Institution Information - Mrs Brownlee's House, Newbigging

Town/Parish/County: Musselburgh, Inveresk, Midlothian

Alternative Names: Brownlee's 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 kept by this private institution do not seem to have survived. If you learn of anything concerning the survival or whereabouts of these records, please contact us.

Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report


This asylum stands in the main street of Newbigging, and receives private patients only. It contains, at present, 2 males and 10 females.

The annual payments range from £32 to £50; but one patient, who has been reduced to poverty, is kept at the pauper rate of £20, which is paid by the parish of Inveresk.

The house is sufficiently large for the number of patients, but there is a want of proper method and arrangement, and the rooms are dirty and untidy.

The two male patients sleep in the upper floor, and must necessarily pass through that part of the house occupied by the females, in order to reach their bedrooms. They are both elderly men, and easily managed; but this arrangement is, nevertheless, objectionable. An attendant sleeps in the same room with one of these patients.

The patients, in general, take their meals in their bedrooms; but some of the females, we were told, occasionally dine with Mrs. Brownlee.

At the back of the premises are two or three rooms, occupied by the poorer and more noisy patients. One of these is often restrained with the strait-waistcoat; and is locked up in a dismal boarded seclusion-room, whenever she shews a disposition to be violent. This treatment is often had recourse to, without the sanction of the medical attendant, and no record of it is made.

Another female, of dirty habits, is not well attended to; and she also is frequently in restraint.

There is one male attendant, an old man, who seems to be principally occupied in the garden, and three female servants. The garden is large, but none of the patients ever go beyond its walls.

The general impression conveyed by the inspection of this establishment was unfavourable; and we had reason to think that there was prevarication on the part of those in charge, especially in reference to the use of mechanical restraint and seclusion.

The Weekly Register is imperfectly kept, and contains no record of restraint.

On a second visit we found one of the lady patients sitting on the floor of the seclusion-room above adverted to, eating her dinner. The room had no furniture except the bedstead, and two boxes nailed to the floor to serve as seats. The fire-place was boarded up, and evidently never used; and the window barred and trellised.

The other patients were taking their dinners in their sleeping rooms. They had roast-mutton and potatoes, and tore the meat with their teeth and fingers, having no knives or forks.

The more troublesome patients seem to be very much confined to their rooms, but those who are manageable are allowed to be a good deal in the garden.”

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