Institution Information - Abbey Poorhouse Asylum

Parish/County: Abbey, Paisley, Renfrewshire

Alternative Names: Craw Road Institution; Abbey Poorhouse; Abbey Parish Poorhouse

Location Map: Click here to see a historic map showing the institution.

Notes: Abbey Poorhouse Asylum was replaced by Riccartsbar Asylum. Click here to find out more about that institution.

Other institutions: Click here to see a list of Scottish mental health institutions.

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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.

Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report


The Abbey Parish poorhouse stands in a good situation on rising ground, about a mile from Paisley, and overlooks the town. The country continues to rise behind the house, so that a view of it is obtained from the airing-courts.

The lunatic wards occupy a separate building from the general poorhouse, and look out upon the open country. The building is of recent erection, and cost about £2400, without the site.

It is equally divided into wards for males and females, and each side is laid out exactly on the same plan. It is two stories high. When visited, the house contained 28 male, and 30 female patients. It was built to accommodate 80 patients, but the highest number hitherto resident at one time is 64.

There is on each side a room for wet patients, which contains six beds standing over troughs sunk in the floor. When the patients are of very dirty habits, their beds have stretched canvas bottoms. The other beds have straw mattresses, and are clean and comfortable. There is a large and airy day-room; but it is very bare of furniture, containing only three benches. Opening directly from it is a seclusion-room, and, immediately adjoining, is another room, also intended for refractory patients. The store-room and dining-room are also approached from the day-room. The dining-room was intended for a dormitory, and is only used for its present purpose till the house is full. The placing of the seclusion-rooms so close to the day-room and dormitories, is a defective arrangement, as the noise of the refractory patients cannot fail to disturb the others. The house, moreover, is so badly constructed, that a noisy patient is heard throughout nearly the whole building.

The dormitories are clean and well ventilated, and are warmed with hot air pumped in by a steam-engine—a mode of heating which, it is said, answers very well. There were formerly fireplaces in the day-rooms, but they are now closed up and never used. The windows have iron sashes, and open from the top. Above the doors of the dormitories, are large apertures for ventilation, which are covered with perforated iron plates. The shutters of the windows in the lower wards are made to slide and lock.

The walls of nearly all the rooms are boarded.

The lower ward for females is on the same plan, and furnished in the same way, as that for males, except that there is a table in the day-room.

The upper wards are occupied by the better class of patients, and have more sleeping accommodation than those below, in consequence of the rooms above the dining-room and store-room being used as dormitories. The beds and bedding are clean and comfortable, but here also the day-rooms are bare. The upper wards have each one “refractory room,” making six in the whole. The largest number of beds in any one dormitory is six. This room is 15 feet long, 12 feet broad, and 11 feet high, equal to 1980 cubic feet, or only 880 for each patient. The chamber-utensils throughout the house are of gutta-percha.

There are an attendant’s room, a lavatory, a bath, and a watercloset for each ward, besides a separate water-closet for the attendant.

The two airing-courts contain about a quarter of an acre each. Both are neatly kept, with flower-borders, and grass plots in the centre; and are provided with seats. Each contains a privy with a stream of water. The walls are about 15 feet high, but owing to the slope of the ground, a cheerful view of limited extent is obtained.

Of the inmates at present in the house, fifteen belong to other parishes, and two are paid for by their friends. The rate charged for them is 8s. 6d. a week, exclusive of clothing, which is provided by the friends or parishes. About 6d. additional per week covers the expense of clothing. The cost of the paupers, sane and insane, is at present on an average 4s. 1½ per head per week, including rent of land and house, salaries, and provisions. No precise estimate has been made as to the separate cost of the insane.

None of the insane poor of the parish are in other asylums; lor are any placed with relatives. Formerly, some of the harmless lunatics were boarded out; but the inspector being of opinion that they were not properly taken care of, they were all removed to the house. There is thus no selection of cases, but all, whether recent or chronic, quiet or noisy, are alike received.

Gas is laid on throughout the house, and a small jet is introduced into each of the dormitories. There are two male and two female attendants, who, in both cases, are man and wife. Each couple has a joint salary of £35, viz., £20 to the man, and £15 to the woman.

Canvas bags are used to restrain the hands of patients, and the shower-bath is occasionally employed, it is said successfully, in calming excitement; but it is not very frequently used.

About ten of the male patients work in the grounds. Some of the females sew, and do a little work in the house.

The diet of the house is according to the tables of the Board of Supervision; but the insane patients, we were told, receive a daily allowance of four ounces of beef, without bone, and a bit of bread at twelve o’clock. All the vegetables consumed in the house are grown in the grounds. No cows are kept.

The medical attendant receives an annual salary of £30, for attending the poor of a district of the parish, and £30 more for visiting the house. There are three other parochial surgeons, each receiving £80. Any two of them may grant the medical certificate, on which the Sheriff issues his warrant.

None of the insane patients attend religious service, nor are they ever visited by a clergyman.

No inspector from the Board of Supervision has visited the lunatic department; the Sheriff visits twice a year, accompanied by Dr. —— . They made their last visit on the 19th of April, when they “found everything in a satisfactory condition,” except one of the walls, which was damp from the escape of steam.

The books kept are, the Madhouse Register, the Weekly Register, the Admission Book, (which the Sheriff signs,) and a Case Book, which is kept by the surgeon.

Private patients or boarders are found so troublesome, that it is intended in future to refuse them admission. Their friends think they ought to receive better treatment than the paupers, which cannot be conceded. The kitchen and offices are situated in the ordinary department of the house. The engine for pumping in heated air, belongs exclusively to the insane department, the rest of the house being warmed by open fire-places.”

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