Scottish mental health institutions.
Indexes: Click here to search the records we have indexed so far.
Locating Records for this institution
For people admitted to Scottish Mental Health institutions from 1 January 1858 a record usually survives in the ‘Notices of Admissions by the Superintendent of the Mental Institutions’ which are held by the National Records of Scotland. We are creating an index to these records and can assist you in searching the unindexed period. Search our index here or read more about the project here.
Records kept by the institution are now held by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Archives. You can read more about the records they hold for this institution here or contact us and we can assist you to gain access to the records relating to your ancestors. Many of the records relating to this institution have now been digitised by the Wellcome Trust, you can access these records here.
Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report
“GLASGOW ROYAL ASYLUM; Resident Physician.—Dr. Alexander McIntosh.
I.—Object, Origin, History, and Date of Opening.
This Asylum owes its origin to the late Robert McNair, Esq, of Belvidere, at one time a merchant in Glasgow, and afterwards for many years collector of customs at Leith. About the beginning of the present century, Mr. McNair, when officiating as a director of the Town's Hospital of Glasgow, had opportunities of seeing the neglected state of the insane, many of them persons of respectable rank, who, from want of proper accommodation, were placed in damp and dismal cells. He determined to obtain some amelioration in their condition, and accordingly proposed that some improvements should be made in the cells of the Hospital. For this purpose, as the Hospital had no disposable funds, he proceeded to collect subscriptions; and, principally by his own exertions, obtained no less than seven thousand pounds.
The views of Mr. McNair, and of other philanthropic gentlemen who took a deep interest in his proceedings, now expanded. A small committee of directors of the Town's Hospital, which had been appointed to co-operate with him, was superseded by one formed on a broader basis; and, in place of improving the cells of the lunatics, it was resolved that a lunatic asylum should be founded, with accommodations appropriate to patients of the higher as well as of the lower ranks, and totally unconnected with the Hospital.
The general committee, which was formed in 1804, and which continued in office for ten years, consisted of directors of the Hospital, and as such contained representatives from each of the public bodies of the city, by which means the latter were interested in the undertaking, and gave the committee their cordial support.
Having matured the plans to be pursued, the committee proceeded to acquaint the public, through the press, with the nature and object of the proposed institution, and to urge its claims on the attention of the community. Lists of the principal inhabitants of the city were made up, and donations personally applied for with great success. Liberal contributions were likewise obtained from the various public bodies. The synod of Glasgow and Ayr appointed a general collection in all the parishes within its bounds, which yielded a considerable sum. Many noblemen and gentlemen in the neighbourhood of Glasgow, and some even at a distance, responded favourably to the applications made to them. From Scottish gentlemen, resident in Liverpool alone, £227, 17s. was received, and not a few parishes embraced the opportunity offered to them of having their insane paupers maintained at the same low rate as those of Glasgow, by contributing £50 for every 1500 of their population.
The following statement gives a view of the progress of the donations made to the Institution. Among these may be noted £143,18s., the proceeds of a concert given by Madame Catalani, and £73, the balance of the funds of the Glasgow Volunteer Light Horse, disbanded at the peace in 1815. More than two thirds of the whole amount was raised in Glasgow:—
List of Subscriptions Collected [total £22,704 19 3].
[table not shown here]
At the date last mentioned [3 January 1822], the Institution was reported to be free from debt. In 1812 the committee had granted a personal bond to the Royal Bank for £2000, required for the completion of the Asylum; but, although they had resigned office in favour of the Directors chosen at a meeting of the contributors, held on 18th February 1814, they continued to give the Institution the benefit of their names till 1821, when the bond was cancelled.
Next to the vigorous prosecution of the canvass for subscriptions, an early object with the committee was the acquisition of ground suitable for the purposes of a lunatic asylum. Accordingly, after a careful survey of various localities, they acquired about three acres of ground, which, although in close contiguity to the city on the north, was thought a most eligible site. Mr. Stark, an accomplished architect, after inspecting the most celebrated asylums in England, prepared a plan which embraced their most approved features. The estimated cost was £15,000. The first ideas of the committee being very limited, they proposed at first to erect only a single wing; but finding, in 1810, that they had collected nearly £10,000, they were encouraged to proceed with the erection of the whole building. On 2d August of that year the foundation-stone was laid. In the plate which was therein deposited, the object of the Institution was thus stated:—
"To restore the use of Reason, To alleviate Suffering and lessen Peril Where Reason cannot be restored—The Glasgow Asylum for Lunatics Was erected by Public Contribution."
It was opened on the 12th December 1814 for the reception of patients, forty-one of whom were immediately transferred from the cells of the Hospital to apartments in the Asylum. The excellence of the arrangements soon attracted public attention, and the number of patients steadily increased.
In 1824, chiefly with the view of placing the title to the property of the Institution on a better footing, a royal charter was applied for, and obtained on 9th December of that year.
As the number of patients increased, various additions were made from time to time to the original building; and after it had been in use for about twenty-seven years, it appeared to the Directors that it would be desirable to remove the Institution to some other site—the small quantity of land, as well as the numerous buildings which had in the meantime been erected around, and in the immediate neighbourhood of the Asylum, having rendered the situation much less suitable than it had formerly been. The difficulty, however, of procuring a purchaser for an edifice of such a nature, was necessarily great; but at length it was sold to the directors of the Town's Hospital, at a sum considerably below what it had cost; and it has since been converted into the city workhouse.
In 1841 the Directors acquired about sixty-six imperial acres, part of the lands of Gartnavel, situated about three miles to the westward of the city. On this ground the foundation-stone of the New Asylum was laid on the 1st of June 1842, and the patients, 240 in number, were transferred to it from the former Asylum in June 1843. The buildings are in the Tudor Gothic style, after designs by Mr. Charles Wilson. They are of great extent, the frontage being upwards of a sixth of a mile in length, and even in their incomplete shape have an imposing appearance.
In 1843 the number of patients received a large accession. This arose from the removal to the Asylum, under the operation of the Poor Law Act, 4 and 5 Vict., cap. 60., of many pauper patients, who, previously to that time, had been farmed out in Arran and elsewhere, by parochial authorities. A diminution of the numbers commenced in 1848, and was due to the transference of such patients to lunatic wards erected in connection •with the workhouses of some of the larger parishes.
From want of funds, a chapel, which forms a prominent feature in the plan, has not yet been erected. There are various necessary additions and improvements which the Directors are desirous of making, but at present it is quite impossible for them to proceed any further in this direction, as, in doing what they have already done, they have contracted a debt of nearly £40,000.
II.—Constitution, Government, and Management.
The administration of the affairs of the Institution is vested in twenty-three Directors, of whom five are nominated ex officiis. These are the Lord Provost of Glasgow, the Chief Magistrate of Paisley, the Professors of Anatomy and Medicine in the College of Glasgow, and the Physician to the Asylum for the time being: ten are returned by the Public Bodies of the city, and eight are elected by the annual general meeting of contributors, which is composed of donors to the extent of at least five guineas, and annual subscribers of at least one guinea. The supervision of the management of the Institution is entrusted to a committee, consisting of six Directors chosen annually. They meet once a week in Glasgow, and at least once every two months at the Asylum. It is their duty to see that all the regulations of the House are duly complied with, to regulate the admission of patients, the economy of the house, the conduct of the oflicers and servants, and all other details which may occur in the usual course of business.
III.—Quantity and Appropriation of Land.
The land, as already stated, extends to about sixty-six imperial acres. All that is not taken up by the buildings and airing Asylum, grounds, is under tillage.
IV.—Amount and Description of Accommodation for Patients of the several Classes and respective Sexes.
Division for Male Patients.
At the lowest rate of payment.
This division contains accommodation for about 171 patients, and consists of the following wards :—
No. 2, which accommodates twenty-one patients, and consists of a day-room, a large dormitory for twenty patients, and a single sleeping-room.
No. 3, which accommodates twenty-three patients, and consists of a day-room, a dormitory for sixteen patients, and the infirmary for seven patients, consisting of a dormitory for five patients, and two single rooms.
No. 4, which accommodates twelve patients, and consists of a gallery 70 feet long, 11½ feet wide, and 15 feet high, a dormitory for five patients, and seven single rooms.
No. 5, which accommodates twenty-one patients, as in ward No. 2.
No. 6, which accommodates twenty-six patients, and consists of a day-room, a single room, and two dormitories, the one for twenty and the other for five patients.
No. 7, which accommodates twelve patients, and consists of a single room, and two dormitories, the one for seven and the other for four patients.
No. 8, which accommodates seven patients, and consists of seven strong single rooms for violent patients.
No. 9, which accommodates fourteen patients, and consists of a day-room, a dormitory for eight patients, and six strong single rooms for violent patients.
No. 10, which accommodates thirty-five patients, and consists of two single rooms and three dormitories, one for eighteen, one for eight, and the other for seven patients.
The day-rooms vary in dimension; some measure 44 feet in length, 23 feet in width, and 13J feet in height, and others are 23 feet long, 19 feet broad, and from 12^ to 15 feet high.
The large dormitories are about 46 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 15 feet high.
The small dormitories are about 23 feet long, 18 feet wide, and from 12i to 15 feet high.
There are 28 single sleeping-rooms, each room containing from about 900 to 1300 cubic feet of space. The average space in this division is about 865 cubic feet for each patient. Those patients who are not cleanly in their habits, have at least 988 cubic feet of space, and in the infirmary there are 1100 cubic feet of space for each patient.
Division for Male Patients.
At 15s. per veek.
This division contains accommodation for 11 patients, and consists of—
A gallery measuring 74 feet long, 11½ feet wide, and 15 feet high, containing about 13,000 cubic feet of space.
Seven bedrooms, which open from one side of the gallery, and are each 10 feet 9 inches long, 7 feet 9 inches wide, and 15 feet high. Only one patient sleeps in each bedroom, which contains about 1500 cubic feet of space.
A day-room, measuring 24 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet high, containing about 5163 cubic feet of space.
There are two airing grounds for these two divisions: the smaller one, which is not much used, is 161 feet long, and 63 feet wide. The larger one is 226 feet long, and 192 feet wide.
Division for Female Patients.
At the lowest rate of payment.
This division contains accommodation for about 168 patients, and consists of the following wards—
No. 1, which accommodates twenty patients, and consists of six sleeping-rooms for two patients each, a dormitory for eight patients, and a gallery similar to the one in the 15s. male division.
No. 2, which accommodates eighteen patients, and consists of a day-room, two strong single rooms, and a dormitory for sixteen patients.
No. 3, which accommodates twenty-four patients, and consists of a day-room, four strong single rooms, and a dormitory for twenty patients.
No. 4, which accommodates seventeen patients, and consists of a gallery, similar to that in ward No. 4, male division, a dormitory for six, and six rooms, in which eleven patients are accommodated.
No. 5, which accommodates nine patients, and consists of a day-room, a dormitory for seven, and a bedroom for two patients.
No. 6, which accommodates thirty-three patients, and consists of a dormitory for twenty patients, and the infirmary, which consists of a dormitory for six patients, and seven single bedrooms.
No. 7, which accommodates fourteen patients, and consists of two dormitories for seven patients each.
No. 8, which accommodates six violent patients, and consists of six strong rooms.
No. 9, which accommodates twenty-seven patients, and consists of thirteen rooms.
The amount of space to each patient is about the same as in the male division, viz., 865 cubic feet, except in the rooms which open from the gallery, and in each of which two patients are accommodated. In these there are from 625 to 666 cubic feet of space for each patient.
There is only one airing court for this division, which measures 161 feet long, and 63 feet wide.
This division contains accommodation for about 55 males, and as many females, at rates of payment varying from £1, 1s. to £6, 6s., per week.
There are eighteen galleries in this house. Each of the large galleries accommodates eleven patients, and contains 25,959 cubic feet of space, or 2360 cubic feet for each patient, exclusive of the bedroom and sitting-room accommodation. The bedrooms contain from 1435 to 1988 cubic feet, the average space being 1792 cubic feet. There are two airing grounds, one for the male and one for the female patients, each measuring 170 feet long and 141 feet wide.
Several female patients, at 15s. per week, are accommodated in the West House by favour of the Directors.
A few patients, at the lowest rate of payment, are also accommodated in the West House, according to terms to that effect in the regulations.
V.—Sources and Amount of Income.
The income of the Institution arises almost entirely from the payments made by the patients. The average income during the last five years was £14,730, of which only £471, at an average, were derived from legacies, donations, and subscriptions. In the year 1854 there were no donations, while the subscriptions amounted to only two guineas.
The Asylum has been, for some years, under considerable pecuniary difficulties, and suffers from the pressure of a debt of about £40,000, on which the interest, which is at present at the rate of 5½ per cent., is, with difficulty, met. This will be shewn by the following abstracts of accounts for the years 1852, 1853, and 1854.
[table not shown here]
VI.—Rates of Payment for Patients.
The present rates of payment for patients are as follows:—
1.—For paupers belonging to the city of Glasgow, and for those belonging to privileged parishes, per week, £0 8 6
2.—For paupers from other parishes, and the lowest class of patients who are not paupers, £0 9 0
These rates do not include clothing.
3.—For the class immediately above the last, £0 15 0
4.— For the class immediately above the last, £1 1 0
5.— For the class immediately above the last, £1 11 6
6.— For the class immediately above the last, £2 2 0.
7.— For the class immediately above the last, £3 3 0
8.— For the class immediately above the last, £4 4 0
9.— For the class immediately above the last, £6 6 0
VIII.—Medical and other Officers, Attendants, and Establishment, with Salaries, Wages, and Allowances.
[table not shown here]
VIII.—Capital Expenditure as on 14$ May 1855.
Cost of Land and Building, £71,414 12 0
Cost of Furniture, £5,018 2 2
Total, £76,432 14 2
The proportion of this expenditure for each patient, on the estimated accommodation for 460, amounts to £166 3 2
IX.—Condition of the Asylum and Patients when visited by the Commissioners.
The Asylum stands on an elevated situation, about two miles from Glasgow. It commands extensive and beautiful views, but is considerably exposed to high winds.
The land is enclosed with a paling about 8 or 9 feet high.
The Asylum consists of two principal blocks of building, varying from two to four stories in height, the one for private patients, the other for paupers. The entrances are approached from the lodge by a carriage way, which leads directly up to the building, no airing courts being in view.
The number of patients on the day of our visit was—
Private Patients: Males, 45; Females, 42; [total] 87
Paupers: Males, 171; Females, 158; [total] 329
1.—Private Department. Ladies' Wards.—This part of the house consists of long and wide corridors, carpeted and furnished, having the sleeping-rooms on one side, and, on the other, windows overlooking the open country. The corridors appear almost too spacious for the number of patients occupying them.
Each sleeping-room is supplied with warm air, which passes by an opening above the door into the corridor, which is dependent chiefly on the windows for ventilation; but as the admission of fresh air produces inverted action in the hot-air flues, these windows are generally kept shut, and the atmosphere of the wards is consequently often close and unpleasant. The windows throughout the house open only from the top, and generally not more than six inches. Increased means for the introduction of fresh air are therefore very desirable.
The style of furniture varies in the different wards, according to the sums paid by the patients. In the 15s. wards, one, two, or three female patients occupy a sleeping room, and the corridors are bare; but in the higher wards each patient has a separate room, and the corridors are carpeted throughout, and handsomely and fully furnished. In one, for instance, are three gaseliers, two rosewood tables, a piano, ottomans, small tables for occasional use, Elizabethan and other chairs, &c. Most of the corridors contain pianos and time-pieces; the windows are mostly curtained, and the general effect is one of elegance and comfort. The sleeping-rooms of the higher class of patients are very fully and comfortably furnished, and the walls of the corridors and sleeping apartments are variously papered,giving the wards a light and cheerful appearance. The corridors are lighted up at night.
The patients are supplied with books from the city readingclubs, and with newspapers and periodicals.
Gentlemen's Wards.—The furniture here is plainer than in the ladies' wards. In other respects there is no particular difference.
Considerable, and perhaps unnecessary, expense appears to have been incurred in furnishing. The Elizabethan chairs in the corridors, for instance, of which there is a large number, cost £7, 7s. each. The annual outlay for furniture is, as already remarked, very considerable, and it will be seen, on reference to the accounts on page 75, that the annual expenditure for repairs is also very high. The house was hastily built, having, we were told, been run up in about a year. It is consequently badly finished; the flooring, which is of American, instead of Baltic timber, is spongy, absorbing the wet and drying with difficulty. Probably owing to the haste in building, some essential requisites have been overlooked.
The two airing courts belonging to the private department are of very limited extent, and not sufficient for the wants of the patients.
In the pauper department the amount of cubic space of each room is marked upon the door. In the female wards the small sleeping-rooms contain 1250 cubic feet, two patients sleeping in each. The windows, generally, have sliding shutters, which Dr. McIntosh has not found strong enough to resist violent patients. Hence the windows of the seclusion-rooms, in which such patients are placed, are closed up to within five or sir inches of the top, with boards permanently fastened with screwnails. This precaution would probably be rendered unnecessary if the patients had more abundant means for extended exercise. These rooms, moreover, can never be properly ventilated, and some of them are most inconveniently situated in the third story. They are dark, damp, and smell offensively. The bedding is generally placed on the floor.
In other parts of the house the bedsteads are of iron, and the mattresses of straw. The coverings are ample, but each bed has only one sheet, which is changed once a-week. The bedsteads of the dirty patients have canvas bottoms, and stand over troughs sunk in the floor, which are flushed with water. This arrangement appears to answer, so far as the removal of impurities is concerned, but it has a very offensive appearance, and is calculated to degrade the patients, and encourage those faulty habits which it is intended to palliate.
There are two airing courts belonging to the pauper department, one for the males and one for the females; besides a small court paved with asphalte, surrounded by buildings and high walls, and very gloomy. This last is used as an airing ground for the worst class of female patients, from forty to fifty of whom never go beyond it, as, it is said, they would try to escape, or would not conduct themselves properly if allowed to enter the grounds. Four of the females in this ward wore trousers and ticking dresses, and several of them were noisy and excited. About thirty male paupers take their exercise in the grounds around the house, but fifty never go beyond the airing courts.
The patients appeared sufficiently fed and were well clothed.
The meat is bought whole in carcases, the best joints being reserved for the private patients, and the inferior parts given to the paupers. The supply of water is bad, and sometimes fails, in which case water is carted. The paupers use knives and forks of bone; the private patients knives and forks of soft metal. In the private department the cooking is done by gas; in the pauper department in the ordinary way. All the bread is baked on the premises.
The Sheriff, accompanied by two medical men, visits the house regularly, and takes much interest in the welfare of the patients.
Details as to the means of occupation and amusement, and of religious exercise, will be found in Dr. McIntosh's evidence.
The condition of this Asylum is injuriously affected by the heavy debt that has been incurred, which prevents the introduction of many improvements. Mechanical restraint is not employed, but seclusion is used to an extent which would be found unnecessarily great, if the patients had the advantage of more extended exercise. The pauper patients from Highland parishes are frequently in an incurable and degraded condition when received, and have a detrimental influence upon the state of the patients generally. Too much use is made of contrivances in dress and bedding to meet faulty habits.”