Institution Information - James Murray's Royal Asylum

Parish/County: Dundee, Angus

Alternative Names: Murray Royal Asylum; Murray's Royal Asylum for Lunatics

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“MURRAY'S ROYAL ASYLUM FOR LUNATICS, Perth; Physician,—Dr. Malcom; Resident Physician—Dr. Lauder Lindsay.

I.—Object, Origin, History, with Date of Opening.

This Institution was erected by the Trustees of tho late James Murray, Esq., a native of the parish of Perth, from funds left by him for the purpose. In 1821, these funds, with accumulations, amounted to about £32,000; and the Trustees, having purchased a field of 12 imperial acres, in the neighbourhood of Perth, at a cost of £2500, intrusted the erection of the Asylum to Mr. Burn of Edinburgh. An edifice was accordingly raised, capable of accommodating from 80 to 100 patients, at an outlay of £20,000; it was opened for the reception of patients on 1st July 1827. In 1834, the increase of patients having rendered additional accommodation necessary, two wings, calculated to receive 60 additional patients, were erected at a cost of £9063. Though built from private funds, this Asylum is "a Public Institution for charitable purposes."

II.—Constitution, Government, and Management.

On the 5th March 1827, the Directors of Murray's Asylum —were incorporated by Royal charter.

They consist of,—

1. Nine Directors, ex officiis.

2. Four Life Directors.

3. Twelve Annual Directors.

The Life Directors are appointed by a majority of votes at a general meeting. Four Annual Directors are chosen in the same way at the annual general meeting in June, when the like number goes out of office.

Quarterly board meetings are held in June, September, December, and March, for the purpose of hearing and considering the reports of the weekly committee and medical officers, and of directing the general management of the Asylum. The annual meeting in June is held for the purpose of receiving the annual reports of the weekly committee and medical officers, electing various directors, and appointing the officers of the establishment for the following year. The weekly committee, consisting of eight directors, meets every week at the Asylum, for the purpose of receiving the weekly report of the physician and superintendent, regulating the admission of patients, and superintending the management of the house. Sub-committees are appointed when required. All the Directors act gratuitously.

III.—Quantity and Appropriation of Land.

That part of the original twelve acres which is not occupied by the buildings and airing courts, is laid out in walks, garden, bowling green, cricket ground, &c. This is all the land at present appropriated to the use of the patients; but the Directors are besides owners of the house and grounds of Pitcullen Bank, immediately adjacent to the grounds of the Asylum, which they purchased a few years ago for £5500. This purchase was made with a view to the accommodation of a high class of patients, but this intention has never been carried into effect, and the Directors continue to let the property. The Directors have likewise acquired a farm of thirty-six acres as an accessory to the Asylum, at a cost of £6950, with a view to the extended employment of the patients in agricultural labour. But this farm, though purchased some years ago, is at present let at a rent of £129.

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

[table not shown here]

V.—Sources and Amount of Income.

The sources of income may be shortly stated as—(1.) The annual payments for patients, amounting to £4190,17s. 5d., for the year 1854. (2.) The annual rent of the Asylum farm, £129, and of the mansion-house and grounds of Pitcullen, £100.

VI.—Rates of Payment for Patients, classified as in Table.

1st Class*, £24 to £30

2d Class, £40 to £50

3d and 4th Class, £60 to £100

5th Class, £100 to £300

* In the first rate of payment clothing is included; in all the others it is excluded. No other fees are exigible in name of physician's fees or otherwise.

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

[table not shown here]

Total, £1000 9 0

The Directors do not at present intend making any additions to the Asylum; but should it become necessary at any future period to do so, the present buildings will admit of extension, so as to accommodate a considerable additional number of patients.

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

For House and Land†, £51,703 19 6½

For Furniture, £2,148 1 10½

Total, £53,852 1 5

† Including Pitcullen Bank and the farm.

The proportion of this expenditure for each patient, on the estimated accommodation for 183, is £294, 5s. 5d.

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

This Asylum stands in a beautiful situation, about a mile from Perth, overlooking the surrounding country.

It consists of a main front building of three stories, divided into two equal parts by a central staircase; and of a two storied building running directly backwards from the central staircase, to join a line of building parallel with the front, but of much smaller dimensions.

The number of patients at the date of our visit, 1st May 1855, was—

Private, Male 36; Female 24; Total 60

Pauper, Male 40; Female 35; Total 75

[Total] Male 76; Female 59; Total 135

The central staircase separates the male from the female wards, and affords the means of inspecting the patients without entering the galleries. The patients are divided into three classes, according to the rates of payment. Those at the highest rate occupy the upper wards; the second class patients are in the middle wards; and the paupers on the ground floor. The different stories are laid out very much on the same plan. Small sleeping-rooms are on one side of the corridor; and on the other are the dayrooms, lavatories, water-closets, &c, and, in the centre, an open gallery.

In the upper ward on the male side there were only eight patients. Each has a room comfortably furnished, measuring about 10 feet in length, 8 in breadth, and 10 in height: equal to about 800 cubic feet. Heated air is introduced into these rooms, and there is an opening above the doors for its escape into the corridor. The sitting-room has an open fireplace, and is close to the central staircase, from which it may be inspected by means of a communicating window. There is one attendant to this ward.

Immediately below is the ward for the second class patients, which is laid out in the same manner. The number of patients amounted to thirty, two occupying each sleeping-room, under the care of two attendants.

The ground floor is rather gloomy, the sleeping-rooms being below the level of the ground to the front. On the male side there were sixteen patients, two sleeping in each room. In general the floors are boarded, but the sitting-room and two sleeping-rooms are flagged. The former is furnished with tables and benches, and the fire-place is guarded by a heavy grating. Two patients of dirty habits are kept apart from the others, and occupy the same room day and night. There are flagged cells in each ward for noisy or dirty patients.

The wards on the female side of the main building are precisely similar to those just described, and the patients are classified in the same manner.

The kitchen and offices are on the ground floor of the building which runs backwards to join the rear wards, where there is additional accommodation for male and female paupers, and also for four private patients at annual payments of £250. In this part of the building the pauper patients occupy dormitories, each containing six or eight beds. They are all on the ground floor, and several of them, as well as the day-rooms, are flagged. These rear wards are used for the worst class of patients.

In the centre of the rear building are the suites of apartments for patients of the highest class: two up stairs, and two below. Each suite contains a sitting-room, bedroom, and water-closet, and communicates with an open gallery. These rooms are comfortably, but not tastefully, furnished. They were all unoccupied except one, which was in temporary use as a work-room by the female paupers.

On the upper floor of the building which connects the front and rear wards, is a large and handsome board-room, which is used only four times a year for board meetings. Adjoining it is the chapel, which is divided by a partition, completely separating the males and females.

There are ten small airing-courts, all surrounded by high walls.

A considerable number of the male patients work in the garden, and a few are occupied with shoemaking and tailoring. Some of the females are employed in the washing-house and laundry; others sew and knit.

The pauper patients are well clothed, and appear to be in good bodily health. The males have Guernsey jackets and flannels. Their shirts are changed twice a week. The bedding is comfortable; the mattresses are of straw, with ample coverings, but some of the beds have no sheets. The mattress sacks for patients of dirty habits are washed daily, and the straw is changed. No patient was in seclusion. Several females were in strong ticking dresses.

The Sheriff visits the Asylum twice a year, accompanied by Dr. Malcom as medical inspector.

Mechanical restraint is not employed in this Asylum, and no undue use is made of seclusion. The highly objectionable practice, however, prevails of placing two male patients in a room originally intended for one. On the whole, there is a deficiency of books and objects calculated to interest the patients, and of the means of occupation. The Asylum possesses great natural advantages for the treatment of patients, both of the upper and lower classes, which are not sufficiently turned to account. Further details connected with its management will be found in Dr. Malcom’s evidence.”

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