Institution Information - Saughtonhall Asylum

Parish/City/County: St Cuthberts, Edinburgh, Midlothian

Alternative Names: Saughtonhall House, Balgreen 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 of inmates of this institution do not seem to have survived. Saughtonhall was sold in 1907, and the patients were transferred to Mavisbank, or New Saughtonhall, near Roslin, Midlothian. For more information, click here. If you learn of anything concerning the survival or whereabouts of these records, please contact us.

Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“SAUGHTONHALL ASYLUM, EDINBURGH; Dr. Smith and Dr. Lows, Proprietors; Visited 10th July 1855.

This Asylum occupies a pleasant situation on the banks of the Water of Leith, about two miles west from Edinburgh. It consists of the old mansion-house of Saughtonhall, which has been greatly enlarged, and of a new building for convalescents, about a quarter of a mile distant from the old house. The grounds belonging to both amount to 27 acres. Great expense has been incurred in adapting the premises to their present purpose.

The old house, at the period of our visit, contained 28 patients, viz., 15 gentlemen and 13 ladies, and there was a considerable amount of vacant accommodation.

On the ground floor are three rooms for male refractory patients. They are of large size, but were in considerable disorder, owing to the practice of allowing the patients to arrange the furniture according to their own fancies, so long as they do nothing to injure either themselves or their attendants. One patient accordingly had placed his bedding on the top of the table, while another had spread his mattress on the floor. These rooms have open fire-places, and hot air is besides introduced into the galleries. Adjoining the refractory rooms, is a small airing-court, laid down in grass, and neatly kept, with shelter from sun and rain, but cheerless from being enclosed by high walls, which exclude all view of the surrounding country. The patients walk in this court at will, provided an attendant be present.

Throughout the house, every patient has a separate sleeping room. A few have private sitting-rooms also, but in general the patients associate in common day-rooms. Both sleeping-rooms and day-rooms are of ample size, and comfortably furnished, but the house is rather gloomy from its original construction. When a patient is first admitted, an attendant is always placed with him, till a knowledge of the case is acquired; but he is removed as soon as this can be done with safety, and, as a general rule, attendants do not sleep in the patients' rooms.

There is no artificial ventilation; but the want of it, owing to the size of the rooms and the open fire-places, is not much felt, the windows have metal frames, and are divided into compartments, which open separately. They are provided with sliding shutters, which lock in such a manner as to leave a large or small space open, as may be desired. The beds are clean and comfortable. After trying various descriptions of bedding for wet patients, such as canvas stretchers, Mackintosh sheets, &c„ Dr. Lowe now provides for this class of patients straw mattresses with a perforated tray. There is washing accommodation in every room. The patients' clothes and the furniture are removed from the rooms at night. There is no night-watch.

The walls of the rooms of the female refractory patients are boarded. Some of them are lighted by a lamp placed in the wall between the room and the gallery, which gives sufficient light for general purposes, but not to read by. Gas has lately been introduced into the house.

Recourse is occasionally had to chloroform in the treatment of the Patients, as for instance, for introducing the feeding tube. It is also used in refractory cases to facilitate the removal of the patients from their homes to the asylum. On this subject additional details will be found in Dr. Smith's evidence.

The gentlemen's airing-ground measures nearly two and a half acres. It is pleasant and cheerful, and has a raised walk from which the surrounding country can be seen. It contains seats, a summer-house, &c.

The ladies' airing-ground contains nearly three acres, and has also its summer-house and seats. There is no separate airing-court for the female refractory patients. They walk under the care of an attendant in the general airing-ground.

The patients, when convalescent, have access to other extensive walks within the grounds, and are also allowed to take exercise in the country, accompanied by an attendant.

The rates of payment vary from £100 to £250 a year; but clergymen, medical men, and persons in reduced circumstances, are frequently received on lower terms.

Balgreen is a recently erected house, built expressly for a convalescent establishment. It is extremely cheerful and well furnished, and has all the appearance of a private residence. The patients here, 3 gentlemen and 7 ladies, are convalescents, or quiet and orderly chronic cases. Dr. Lowe states that he finds it of great service in the treatment of his patients, to have it in his power to hold out transference to this house as an inducement to self-control. The rate of payment is £50 a year higher than in the old house. The ladies, with one exception, dine together. In the old house the patients dine in groups of three or four, or singly.

The windows at Balgreen have the ordinary wooden frames, and are in all respects like those of a private house, except that they open only a few inches. There are guards for the fireplaces, which are used only in particular cases.

Mechanical restraint is never had recourse to, except when artificial feeding is necessary; the hands are then strapped behind the back.

There are, for both houses, nine male attendants, and eleven female servants and attendants.

One license suffices for both houses.

There is no chaplain, but Dr. Lowe reads service on Sundays, and several of the patients attend church in Edinburgh or Corstorphine. During the season sea-bathing quarters are taken, to which the patients go in rotation.

The patients are well supplied with books and newspapers, and there is a billiard table. A few of the gentlemen work a little in the garden, and the ladies employ themselves in needlework. There are two carriages belonging to the establishment, and more are hired when wanted. There are occasional social meetings of both sexes, but not at stated periods.

The records kept are the Weekly Register and the Madhouse Register. But, in consequence of restraint being so little used, the columns in the former, for patients under restraint, are no longer introduced.”

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