Institution Information - Dumfries Poorhouse

Parish/County: Dumfries, Dumfriesshire

Alternative Names: Rosevale House

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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.

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“DUMFRIES POORHOUSE; Visited 11th March 1856.

This poorhouse stands about a mile from Dumfries, and was opened for the reception of paupers in November 1854. It contained, at the date of our visit, 3 male and 5 female insane or fatuous patients, mixed with the sane inmates. None of them were under warrant. They are received on the simple line of admission of the inspector, without any medical certificate. Their cost is about 3s. 6d.. a week.

Ever since the opening of the house the parochial board has been endeavouring to obtain the Sheriff's license, but hitherto without success.

A license was obtained shortly after our visit. The proceedings connected with it afford a good illustration of the difficulty of rightly interpreting the statutes affecting lunatics. The parochial board, having obtained permission from the Board of Supervision to dispense with the removal of certain patients to a lunatic asylum, and to detain them in the poorhouse, applied to the Sheriff for his license. This application was refused by the Sheriff-Substitute, who found "that it is not competent to issue any order, or special license, for the reception of any furious or fatuous person into any private house, that is not duly licensed as a private madhouse." The Sheriff-Substitute added his opinion, that a house, in order to receive lunatics, must first obtain a general license; and that, as a workhouse is a building, under Act of Parliament, for receiving paupers and not lunatics, it would be essential that some portion of it should be perfectly cut off from all communication with the rest of the building, and be provided with a proper staff of medical and other attendants, before a license could be granted.

From this decision, an appeal was made to the Sheriff, who found "that the application to the Sheriff for his order, or special license, to receive or retain the paupers in the Dumfries workhouse, as insane and fatuous poor persons; and to provide for "them there, in such manner, and under such regulations, as to inspection and otherwise, as shall be sanctioned by the Board of Supervision, is a competent application within the power of the Sheriff to grant."

The Sheriff added in a note,—"Under the present application to the Sheriff, there is no question raised about sending, a furious or fatuous pauper to a private madhouse not licensed. Of course, the Sheriff would not sanction the removal of any pauper lunatic to such an establishment. His first duty is to remove such unfortunates to a public asylum. A discretion, however, is confided in the Sheriff, but always to be exercised with great caution, to sanction, in particular cases, the confinement in a licensed private asylum. But that is not the nature of the present application at all. It proceeds upon a later statute: the Poor-Law Amendment Act, which allows such paupers to be dealt with by the parochial authorities in certain cases, without sending them to any madhouse, public or private." The Sheriff then quotes the Act, and proceeds: "This is a very general clause of dispensation, the exercise of which, both as regards the place of confinement or detention, and the circumstances of treatment, rests entirely between the Parochial Board and the Board of Supervision. So far from implying the necessity, in such cases, of either Board obtaining from the Sheriff a general license, so as to turn the place of confinement or detention into a licensed madhouse, it contemplates a case in which restraint and treatment is not to be in a madhouse at all. The statute expressly says so. The Board of Supervision may see fit, in the exercise of their statutory discretion, in the case of a certain class of lunatic paupers, to treat the case in the parish workhouse. But no number of such discretionary cases so treated will turn the parish workhouse into a madhouse or lunatic asylum, or render it either necessary or proper for the Sheriff to ordain that it must be licensed in that character. If, however, the Board of Supervision, in the exercise of their discretion to dispense with treatment in a lunatic asylum, public or private, see fit to make it a condition, that, before removing or detaining such paupers elsewhere, an order or license from the Sheriff, founded upon proper medical certificates of the precise state of the pauper's lunacy, should be procured and produced, it is not only competent for the Parochial Board to apply to the Sheriff for such ertificate, as an order within his power to grant, but it is their duty to do so."”

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