Institution Information - Wigtownshire Combination Poorhouse

Town/Parish/County: Stranraer, Inch, Wigtownshire

Alternative Names: Rhins of Galloway Combination Poorhouse; Stranraer Poorhouse

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report


This house occupies a pleasant situation close to Stranraer. The insane have separate accommodation on the ground floor, at the eastern extremity of the building, shut off from the rest of the house by a door in the passage. It consists of a room for an attendant and his wife, three small rooms for males, and as many for females. It is calculated that 6 patients of each sex may be received. At the period of our visit there were 1 male and 6 females. The male department consists of a day-room, and two sleeping-rooms opening from it. The day-room is very small, measuring 12 feet long, 9 feet broad, and 10 1/2 feet high. The window is barred, and looks into the airing-court. The furniture consists of a small fixed table, and a short bench fixed against the wall. There is an open fire-place; but, as the chimney smokes, the solitary patient has a fire in his sleeping-room.

The larger dormitory measures 15 feet long, 7 1/2 feet broad, and 10 1/2 feet high, and has an open fire-place. It is intended for the accommodation of four patients. The windows are closely barred on the inside, and the glass of one is obscured. It contained no furniture except the beds, and a seat formed of a bit of earthenware pipe standing on end, with a loose board across the top. The bedsteads are of iron. The mattress of the only bed occupied was very thin, and the blankets were dirty. The smaller room measures 9 feet in length, 6 in breadth, and 10 1/2 in height. It is intended for two patients, but is unfurnished. It has no fire-place, nor any means of ventilation except the window.

The airing-court is entered from the day-room. It measures 36 feet in length, and 24 in breadth, and is enclosed by walls 10 feet high. Until recently it was only 24 feet long, but was enlarged on the representations of the Sheriff.

In the larger dormitory there is a recess with four fixed basins, and there is a privy in the court.

The single patient, J. T., was formerly in the Southern Counties Asylum, but was brought hither on 1st May 1855, and has been in solitary confinement ever since. The governor occasionally takes him a walk in the grounds of the poorhouse, which extend to about two acres, but this does not occur oftener than once or twice a month. He is a watchmaker by trade, and the governor has on one or two occasions given him a watch to repair, but otherwise he has no means of employing himself. He belongs to the parish of Leswalt, and was transferred from the asylum from motives of economy. His maintenance at Dumfries cost £17 a year; here it is under 3s. a week, or £7, 16s. a year, including clothing.

The accommodation for the females is similar to that for the males, except that their day-room is somewhat larger. Two beds are in the day-room, three in the larger dormitory, and one in the smaller. The furniture in the three rooms comprises, besides the beds and chamber-pots, a small fixed table, a fixed bench, a loose stool, and a seat of earthenware pipe, like that already described. The strait-waistcoat is occasionally used. There are no special attendants for the insane, although it was originally intended to provide them, and the attendants' room is occupied by the pauper girls as a schoolroom. All the female patients are allowed to mix during the day with the other inmates, and several of them assist in the work of the house. The warrants are granted on the certificates of two medical men, that the patient "is of unsound mind, and fatuous, and incapable of taking "care of himself;" farther, that in their opinion, "the said A. "B. is harmless, not subject to fits or paroxysms of mania; that "his care and safety will be properly provided for by his being "detained in the poorhouse; and that his detention will not be "dangerous to the other inmates."

All the cases at present in the house are considered incurable, but there is nothing in the above certificate to prevent the reception of recent and curable cases. There is one patient in the house, not under warrant; but application for one is to be made immediately. It seems a common practice to procure a warrant only after the patient has been some time in the house.

The Sheriff visits the house regularly, and records his visits in the Visitor's Book.”

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