Mental Health Institution Information

Institution Information - Burgh Parish Poorhouse, Paisley

Parish/County: Paisley, Renfrewshire

Alternative Names: Paisley Poorhouse

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report


This poorhouse is situated in the town of Paisley, close to the railway station. The ordinary workhouse is an old building, but the wards occupied by the insane patients are of recent erection. The old house fronts the street; the lunatic wards are behind, and form one side of a small court, the other sides of which are occupied by the offices and general dining-hall. There were in the house 11 males, and 15 females, under warrant.

The attendants' apartments separate the wards for males from those for females. On the ground floor of the male department are two small day-rooms, furnished with tables, and benches with backs. They are heated with warm air pumped in by an engine. This is a mode of heating which, as has been stated in previous descriptions, is not unusual in the west of Scotland, and it is generally found to answer very well. It possesses this great advantage over systems dependent on suction, that open windows do not interfere with its working. There are no open fire-places in the house. The apertures for the introduction of the warm air appear small, but they are said to be sufficient for the thorough warming of the house. The second day-room opens into the airing-court, which is very small, measuring 25 yards in length, and 14 in breadth; but it is very neatly kept, with a grass plot in the centre. On three sides it is bounded by walls about 15 feet high, and on the fourth by the workshop and the patients dining-room. It has no view.

There is no land belonging to the poorhouse; but the patients are employed in weaving. The workshop contains six looms, and, together with the dining-room, separates the airing-courts of the males and females. The dining-room, which is used for both sexes, has two doors in opposite corners, one entering from each court. It is furnished with fixed seats, like a chapel, tour looking in one direction, and four in the other, so that at meals the male and female patients face each other. They comport themselves quietly, but are not allowed to speak. They are generally all present.

Passing from the dining-room, the airing-court for females is entered. It is neatly kept, but is without any view. It contains some flower-plots, and measures 16 yards in length, by 12 in breadth. Forming one side of it. and opposite the diningroom, is a large day-room, with four windows, measuring 35 feet in length, and 15 in breadth. It is used as a workroom, and contains several reels. It is fitted up with benches round the wall, and is furnished with tables. Several patients were sewing and knitting in this room, which is lighted with gas. Both courts are provided with privies.

The rest of the accommodation for females, on the ground floor, consists of three single rooms, a dormitory with three beds, and a small day-room. These rooms are in single range, the windows of the passage looking into the central court, and those of the dormitories into the airing-courts at the back. The day-room is at the end of the passage, and occupies the whole breadth of the building. Its windows are all of obscured glass. The sleepingrooms are of good size, are warmed with heated air, and the beds are clean and comfortable. The single rooms measure about 9½ feet in length, 7 in breadth, and 12 in height, equal to 798 cubic feet. Stretched canvas bottoms are used for the beds of wet patients. There are apertures in the walls of all the sleeping-rooms for ventilation, immediately under the ceiling, and communicating with the passage.

At one end of the upper floor are four single rooms, and a large dormitory with eleven beds for females; and at the other end are the sleeping-rooms for males. The largest male dormitory contains 7 beds, the others are mostly single rooms. Altogether the males have 16 beds, several of which are unoccupied.

About two-thirds of the patients are generally females, and one third males.

The parish contains about 30,000 inhabitants, and all its insane poor are treated here. Insane patients were first received in 1827, but were afterwards removed to the Royal Asylum, Glasgow. In 1854, however, after the erection of the new buildings, the practice of receiving them was resumed. At present there are four patients from other parishes, the charge for each of whom is 1s. a day, exclusive of clothing. Such patients are received only when at the time of their attack they are resident in the parish, and their place of settlement is not at first known; but they are not dismissed after its discovery.

On the ground-floor are a lavatory, a bath, and a water-closet for males, and the like for females. There is no water-closet upstairs. The patients are all bathed once a week. The showerbath is used occasionally to quiet excited patients, but never without medical sanction. There is an ample supply of water. No mechanical restraint is ever used, and there are no straitwaistcoats or leather muffs in the house.

The attendant and his wife have a free house, and a joint salary of £70. They have a male and a female pauper assistant, who sleep in the large dormitories of their respective wards.

The patients are supplied with books and newspapers. The chaplain attends every day in the poorhouse. His salary is £20 per annum, and his whole time is occupied in visiting the paupers, and performing religious service in the house. He has service for the insane patients on Sundays only. Occasionally, the ministers of the town, or a missionary, officiate in his stead.

The diet is according to the tables of the Board of Supervision, but the insane, we were told, have an extra supply of bread, and receive two ounces of meat daily. The workers get snuff and tobacco, and extra diet. On the whole, the house is well managed, and the comfort of the patients is considered.

There are four parochial medical men who take charge of the poorhouse in rotation, each for a year at a time. They have each an annual salary of £30, with £10 additional to the one who has charge of the poorhouse.

The books kept are the Madhouse Register, the Register of Male and Female Patients, and the Weekly Register.

The last entry by the Sheriff is dated 19th April 1855, and is to the following effect:—

"Visited the lunatic wards this day, and found everything in a satisfactory state, except the books intended as a record of the in-patients, and the administration of medicine; in regard to which matters it is suggested to Dr. — specially to report to the Sheriff." (Signature.)

“Visited, along with Sheriff, and found all in good order, as stated in the above report." (Signature.)”

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