Institution Information - Barnhill Poorhouse

Parish/County: Barony, Glasgow, Lanarkshire

Alternative Names: Barony Poorhouse, Barnhill

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

"BARONY POORHOUSE, GLASGOW; Visited 20th July 1855.

This house stands in an elevated situation about two miles from Glasgow. It is a square building, enclosing a central court. Each side consists of a centre and two wings. One side is appropriated to the accommodation of the insane paupers. The centres are four stories, and the wings three stories high.

The house was built to accommodate 1500 paupers. At present it contains 800 inmates, and cannot, we were informed, receive above 1000 without being overcrowded. The present number of the insane is 115: consisting of 47 males and 68 females. About 140 may be accommodated, allowing 800 cubic feet of space to each. The total cost of the workhouse, including land, was £38,000. The lunatic department was opened in 1850.

All the insane poor of the parish are received into the house: none are sent to any chartered asylum or licensed house; and few, if any, are placed with relatives or strangers. The Board of Supervision takes no direct charge of the lunatic department, which is entirely under the jurisdiction of the Sheriff. There is a resident medical officer, Dr. Ford, who receives a salary of £175, with free house. lie has the medical charge of the whole establishment, but has no power to appoint or dismiss attendants.

The patients, except those that are in seclusion, occupy large dormitories. All the windows are guarded with wire work within, and iron bars without. The house is heated with warm air, but Dr. Ford does not consider that the warming apparatus works in a satisfactory manner, as in his opinion the temperature cannot be properly regulated. The house governor, on the contrary, states that it now answers well, though formerly this was not the case. Both, however, agree that open windows interfere with its working: a back draught is created, and the current of hot air is reversed. Dr. Ford also states that when the windows are shut, the patients complain of headache and sickness. There is gas in all the wards. The rooms are ventilated by apertures that, on the one side, communicate with the external air, and, on the other, with the galleries.

Male Department.—On the ground-floor are two dark seclusion-rooms, containing respectively 885 and 906 cubic feet of air. When occupied by patients, a straw mattress is placed on the floor. They are heated by warm air, but their only communication with the external atmosphere is by a narrow slit in the wall close to the ceiling, measuring about 9 inches long and 3 inches broad. It is impossible that by such means they can ever be thoroughly ventilated and purified. There are two dormitories on this floor. The larger contains eleven beds; and the smaller, which is for wet patients, contains six. The bedsteads are of iron, and the mattresses and pillows of straw. The bedding is clean and ample, but only one sheet is allowed to each bed.

The wet patients sleep on canvas stretchers. A zinc tray slides under the bed to receive the urine, but allows a free circulation of air immediately under the canvas: consequently, as the patients lie immediately upon the canvas, or with the intervention only of an old blanket, they are very apt to suffer from cold and rheumatism. Dr. Ford has repeatedly complained of these beds, but hitherto without effect.

There is a third seclusion-room adjoining the dormitory for wet patients, which contains 877 cubic feet of air; it is without any means of heating, and must be very cold in winter. It had a strong ammoniacal odour, although it has a larger opening communicating with the external air, than the seclusion-rooms already mentioned.

The larger of the two rooms, on the first floor, is used as a day-room and dining-room. It has a capacity of 7996 cubic feet, and contains tables and benches, but no other furniture. The smaller room is used as the infirmary, and adjoining it is a fourth seclusion-room. There is also an extra room which is used as a library, and as a parlour for patients and their friends. The visiting days are the 1st and 2d Fridays of the month.

Both rooms on the second floor are occupied as dormitories, as is alto a room on the third floor of the centre.

The airing-court is at the back of these wards. It is about a quarter of an acre in size, but its area is almost entirely occupied by a large mound, which rises to the level of the top of the walls, to enable the patients to see the surrounding country. This mound was constructed on the recommendation of Sir Archibald Alison, Sheriff of the county. Of the 30 acres of land belonging to the house, more than 8 are occupied by the site of the building, and by the airing-courts; about 20 are in cultivation. From 20 to 80 of the male patients are at times engaged in field labour, and on this account a less extensive airing-court is appropriated to the men than to the women. In the rear of the house, and entering directly from the airing-court, are two workshops for patients who do not work in the fields, and who are here engaged in untwisting cotton. In wet weather most of the patients are thus employed. These rooms have open fire-places, and contain no furniture but benches. In the ordinary department there are workshops for tailors and shoemakers, and occasionally an insane patient may be employed there; but there are no other workshops, beyond those already mentioned, belonging exclusively to the lunatic ward.

There are three salaried attendants—one at 16s. a week, and two at 11s. a week, with board and washing. There is besides a pauper assistant. None of the attendants sleep in the dormitories.

Two of the attendants generally accompany the patients to the fields, while the third remains in charge of the house. Mechanical restraint is not much used, but leather muffs are occasionally applied by the attendants, at their own discretion.

On the landing-places of the stairs, half-way between the different floors, are the lavatories and water-closets. Each lavatory has four basins.

There are two bath-rooms, both inconveniently placed; the patients are bathed once a week.

One patient wears a canvas dress for the purpose of recognition, as he frequently makes his escape. Another sleeps naked, as he is of destructive habits.

Female Department.—This side of the house is laid out exactly in the same way as the male department, but the rooms are rather differently occupied.

There are only two females of dirty habits; they sleep on beds with canvas bottoms. The seclusion-room adjoining the wet ward smelt very offensively. Indeed, from the impossibility of ever having a current of fresh air through any of the seclusion-rooms in the house, it must be extremely difficult to keep them sweet.

The larger of the two rooms on the first floor is used as a dining-room and work-room. Several patients were occupied in untwisting cotton. The smaller room is used as a sewing-room. The seclusion-room adjoining it smelt very offensively. Beyond this room are some others, above the men's workshops, which are used occasionally for noisy or refractory patients.

There are two rooms at the top of the house, of which one is occupied as the infirmary, and the other is appropriated to the use of old and infirm patients. They contain no furniture suitable for invalids, and the patients have accordingly no alternative but to lie down in bed when they require to rest. The baths, lavatories, &c, are similar to those on the male side.

The airing-court measures about an acre; and, though enclosed by high walls, is, nevertheless, open and cheerful, owing to the slope of the ground. It contains a raised mound, similar to that in the men's court. A few of the women work in the fields at weeding, &c, but generally the female patients are employed in sewing. They make a large proportion of the clothing used in the house.

There are three salaried female attendants: one at £15 a year, and the others at £11 a year each. There is also a pauper assistant. None of the attendants sleep in the dormitories. They have leather muffs and strait-waistcoats in their keeping, but they state that they seldom use them.

The construction of the house does not allow a proper classification of the patients.

There is a resident chaplain, who, however, is not a licentiate of any church. He was formerly a teacher, and receives £80 per annum, with free house, coal, and gas. The patients attend service in the general dining-hall of the house at 11 o'clock on Sundays, and a few arc also present in the evening. A part of the hall is reserved for them. The patients are also occasionally visited by their own ministers.

The only book kept specially for the insane department is the Madhouse Register. The Sheriff visits the house half-yearly, accompanied by two medical inspectors. At the visit of 15th May 1855, Sheriff —, Dr. —, and Dr. —recommended that all the rooms should be measured, and the amount of cubic space marked on the doors, so that the maximum number of patients proper to each might be determined.

The average cost of maintenance of all the inmates, including lunatics, is at present—

Per Week. For food, fuel, and clothing £0 3 6¾; for salaries, &c £0 0 9; for rent £0 1 1; for medical care £0 0 1¼; [total] £0 5 6.

The patients are well clothed, and are clean in their persons. The diet is nominally according to Classes B. and C. of the tables of the Board of Supervision, but it is stated that about a fifth more is actually given. The governor is of opinion, that the allowance according to the scale was ample; but as there were complaints of scanty quantity, the parochial board gave orders for an increase, which consists principally of oatmeal."

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