Institution Information - South Leith Poorhouse

Parish/County: South Leith, Midlothian

Alternative Names: [none]

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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.

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Text from 1857 Royal Commission Report

“SOUTH LEITH POORHOUSE; Visited 11th July 1855.

This house was built for the reception of the poor of the parish of South Leith, at an expense of £8000, and was opened in 1850. It contains about 200 inmates, of whom 21 are insane poor under warrant, viz., 8 males and 18 females. But there are, besides these, two or three patients not under warrant, who have been lately admitted, and are detained till it be decided whether they shall be kept permanently, or sent to the Royal Asylum.

With scarcely an exception, the patients under warrant have been removed from the Royal Asylum, and are considered incurable. From time to time the chairman of the committee of management, accompanied by two other members and two medical men, proceeds to the asylum, and, with the assistance of Dr. Skae, selects the incurable cases. A report of the cases so selected is then made to the Board of Supervision, which seems, 1 however, to be a mere formal proceeding. The wards for the insane are situated at each end of the building on the ground floor.

* Further details connected with this house will be found in the evidence of Mr. Greig, inspector of the poor of the parish.

There are three rooms on each side: a single room which may serve for unruly patients, and two dormitories; there are no day-rooms. On the female side the patients were thus distributed: one in the single room; four in the second room; and eight in the third room, two of the beds in the latter being double. The beds were clean and comfortable, and the rooms tidy. The windows are barred and the fire-places grated. There are openings for ventilation in the floor and ceilings, communicating with the external air, which are intended to be opened and closed at pleasure, but the greater number of (hem have become fixed from disuse. The only effective ventilation, therefore, is from the windows and fire-places.

The furniture is scanty, consisting of benches without backs, one or two stools, and a small table. The patients get their food served to each individually, and take it wherever they choose. There is a lavatory with two basins, and a water-closet adjoining: they are situated very close upon the door, and in winter feeble patients must be liable to suffer from exposure to cold while washing.

In one dormitory, on the male side, there were eight beds, and in the other five: one being a trough-bed with canvas bottom for a wet patient. The single room was unoccupied. The furniture here was similar to that on the female side, but there was no table. The patients therefore have no alternative but to take their food off their knees.

All the attendants are paupers. There are two on the female side, who are remunerated by their children being received into the house. On the male side there is one attendant.

There is an airing-court on each side. Both are small, and are enclosed by high walls. At the time of our visit they were not yet in order; but it is intended, we were told, to lay them down in grass.

The only book kept is the Madhouse Register, for annual transmission to the Sheriff. The chaplain attends twice a day, and three times on Sundays; most of the patients are present at his ministrations.

The male patients do not appear to be much occupied in any way. They are also without books, or other means of recreation and amusement. Some of the females sew. A few of the patients occasionally walk beyond the bounds of the house, accompanied by an attendant.

The cost overhead of the inmates of the poorhouse is at present £10, 12s. 11d. a-year, including provisions, clothing, salaries, and rent.

On visiting this house again on 28th November 1856, we found that the Weekly Register has been kept since 20th October 1855. It is not, however, framed in accordance with the statute, and contains no columns for patients under restraint, though there is a strait-waistcoat in the house, which has been applied at least once.”

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