Institution Information - Greenock Poorhouse

Parish/County: Greenock, Renfrewshire

Alternative Names: Greenock Poorhouse Asylum

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Locating Records for this institution

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.

Records of inmates of this institution do not seem to have survived. A new poorhouse and asylum was constructed at Smithston, on the Inverkip Road in 1876, For more information, click here. If you learn of anything concerning the survival or whereabouts of these records, please contact us.

Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“GREENOCK POORHOUSE; Visited 13th July 1855.

This house contains 216 inmates, of whom 18 males and 32 females are under warrant as lunatics. It stands in an airy situation, overlooking the town of Greenock. The lunatic wards occupy a building apart, separated from the ordinary poorhouse by a court. It is a plain two-storied building of recent erection, having been opened for the reception of patients in February 1855, when the insane poor of the parish were transferred to it from Hillend asylum.

The house is divided into two portions of similar construction, one for the males, the other for the females; the two stories of each department are also similarly arranged. The front of the house looks towards the poorhouse; the back overlooks the airing-courts, and the country beyond. The windows to the front are all obscured.

The dormitories on the ground-floor are six in number, and are ranged on both sides of the passage, which is paved with asphalte. They consist of single rooms for refractory patients, and dormitories containing three, four, or six beds. The walls are all lined with boarding. The windows open from the top for about 4 inches only; the lower sash is of iron, the upper of wood. They are provided with sliding shutters. The bedsteads are of iron, and the mattresses of straw; the bedding generally is clean and comfortable. Ventilation is well attended to. Above the doors of the dormitories are large openings, covered with sheets of perforated iron, which communicate with the gallery. There are no open fire-places; the house is warmed by air, heated by contact with the steam pipes of the engine, which is used for forcing it into the wards. The dormitory for wet patients contains six beds, placed over troughs, which are flushed with water when required; these beds have stretched canvas bottoms, over which a blanket is laid. One room, measuring 18 feet in length, 15 in breadth, and 12 in height, contains six beds, giving 540 cubic feet to each patient The day-room contains benches without backs, and tables. It is clean, but bare.

The day-room on the upper floor, for more quiet patients, is also very bare. It contains four benches and a table. The sleeping-rooms here are clean, and the beds are comfortable.

There is a lavatory, a bath, and a water-closet, for each department. Each lavatory contains five basins.

Behind the male and female wards are their respective airing courts. They each measure about 30 yards long, and 20 broad, and are surrounded by high walls, which cut off all view of the country. They have no seats; but some, we were told, are to be provided.

The diet of the poorhouse is regulated by the tables of the Board of Supervision, but each insane inmate receives 1/4 lb. of meat, three times a week, by the directions of the medical officer. The patients dine in the lower day-rooms; they were clean in their persons, well clothed, and physically seemed well cared for. There is gas throughout the house.

There are only one male and one female paid attendant, man and wife, who receive respectively 18s. and 10s. a week. They are assisted by paupers.

The lunatic wards were erected at a cost of about £3000, but they have been so short a time in operation, that the expense of maintenance of the patients has not yet been ascertained. The rate formerly paid to Messrs. Thomson at Hillend, for the paupers of the parish, was £19 a year; but including clothing and extras, the total cost amounted to about £23. It is calculated that £16 will cover the expense of their maintenance and clothing here. The medical officer visits twice a week.

Mechanical restraint is in occasional use, principally in the form of leather muffs, which are fastened to a strap placed round the body.

There are about 2 acres of land, which are cultivated by the ordinary paupers. There is a great deficiency of the means of occupation for the patients.

All the insane poor of the parish are admitted into the lunatic wards, unless they happen to be very unmanageable, when they are sent to Hillend. If very harmless they are left with their friends. At present there is one patient at Hillend, for whom the rate of payment is £22 a year, including all expenses. Two imbeciles are with their friends, who are allowed respectively 12s. and 10s. a month on their account. Paupers of other parishes are admitted into the lunatic wards at a charge of £20 per annum.

The lunatic wards of this poorhouse thus constitute a regular hospital for the treatment of insanity. Recent and curable cases are admitted as readily as others; and are permanently retained, unless they become extremely unmanageable, when they are sent away, not for their benefit, but to get rid of the trouble and annoyance of keeping them. The mode of admitting patients is as follows:—two medical men certify that "A. B. is in such a state of mental derangement as to be a proper object for admission into the lunatic wards of the poorhouse of Greenock,'' and hereupon the Sheriff grants warrant. There seems to have been some intention to draw a distinction between patients considered proper objects for admission into the lunatic wards of the poorhouse, and those deemed proper objects for admission into the wards of an asylum. But this distinction, if ever intended, is in disuse; for all cases of insanity, occurring among the poor of the parish, are now certified as being proper objects for admission into the lunatic wards of the poorhouse. Notice of admission is sent to the Board of Supervision, which, however, takes no cognizance of the condition of the patients on admission. This is the duty of the Sheriff, who, if he chose, might refuse to grant his warrant; but it does not appear that he ever does so.

Considering the kind of cases admitted, and that there is only one responsible attendant, for the males and females respectively, it is obvious that the patients must either be very much secluded, or that they can be allowed liberty only at great risk to themselves and others.

A missionary visits the ordinary wards of the poorhouse daily. One or two of the patients are present at daily prayers, and on Sundays several of them attend chapel. None of them are ever beyond the bounds of the house.

The records kept are the Madhouse Register and the Weekly Register.”

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