Institution Information - City Parish Asylum, Glasgow

Parish/County: Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Alternative Names: City Poorhouse Glasgow, Glasgow City Poorhouse; Town's Hospital

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“GLASGOW CITY POORHOUSE; Visited 15th May 1855.

This building was occupied as the Royal Asylum before the erection of the new house at Gartnavel. At the period of our visit, it contained 40 male, and 85 female patients under warrant, besides one or two not under warrant.

The poorhouse stands at no great distance from the station of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, and is in the immediate neighbourhood of large chemical manufactories. It is the intention of the parochial authorities to fit up the old lunatic wards, and to remove all their patients from Gartnavel. At the time of our visit, the necessary repairs were in progress, and there will soon be sufficient accommodation for all the insane poor of the parish.

The portion of the house in occupation was considerably overcrowded, and the patients were indifferently attended to. Three female patients of dirty habits occupied a room measuring about 12 feet long, 8 feet broad, and 10 feet high, equal to 960 cubic feet. They sleep in trough beds, on loose straw covered by a sheet; the straw is changed without sufficiently cleaning the bedstead, which, on removing the fresh straw, we found saturated with urine. Some of the sleeping-rooms were very close and offensive. The house is heated with warm air, which enters by apertures near the floor of the sleeping-rooms, and escapes by openings above the doors into the corridors, which are warmed in a similar way. One room, about 12 feet in length, (> in breadth, and 11 in height, equal to 792 cubic feet, contained three beds.

There are only one day-room and one airing-court for the females. They have one paid attendant and two pauper assistants.

The males are placed, some in single rooms, and some in dormitories. The single rooms are ill-ventilated, and not well cleaned; the floors of several being saturated with urine. There are two male attendants. Here, also, the bedding of the dirty patients is of loose straw, covered by a sheet, and the bedsteads are not properly cleaned. Up-stairs, there is a good dormitory and day-room, clean and cheerful. New dormitories are being arranged, and the old sleeping-rooms cleaned and painted. Day rooms, also, are being prepared, so that the present crowded state of the wards will, it is stated, soon be remedied. At present, there is only one airing-court for the males, but a second is about to be provided.

The following are the reasons assigned for the intended removal of all the insane poor of the city from the Royal Asylum:—The directors of the Asylum having passed a resolution to refuse admission to wounded patients, a patient belonging to the city parish, who had cut his throat, was accordingly rejected. During the prevalence of cholera, also, patients from infected districts were refused, and the parish was consequently obliged to send two patients to Greenock. The parochial authorities were thus put to so much inconvenience, that they resolved to make themselves for the future independent of the Asylum.

The patients seem sufficiently fed, and were warmly clothed. All above forty years of age have flannels, as a rule of the house, and the medical officer has authority to order them for others.

The windows are not barred, nor in any way protected; but an intention was expressed to guard them with wire.

A garden, of about two acres, is cultivated by the ordinary paupers, and by some of the lunatics; but owing to the fumes from the chemical manufactories, only cabbages and other hardy vegetables can be reared.

There is a chapel in the garden, which the patients attend.

A medical officer resides in the house, and another, non-resident, visits daily.

The Sheriff visits the house regularly, accompanied by two medical inspectors, who make an entry in the book kept for that purpose. Visitors from the parochial board also attend once a week.

There appeared to be a desire on the part of the authorities to take proper care of the patients, and, doubtless, their condition will be improved with increased means of accommodation; but there are faults in the situation of the house, which nothing can remedy. The want of country air and cheerful views, and the impediments to the patients going beyond the narrow limits of the institution, render the place quite unfit for the treatment of insanity as a disease.

At the date of our visit, there were 197 insane paupers belonging to the parish. Of these, 75 were in the poorhouse, 2 at Greenock, and 120 in the Royal Asylum. The governor calculates that those in the poorhouse are maintained, on an average, at 4s. a week for food, and 1s. a week for clothing.”

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