Institution Information - Eastport House

Town/Parish/County: Musselburgh, Inveresk, Midlothian

Alternative Names: East Port House; John Scott's Asylum

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

”EASTPORT HOUSE, MUSSELBURGH; Visited 2d May 1855; John Scott, Proprietor.

This asylum stands in the main street of Musselburgh. It is a three-storied house with some low buildings behind, and a garden which serves as airing-ground. The number of patients, at the time of our visit, was 21, namely:—

Males: Private 1, Pauper 6 [total] 7

Females: Private 1, Pauper 13 [total] 14

The licences are granted in the name of John Scott, who, till August 1854, was clerk and traveller in a house of business in Musselburgh. He is, however, associated with his aunt, who, for about two years, kept a house for lunatics in Market Street. On the Sheriff refusing to grant any more licences on account of its crowded state, she removed hither, and the present house was taken in Mr. Scott's name about a year ago.

The principal building contains a good many apartments of fair size, and is calculated to receive a considerable number of patients. As the house has only lately been opened, there is no overcrowding. It is extremely bare of furniture, and one room, containing only a bench and one chair, was pointed out as the day-room for females. The windows of this room are barred and also protected with wire-work; the glass is deadened, and whenever the sashes are raised to admit air, a dark curtain is drawn over the opening, to prevent the patients from looking out. The fire is guarded, and, altogether, the room presents a most dreary and gloomy aspect. There is a smaller day-room for male patients. The window of a small inner room has been boarded up so as to form a dark seclusion-room.

There is no ventilation except by the doors and windows, and the fire-places of the sleeping-rooms are, in general, boarded up.

Shortly after possession was taken of the house, all the windows were strongly secured with iron bars, in consequence of a female patient, who slept with five others in a room fronting the street, tearing away the wire-work, and throwing herself out of the window. There was no attendant in the room.

The bedsteads are generally of iron, and the mattresses of straw. The bedding of the dirty patients was drying in the yard. The mattresses, used by such patients, are not changed, but the straw is said to be renewed once a week, and that of the beds of cleanly patients, once a fortnight. In bad weather, we fear, the bedding of the former must necessarily be made up in a wet and offensive state, owing to the scanty supply of mattresses and straw, and the want of proper means for cleansing and drying it. The beds have each only one sheet; the coverings are scanty, and there was no stock of blankets beyond what was in use. During the late cold weather, we fear, the patients must have been very insufficiently supplied with coverlets. The supply of straw for renewing the bedding was very insufficient.

The house is supplied with water from a pump behind the house.

The patients wash themselves in the washing-house, or at the pump. There are no baths or lavatories within the house. The privies in the airing-courts are very filthy, and appear to be used by both sexes indiscriminately. There was a deficiency of chamber utensils.

The strait-waistcoat is used whenever the attendants consider it necessary. Other forms of restraint, as by straps, are also habitually in use.

The shower-bath, which stands in the washing-house, is also used without medical sanction, for the purpose of calming patients; and there appears to be no check whatever upon its employment.

Patients of the worst class are kept in the buildings behind. Five females of dirty habits sleep in a room, or out-house, containing only four beds. This room seems originally to have been a washing-house, or some such out-office. It is flagged and damp, and is very dirty and offensive; it has a stove, but there was no fire, though the day was cold. One woman was in a straitwaistcoat, and was described as very violent and destructive. She had broken her iron bedstead. In consequence of her violence, she is often strapped to her bedstead. She was very poorly clad, scarcely with decency, and was in a wretched condition. All the bedding in this room was very filthy. No nurse sleeps near these patients, nor have they any light during the night-time.

The diet was stated to be as follows: breakfast, porridge and milk, or coffee; dinner, broth with a little meat. On the day of our visit, it was made from sheep's trotters, and was very poor and unsavoury. Fish is given occasionally. In the evening there is again porridge and milk. The amount of food allowed the patients appearing scanty, we endeavoured to ascertain the Houses' expenditure in diet, by examining the tradesmen's books. As far as we could judge it was small, considering the number of inmates. A larger sum had been laid out in iron-work for guarding the windows than in butcher’s meat, since the opening of the house. The patients appear to take their meals wherever they choose; at dinner we found some crouching in corners of the yard, others were in the kitchen, others in their rooms.

The rate of payment for pauper patients is £20 a-year, which includes clothing and bedding. For this sum, Mr. Scott removes patients from distant asylums to Musselburgh, without any charge for travelling expenses, medical certificate, or licence. One private patient pays £30 a year, the other £25.

Mr. Scott and his grandfather, an old man, are the only male attendants. The female attendants consist of his aunt and two girls, one about twenty years of age, and the other sixteen, who receive respectively £6, and £2, 10s. a year. In addition to attending on the patients, they do all the washing and cooking.

There are no means of occupation or amusement, beyond those afforded by the garden, which consists of a narrow strip of land about 12 yards broad, and perhaps 90 yards long. It is divided into three parts—that nearest the house serves as airing ground for the females; that immediately beyond as airing-ground for the males; and the last division is a vegetable garden. The separation of the sexes, both in the house and grounds, is very imperfect. A missionary visits the house once a fortnight.

The patients are visited by two medical officers. One of them is appointed by Mr. Scott; the other is the parochial surgeon of Inveresk, who takes charge of the paupers belonging to his own parish.

We found here an instance of the evils resulting from underbidding for patients, by the proprietors of licensed houses. There is a poor girl, a patient in the house, belonging to the parish of K., who, at one time, filled a respectable position in society, and, with her mother and sisters, kept a boarding-school at C. The family afterwards went to Glasgow, and were employed in teaching. The mother died, and grief for her loss seems to have been the chief cause of the daughter's illness. She was at first sent by the parish of Glasgow to Gartnavel Asylum, but her place of settlement having been discovered, she was removed by the parish of K. to Mr. Scott's house, where the charge is less than at Gartnavel. She is here placed with patients very inferior to herself in education and manners, is subjected to no curative treatment, and is deprived of all means of occupation and amusement.*

* The attention of the parochial authorities of K. having been called by ns to this case, the patient was removed, and placed in more favourable circumstances.

There is another case in this house which appears deserving of notice. It is that of a young man. also a pauper of the parish of K. He had received a good education, and. we were informed, had distinguished himself as a student at the University of Glasgow. On becoming insane, he was placed in the Edinburgh Asylum, bv the inspector of poor. His sisters afterwards were anxious that he should be discharged, and accordingly proposed to undertake his maintenance; a friend, at the same time, offered to find him employment. The inspector, however, declined to interfere, unless on production of a medical certificate, that the patient was in a fit state to be at liberty. This was not forthcoming, and, after a time, he was removed to Mr. Scott's house.The records kept are the Weekly Register and Mad-house Register. The register of restraint in the former is entirely neglected.

On a second visit, we again found the room for the patients of dirty habits in a very offensive state. Some of the mattresses wet with urine, and otherwise filthy, were on the beds; others were drying in the yard. The violent female patient, already mentioned, was in the airing court, in a strait-jacket, and fastened to a paling by a strap. Still there was no entry of restraint in the register. One or two patients were whitewashing the walls of the airing-grounds. The others were idle.”

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