Institution Information - General Prison, Perth

Parish/County: Perth, Perthshire

Alternative Names: Criminal Lunatic Wards, Perth Prison

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“CRIMINAL LUNATIC WARDS, General Prison, Perth.

This prison is situated in the immediate vicinity of the town of Perth. The building appropriated to the insane was originally occupied by the French prisoners of the wars of Napoleon; and is massive and gloomy in accordance with the purpose for which it was formerly used. It was converted to its present use in 1846, in consequence of an expressed, or supposed desire, on the part of the managers of the chartered asylums, to be relieved from the care of criminal lunatics. At the date of our visit, 10th May 1855, the number of insane prisoners was 27, viz., 21 males and 6 females. There is accommodation altogether for 35 males and 13 females.

The building is two stories high, and consists of a central portion with a cross wing at each end. It has two fronts: one towards the principal airing ground for males; the other towards the airing ground for females. The whole of the lower story, and half of the upper one, is occupied by the men; the women are placed in the remaining half of the upper floor. The male and female departments are completely separated from each other by strong partition walls.

The accommodation on the ground-floor consists of a series of cells, each containing from one to four beds; and of two day-rooms, placed in single range along the galleries. The cells are generally very gloomy, and are mostly flagged. The windows are strongly barred, and are also occasionally protected by trelliswork. They are generally placed high in the wall, beyond the reach of the patients. The doors of the cells are of great strength, and lined with iron plates, or studded with large iron nails. The cells in the cross galleries are warmed by heated air; but those in the central gallery have no means of receiving heat. The bedsteads are generally of iron, but there is one trough bed, and one or two common wooden bed-frames. The bedding appears sufficient, and consists of straw mattresses with blankets and sheets. One destructive patient has his blankets sewed in strong ticking; and another of occasional dirty habits has no sheets. The two day-rooms contain tables and benches without backs, and have open fire-places with strong iron gratings.

On the upper floor of the male side there are ten single rooms; two of them being padded, and one occupied by an attendant.

The accommodation on the female side consists of a dayroom, and several cells with one, two, or three beds in each.

There are lavatories in the galleries, and a warm bath on each side, which is used by the patients once a month, and oftener if required.

There are two airing-courts for the males, and one for the females. One of the former measures 40 yards in length, and 31 in breadth; and the other 53 yards in length, and 16 in breadth. They are both enclosed by high walls. The females' court is about 70 yards long and 20 broad, and is more cheerful than the others, from possessing a limited view of the surrounding country.

There are four male attendants, and one female attendant. The whole arrangements are made principally with a view to the security of the patients, and scarcely, if at all, with reference to their treatment as sufferers from disease. The male patients are without the means of occupation or recreation, beyond the little that is afforded by the work of the house, and a small library of 341 volumes. Some of the females do a little sewing. Both sexes spend a great part of the day in the airing yards, in a state of listlessness. Two patients are habitually under restraint.

On the 4th November 1856 we again visited these wards, and round three patients under restraint. One had an iron chain placed round his waist, to which one hand was fastened; another had a hand fastened in a similar way, and his legs were hobbled by rings placed round the ankles, and connected together by an iron chain. The legs of the third were restrained in the same fashion.

All the patients are visited by the chaplain of the prison once a week, and he gives religious instruction to those who are competent to receive it. Five or six of the men, and all the women, attend the chapel on Sundays.

Further details as to the condition of the patients and state of the house will be found in Dr. Malcom's evidence, and in that of Mr. Gould.”

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