Institution Information - Newbigging House

Town/Parish/County: Musselburgh, Inveresk, Midlothian

Alternative Names: [none]

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“NEWBIGGING HOUSE, MUSSELBURGH; Mr. Abram Moffat, Proprietor; Visited 5th May 1855.

This house stands in the principal street of Newbigging, at Musselburgh, and consists of a main building fronting the street, and some irregular buildings on each side of the back yard.

On the day of our visit the house contained 91 patients, viz—

Males, Private 8, Pauper 31, Total 39

Females, Private 6, Pauper 46, Total 52

[Total] Private 14, Pauper 77, Total 91

The private patients and female paupers are located principally in the main building, while the male paupers and worst class of female patients occupy the buildings behind. The rate of payment for the private patients does not exceed £30 a year. That for the paupers is £22, including extras, or £20 without extras.

Considering the rate of payment, the accommodation provided for the male private patients is very good. Their sleeping-rooms are plainly but comfortably furnished, and generally contain three beds. Their sitting-room is of good size, and is also comfortably furnished.

The accommodation for the male pauper patients is very bare, and their rooms are greatly overcrowded. In one, measuring 17 feet long, 15 feet broad, and 9 1/2 feet high, eight patients sleep, two of them in one bed; and an additional bed is occasionally brought in for an attendant, when any particular necessity for supervision arises. Sometimes the attendant sleeps with a patient. The adjoining rooms are smaller, but, considering their size, are equally crowded. One room containing seven beds was formerly used as a laundry, and in winter it must be very cold, as it is unceiled, is immediately under the tiles, and has no fireplace.

These sleeping-rooms contain no furniture but the beds, which, indeed, are so close together that little space is left for anything else. The patients are thus brought so near the windows and doors, that neither could be opened during the night, without great risk from draughts of cold air. There are no other means of ventilation, and it is thus evident that the atmosphere must, during the night, become very impure. The beds appear clean and comfortable, and are supplied with two sheets and ample coverings. There are no chamber utensils, but at night a tub is placed in some convenient part of the room, and is used in common by the patients.

One or two sleeping-rooms on the ground-floor are paved with bricks; the others have wooden flooring.

The sleeping-rooms are not generally occupied through the day; a good-sized but bare apartment is used as a day-room. It contains two tables and some benches.

The sleeping-rooms of the female paupers are more comfortable than those of the men. One or two in the attics are bare and crowded, but, in general, they are tolerably well furnished, with chairs, pieces of carpet, looking-glasses, basins, chamber utensils, &c. They contain, on an average, three or four beds, which are clean and comfortable, but one frequently accommodates two patients. The sleeping apartments of the females, being more comfortably furnished than those on the male side, are in some cases used as day-rooms. The women, however, have also a separate day-room, but it is too small for the number of patients. It measures 18 feet long, 12 feet broad, and 9 feet high, equal to 1944 cubic feet, and was occupied by about twenty patients. Its atmosphere was tainted and heavy, although the window was open.

The female private patients associate with the paupers. The difference in the rate of payment does not allow any great distinction of treatment, but care is taken to place them with the better class of paupers.

In general, the windows are secured by bars, and several of them are also guarded by trellis-work. Restraint does not seem to be much in use, but the strait-waistcoat is occasionally had recourse to. In the back buildings are two small seclusion rooms for refractory and noisy patients, neither of which has any means of ventilation or warming. There is also a brick paved room, occupied by five pauper females of dirty habits; and fixed to a staple in the ground is a chain to which a patient was formerly fastened. It is said, however, not to have been in use for some years. There is a shower-bath in an out-house.

There are three male attendants, and six female servants. The three males have £20 per annum each. One female has £6, the other five £7 per annum each.

The patients appear sufficiently fed. For breakfast the paupers have porridge, with buttermilk, beer, or butter; or they may have coffee if they prefer it. For dinner they generally have broth, with meat, and a thick slice of bread. Occasionally, they have fish. In the afternoon they have tea, and at night porridge, or tea again. There are no means of ascertaining the quantities of food allowed to each; but, judging from the appearance of the patients, it is not deficient. Some of them take their meals in the day-room, but a large number are allowed to eat their food wherever they choose.

Behind the house are the airing-grounds, both sexes reaching them through the same yard. There is thus no very strict separation of the sexes. The men's airing-ground is a strip of land some 12 yards broad, and 50 yards long, and is partly in grass, partly under cultivation. The females' airing-ground is considerably larger, and both together may contain an acre. In fine weather the patients pass several hours a day in them. A few of the males work a little in the garden, but there is not sufficient land for much employment of this kind, and no exertion is made to occupy them in other ways. There is a great want of books, newspapers, &c, and indeed, of all means of amusement and occupation. A few of the women sew, but the men are almost entirely idle.

There is a lavatory for the male paupers, in one of the back buildings, containing three basins. The female paupers and private patients wash in their rooms. There is no warm bath. There are privies in the airing-grounds; that belonging to the females appears to be used also by the men.

Four or five of the patients attend church, and a missionary visits once a fortnight.

The books kept are the Weekly Register and the Madhouse Register. They are more fully and correctly kept than is generally the case, and the times when restraint is had recourse to, seem entered with tolerable regularity.

The rent paid by Mr. Moffat is £75.

On a second visit we found both seclusion-rooms occupied by female patients. Three days later one of these patients was still in seclusion.

Subjoined are the exact measurements of some of the rooms, with the numbers of patients occupying them:

Detached building, second floor, entering by outside stair. Room with seven beds and eight patients; contents, 1741 cubic feet, being 217 5/8 cubic feet to each patient.

Room in same building, entering by platform, with seven beds and seven patients; contents, 1780 cubic feet, being 254 2/7 cubic feet to each patient. No fire-place.

Attic flat in same building. Room with three beds and three patients; contents, 597 feet, being 199 cubic feet to each patient. No fire-place.

Under flat in same building. Room with seven beds and eight patients; contents, 2014 cubic feet, being 251 6/8 cubic feet to each patient. A fire-place.

Under flat of detached building. Room with one bed and one patient; reported an apartment for unruly patients; contents, 661 cubic feet. No fire-place, and no means of ventilation.

Main house, second floor. Room with five beds and five patients; contents, 1731 cubic feet, being 346 1/5 cubic feet to each patient. A fire-place.

Attic flat, main house. Room with three beds and three patients; contents, 695 cubic feet, being 231 2/3 cubic feet for each patient. A fire-place.

Second attic flat, main house. Room with three beds and three patients; contents, 859 cubic feet, being 286 1/3 cubic feet to each patient. A fire-place.

Note.—The average height of the ceilings is 7 feet 11 inches.”

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