Institution Information - Dundee Royal Asylum

Parish/County: Dundee, Angus; later Liff & Benvie, Angus

Alternative Names: Dundee Lunatic Asylum; Royal Dundee Liff Hospital

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“DUNDEE ROYAL ASYLUM; Resident Physician Dr. T. T. Wingett.

I.—Object, Origin, History, and date of Opening.

The proposal to establish this Asylum originated with the Governors of the Dundee Royal Infirmary. They had long recognised the necessity for such an Institution, and in 1805 appointed a committee to procure subscriptions for carrying out their design. The foundation stone of the building was laid on the 3d of September 1812, but the Asylum was not opened for the reception of patients until the 1st of April 1820. In consequence of the want of funds, the whole of the plan was not executed, accommodation for forty patients only having at first been provided. Important additions were made both to the buildings and the grounds, in the years 1825, 1830, 1837, and 1839. The whole of the department for males has now been completed, but a portion of that for females, calculated to accommodate forty or fifty patients, remains to be built. This addition will require the outlay of several thousand pounds, and it is the intention of the Directors to proceed with it, whenever the finances will permit. A chapel, detached from the Asylum, is in course of erection, which will afford sitting accommodation for 142 patients.

II.—Constitution, Government, and Management.

The Asylum is incorporated by a royal charter, dated 8th May 1819, which provides that the management shall be vested in twenty-nine Ordinary and ten Extraordinary Directors, all of whom are either appointed ex officiis, or are nominated as delegates by public bodies connected with the county of Forfar, or town of Dundee; with the exception of five who are returned for life, at the general annual meeting, and are replaced in the event of death or resignation.

The annual meeting is held in June, and the Directors meet quarterly thereafter in October, January, and April, for the management of the general affairs of the Institution. They appoint a committee of six, who meet weekly for the purpose of attending to the ordinary details of management, and another of three, who constitute the house visitors for the year. They likewise elect such other persons or officers as they judge necessary to be employed in the service of the Asylum.

III.—Quantity and Appropriation of Land.

The land possessed by the Asylum amounts to about twelve imperial acres. It is laid out as kitchen garden, gardens for fruit and flowers, promenades, and pleasure grounds.

IV.—Amount and Description of Accommodation for Patients of the several Classes and respective Sexes.

The Asylum can accommodate 42 private patients, viz.: 20 males and 22 females; and 175 paupers, viz.: 100 males and 75 females.

The private patients are classified according to the rates of payment.

V.—Sources and Amount of Income.

The income for the year ending 21st March 1854, was as follows:—

From private patients, average number 40, £1774 12 6

From pauper patients, average number 164, £2685 7 6

[Subtotal] £4460 0 0

From patients' labour, £120 17 3

Profit on articles sold to patients, £95 3 8

[Total] £4676 0 11

VI.—Rates of Payments for Patients.

The rates charged for private patients are 10s. 6d., 15s., £1, Is., £1, l1s. 6d., £2, 2s., and £3. 3s. a week.

Pauper patients from privileged parishes pay at the rate of 6s. a week, and those from non-privileged parishes at the rate of 8s. a week. Both classes pay, besides, 4s. a year for clothes mending.

Clothes and bedding are paid for separately, and are generally supplied directly by the parishes. A requisition is made to them for whatever is necessary, and if this is not attended to within ten days, the Asylum supplies the articles and charges accordingly.

VII.—Medical and other Officers, Attendants, and Establishment, with Salaries, Wages, and Allowances.

[table not shown here]

VIII.—Total Capital Expenditure on 14th May 1855.

Cost of Buildings and Furniture, £32,979 12 1 *

Cost of Land, £777 10 0 †

Total, £33,757 2 1

* The Treasurer's accounts do not distinguish between the expenditure for buildings, and that for furniture.

† An annual feu is besides paid for a portion of the land. It varies according to the price of grain, and was for the three last years, respectively £89, 7s. 7d., £114, 5s., and £107, 6s. 10d.

The proportion of this expenditure for each patient, on the estimated accommodation for 217, amounts to £155, 11s. 3d.

IX—Condition of the Asylum and Patients, when visited by the Commissioners.

This Asylum stands in a good situation on rising ground, overlooking the Firth of Tay, about a mile to the east of Dundee, which is rapidly extending to the boundary of the property. The grounds are enclosed by a high wall, and the first impression is gloomy. The house has this peculiarity, that wards containing private patients alternate with those containing paupers, an arrangement which appears necessary from the construction of the house.

There were in the Asylum on the 11th May 1855 :—

Private patients, Males 19, Females 21

Paupers, Males 98, Females 75

On the side for males are four pauper wards, each containing a day-room, and a number of single rooms, ranged on one side of the corridor, which, on the other, has windows overlooking the airing courts. The corridor occupies about half the breadth of the ward, the other half being taken up by the sleeping-rooms. The latter measure about 9 feet in length, 6½ feet in width, and 10 feet in height, equal to 598 cubic feet of air. They have no means of ventilation except by the window, and a small aperture, about four inches square, above the door. They are not directly warmed either by fires or heated air, but there are open fire-places in the corridors. During the winter the house is said to be cold, and for insuring due warmth to the patients, reliance is necessarily placed on additional clothing, and, during the night, on additional bed coverings, which in the case of excited patients, are secured in such a manner as to prevent their being thrown oft'. The flooring of the sleeping-rooms is of wood. The corridors are flagged.

The bedding is good, and the coverings ample. The straw of the mattresses of dirty patients is changed daily. The sleeping rooms are unoccupied during the day, except in a few exceptional cases.

The accommodation for private patients is regulated by the rate of payment. In one ward are fifteen males, who pay at the rate of 10s. 6d., to 15s. a week. Their sleeping-rooms measure about 10 feet in length, 9 in width, and 10 in height, equal to 900 cubic feet of air, and they are each occupied by two patients,—a most objectionable practice, which appears to have originated in a desire to extend the benefits of the Institution, by making rooms originally intended for the reception of one patient accommodate two. The day-rooms are of good size, and are supplied with Arnott's ventilators. The windows have sliding shutters; several of the windows in the day-rooms are protected by wire.

A second ward is occupied by four private male patients, and two attendants. The day-room is large and airy, but rather barely furnished. The fire-place is heavily guarded.

Owing to the pressure for accommodation, some beds for pauper patients are placed in one of the corridors.

There are ten airing courts, but those for paupers are nevertheless overcrowded. We found, for instance, sixty or seventy patients in one court. This arises partly from the courts being small, and partly from their unequal distribution between private and pauper patients. One lady, paying £150 per annum, has one of the courts, laid out as a garden, for her separate use.

Mounds have been raised in some of the airing courts, to enable the patients to see over the high walls which enclose them, and sheds have recently been erected as places of exercise in bad weather; but the latter are so badly contrived as considerably to interfere with the view from the day-rooms and airing grounds.

In a separate building are weavers1 workshops, where several patients are employed in making packing-cloth. Above these workshops are two dormitories, with nine beds in the one, and eight in the other; and near them is a room for four attendants. These dormitories have no means of ventilation.

In the female department, the corridors are narrower than on the male side of the house, and the wards are overcrowded. Two females were in seclusion; and one lady patient and three paupers wore trousers. The paupers generally sleep two in a room.

Some of the male patients are occupied with stone-breaking, and others work in the grounds; but much more might be accomplished both in the way of occupation and exercise. The working patients receive tobacco and beer. Several of the females are occupied in weaving, sewing, and spinning; others work in the wash-house and laundry, which are airy and cheerful. With them, as with the males, too many patients are crowded together in some of the airing courts; a practice which tends to keep up excitement There is a billiard room for the males, and in summer there are frequent dancing parties in the grounds, attended by both sexes. A chaplain officiates on Sundays.

There is only one bath on each side of the house for pauper patients. The female paupers have table-cloths at dinner, but not the males. Both males and females are well clad, the former having flannel shirts and drawers.

Patients are admitted on one medical certificate. The Sheriff visits the house half-yearly, and a member of the visiting committee attends weekly.

The books kept, are the Admission book, Journal, and Case book. No Mad-house Register is transmitted to the Sheriff.

The Asylum is particularly clean, and on the whole well ventilated. It is, however, overcrowded, and in some of the wards too many patients are left under the charge of one attendant. From the deficiency of associated dormitories, and the desire to accommodate as many patients as possible, the males, as well as the females, are frequently placed two together in rooms originally intended for one patient. The airing courts for paupers are greatly overcrowded. Mechanical restraint is not employed, and seclusion does not appear to be used to an undue, extent. The bedding throughout is clean and sufficient in quantity, and the patients are sufficiently clothed. There is, however, a deficiency in the means of personal cleanliness, and recourse is had to objectionable contrivances in dress, to counteract improper tendencies. The means of occupation are insufficient.”

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