Institution Information - Old Machar Poorhouse

Parish/County: Old Machar, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire

Alternative Names: [none]

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“OLD MACHAR POORHOUSE, ABERDEEN; Visited 27th July 1855.

This house stands in rather an elevated situation, in the suburbs of Aberdeen. It contained, at the period of our visit, 110 inmates, of whom only 21 were males. The number of fatuous paupers was 10: namely, 4 males and 6 females, all belonging to the parish. The accommodation for them consists of a dormitory and day-room for each sex. There are no single rooms, nor any means of secluding patients in case of violence or excitement.

The male dormitory measures 27 feet in length, 15 in breadth, and 10 in height, and is calculated for the accommodation of 18 patients, allowing only 225 cubic feet of air to each. It is paved with asphalte, and has no furniture except the beds, chamber utensils, and one chair. The whole house is heated by open fires. For ventilation, fresh air enters through an aperture in the floor, and escapes through another near the ceiling. The windows are barred on the inside. They open from the top; the glass of the lower half is obscured, and they are without shutters. The bedsteads are of iron, and the mattresses and pillows of chaff; the single sheet is changed once a fortnight. No particular kind of bedding is used for patients of dirty habits. The doors of the dormitory and day-room are exactly opposite each other; and when both are open, they close the passage and form a private communication between the two rooms.

The day-room is paved with asphalte, and is about the same size as the dormitory. It contains no other furniture than two chairs, and a small bench without a back. At one end is the washing accommodation for the patients. The windows are not barred, and look into the airing-court, which is about 16 yards long, and 10 yards broad. It is laid down in gravel, and has no view.

The women's dormitory is used also as a day-room, because the proper day-room contains a bed, and is occupied by a patient, who is too noisy to be placed in the dormitory. A great want is felt of one or two single rooms for excited patients, and hence the day-room is, in some degree, sacrificed to this purpose. The attendants consist of a male, and a female pauper, who sleep in the respective dormitories.

No recent cases are received; all the patients have been previously in asylums, or are imbeciles from birth. Before a patient is removed from an asylum, a report is in the first place sent to the Board of Supervision, accompanied by two medical certificates, to the effect that the case is harmless and incurable. Permission to remove the patient is thereupon granted by the Board, who rely entirely upon these certificates. No officer from the Board has visited the department for the fatuous paupers.

The house cost about £5000, including land and furniture. There is only about one-eighth of au acre of land, in addition to the courts, besides half an acre which is let to a gardener. There are no means of occupation or amusement for the patients, beyond the supply of a few books to those that can read.

The average cost of each pauper is about 2s. 9 1/2d. per week for clothes and provisions; or, including interest of money and salaries, 3s. 10d. a week.

The diet of the fatuous paupers is according to Class B. of the Board of Supervision's scale, but it is generally made a little fuller. The patients are well clothed, and clean. They have clean linen once a week, and are bathed occasionally, but not at stated times. There are at present no means of mechanical restraint; but the governor has received permission to get two strait-waistcoat prepared.

10s. 6d. is paid for the warrant, besides 2s. 6d. for fees. Similar sums are paid for the annual license for each patient.

A chaplain visits the house five times a week, including Sundays; several of the patients attend his ministrations. Besides this, the house-governor reads prayers, every morning and evening, some of the fatuous patients being generally present

The Madhouse Register is the only book kept specially in connexion with the fatuous paupers. It has additional columns, in accordance with instructions from the Sheriff, under the same heads as those mentioned in describing the Aberdeen poorhouse.”

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