Summary of the 1828 and 1832 Madhouse Acts
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with Amendment Acts, the 1828 County Asylums Act
where it inter-relates, and later Acts with respect to
the Metropolitan Commission's London functions


1828 Madhouse Act section 1

As the 1774 Madhouse Act was ineffectual and it was expedient it should be repealed and some other provision made in lieu for licensing and regulating such houses, and for improving the treatment of insane parsons: The necessary repeals were made with provisions for continuing proceedings under the repealed Acts.

1832 Madhouse Act section 2

It was expedient to consolidate the 1828 Madhouse Act and the 1829 Madhouse Law Amendment Act to more effectually execute their purposes. They were to be repealed with provision for those appointed under them remaining in office until new appointments made, and for acts done under or directed by them remaining good, valid and effectual:

"except so far as is specially altered by this Act as to the visitation of single patients" (See below and 3.5)

Geographical operation

References throughout the 1828 and 1832 Madhouse Acts were to England, not to England and Wales as in the 1774 Madhouse Act. (1828 Madhouse Act title and sections 1 + 10; 1832 Madhouse Act title and section 10). The 1842 Inquiry Act and the 1845 Lunacy Act related to England and Wales.



1828 Madhouse Act section 2:

The Home Secretary could (*) annually appoint "not less than" 15 persons to be commissioners during the space of one year for licensing and visiting all houses for the reception of two or more insane persons (see definitions) in the London area.

1832 Madhouse Act section 3:

The Lord Chancellor (as custodian of Chancery Lunatics. See definitions) could (*) annually appoint "at his discretion" not less than 15 nor more than 20 persons to be commissioners to be called "The Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy"

(*) "it shall and may be lawful for"

1828 Madhouse Act section 2 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 3:

Appointments were to be made on (1828: August 1st) (1832: September 1st) or within 10 days following each year, but (1828 Act section 3 1832 Act section 4) the Home Secretary (1832 Lord Chancellor) was to "cause" the names of all appointments to be published in the London Gazette within 10 days of appointment (a)

(a) Notices in the Gazette from 1828 to 1831 were headed "Whitehall", those from 1832 to 1844 "Office of the Metropolitan Commission" (with the address) and signed "By Order [name] Treasurer Clerk".


1828 Madhouse Act section 2:

At least 5 commissioners were to be physicians and 5 (no more) of these were to be paid £1, exclusive of travelling expenses, for every hour spent working for the commission.

1832 Madhouse Act section 3: Not less than 4 nor more than 5, at the discretion of the Lord Chancellor, were to be physicians and not less than 2 barristers. Physicians were to be paid as under the 1828 Act but there was no provision for paying barristers.

The 1833 Madhouse Amendment Act section 6 provided that 2 (no more) "practising" barristers should be paid at the same rate as the physicians. If more than 2 commissioners were practising barristers the Lord Chancellor was to determine which 2 were to be paid.


Physicians from 1832 was to mean Fellows or Licentiates of the Royal College of Physicians. (Definitions). Neither Act made provision for paying any doctor apart from physicians for work as commissioners. (See quorum for meetings, visits and release visits)

Honorary Commissioners: Neither Act said anything about who was to be appointed to the unpaid places.


1828 Madhouse Act section 4

Each commissioner appointed took an oath (solemn affirmation if a Quaker) administered by the Home Secretary or an Under Secretary at the Home Office, that he would "faithfully and impartially execute" his responsibilities under the Act.

1832 Madhouse Act section 5:

The oath/affirmation was administered by the Lord Chancellor or five commissioners (the meeting quorum) already sworn. A commissioner swore to discreetly, impartially and faithfully execute responsibilities and to keep secret all matters coming to his knowledge through his office, except when required to divulge by legal authority, or so far as he should feel called upon to do so for the better execution of his duties under the Act.

From 1832 (section 11) County visitors (see below) were required to take the same oath with necessary alterations, administered by a JP visitor.

The Lunacy Commissioners oath (1845 Lunacy Act section 6) was the same as the 1832 oath except for the Act's name. From 1842 the number of commissioners (already sworn) required to administer it was reduced to three (1842 Inquiry Act section 3; 1845 Lunacy Act, section 6)


Under the 1774 Madhouse Act (section 10), only commissioners were prohibited an interest in a licensed house. By the 1828 Madhouse Act this was extended to County Licensing Magistrates (Justices of the Peace) and medical visitors, and by the 1832 Act to County Visiting Magistrates.

1828 Madhouse Act sections 2, 5, 10 + 11 and
1832 Madhouse Act section 12:

General prohibition

Persons with an interest, direct or indirect, within two years preceding (*), in keeping any licensed house (**) were prohibited from being commissioners or acting as County Licensing Magistrates (1832: or as County Visiting Magistrates).

(*) With reference only to commissioners in 1828

Medical prohibition

Doctors interested in or employed in any licensed house (**) were prohibited under the 1828 Madhouse Act from acting a County medical visitors.

Medical commissioners (and, under the 1832 Madhouse Act, County medical visitors) were prohibited from attending professionally on patients in licensed houses (**) unless specifically directed to visit by a friend or relative by whose order the patients was detained, or by the committee of a chancery lunatic.


By the 1828 Madhouse Act, section 5, any commissioner who acquired an interest and continued to act as commissioner was to forfeit £50. There were no penalties in the 1832 Madhouse Act.

(**) Under the 1828 Madhouse Act, the phrase "any such house", and other ambiguities, in some sections, left room for argument that the prohibition applied only to houses licensed by the authority.


1828 Madhouse Act section 7 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 6:

The Home Secretary (1832: Lord Chancellor) was empowered to appoint "during pleasure", a fit person to be (1828: Treasurer for the purposes of this Act, and clerk to such commissioners) (1832: Treasurer or Clerk to the said Metropolitan Commissioners); and was to allow him such a salary as he thought reasonable

- Exclusive of fees under the Acts. [The only fees were search fees. No clerk's fee for Licences was charged, as it had been under the 1774 Madhouse Act

1832 Madhouse Act section 6:

"And all official duties to be performed by such clerk (except as hereinafter is excepted)" [See single lunatics + enforcement] "shall be subject to the inspection, direction, and control of the said commissioners.

1828 Madhouse Act section 8 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 7:


At the first meeting after his appointment, the clerk was to take an oath administered by the chairman (1832: one of the commissioners) that he would faithfully execute all trusts committed to his charge as Clerk (1832: Treasurer and Clerk) to the commissioners; keep secret all matters that came to his knowledge in that capacity (except when required to divulge by legal authority) and was not, and had not been for two years, directly or indirectly interested in keeping any house for the reception of insane persons.

1832 Madhouse Act section 14:


If the clerk at any time found it necessary to employ any assistant in: copying of the orders, certificates, registers, returns ... papers or documents, connected with his role under the Act, or in any other matter relating to the execution of the Act, he was to certify the necessity and the name of the assistant to the commissioners, who, if they approved the appointment, were required to administer an oath of secrecy to the assistant.


He was responsible for the commission's finances, made out Licences, but did not attend visits.

He received and preserved all documents required to be sent to the commission (stated consistently in all relevant sections of the 1828 Madhouses, 1828 County Asylums and 1832 Madhouses Acts). He, presumably, also sent documents that the Acts required the Commission to send - but this was not always stated in the relevant sections.

He kept London and national Registers of patients, carried out searches, maintained a register of London visiting minutes and received and preserved copies from the counties.

The Treasurer Clerk was responsible, directly to the Home Secretary and Lord Chancellor (and not to the commissioners) for the Private Return.

He was required to enforce the Acts, and took legal action under them (See enforcement). The general tenor of the Acts is that this should be under the direction of the Commissioners: but there is some ambiguous wording (See enforcement)


Note: Professional commissioners in the Metropolitan Commission were paid for all commission work, and therefore for attending meetings, whereas the Physician Commissioners (1774-1828) were only paid for visits.

1828 Madhouse Act section 6 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 9:


At all meetings, the commissioners were to choose a chairman by a majority vote. He had a second or casting vote.

1828 Madhouse Act section 9 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 8:


Four Licensing Meetings a year were to be held. (In place of one since 1774))

As County Quarter Sessions had always granted County Licences, London was now brought into line with the Counties.


Five or more commissioners were to meet, two at least not being physicians (1828: or surgeons. See qualifications)

[Therefore, from 1828 to 1832/1833, a Quarterly Meeting required at least two honorary commissioners, but thereafter could be entirely professional commissioners as long as two were legal, not medical. (See Composition of the Commission). (**)

Quarterly Meetings were to be held on the first Wednesday of January (1832: February), April (1832: May), July and October (1832: November) (**) at a place directed by the Home Secretary. (1832: Lord Chancellor).

Inquorate Quarterly Meetings were to be adjourned to the succeeding Wednesday. Commissioners at a meeting could adjourn it:

"from time to time, and to such place, as they shall think fit"

Neither Act required meetings to be advertised.

(**) Under the 1845 Lunacy Act section 15 the quorum was any five commissioners, and Quarterly Meetings continued to be held as under the 1832 Madhouse Act.


1828 Madhouse Act:

The only other meetings of the Commission provided for in the 1828 Madhouse Act were special ones for release of a patient (See release provisions, point d). Otherwise it prescribed (See enforcement A49) or assumed all business would be done at Quarterly Meetings.

1829 Madhouse Law Amendment Act:

Section one of the amendment Act provided for meetings whenever a quorum (five commissioners, at least two not physicians or surgeons) saw fit:

"for the purpose of executing and performing the several matters and things... entrusted to them"

By section two, any Licences granted at such meetings, or any adjourned Quarterly Meeting, required confirmation by the subsequent Quarterly Meeting, which might alter and amend them.

1832 Madhouse Act

Section 9 made the same provision for meetings at any time, with several references in other sections to actions commissioners could take at "any of their meetings". Most such actions were ones not required or provided for in the 1828 Act. For example: interim applications for Treasury money (See finances); granting emergency licences and changing a licence after death (see Licensing) and reducing the medical attendance required.



1828 Madhouse Act section 10 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 10:

Quarter Sessions

Outside the London area, the Justices of the Peace in General Quarter Sessions had authority, within their respective counties, to grant licences "if they shall think fit"

1828 Madhouse Act section 11 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 11:

County Visitors

Every year, the Justices of the Peace at Michaelmas (*) General Quarter Session were to appoint three or more justices and one or more physician, surgeon or apothecary to act as visitors of each house (1832: licensed) for the reception of two or more insane persons within the county.

(*) 1829 Madhouses Law Amendment Act section 7: any General or Quarter Session

The visitors names were to be published in some newspaper circulating in the county within seven days of appointment (1832: and notified to the London clerk - see below). A visitor who died or refused or was unable to act could be replaced at any General or Adjourned Session.

1828 Madhouse Act section 11 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 11:

Payment of Visitors

Such (1832: every such) medical visitor was to be paid "for every day he shall be employed in executing the duties imposed on him by this Act", (1828:) out of County rates (but see below) (1832:) by the county clerk out of Licence fees and in case of deficiency out of county rates; such sum as Quarter Sessions directed.


1828 Madhouse Act section 12 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 13:

A "person appointed by" Quarter Sessions (1832: The Clerk of the Peace or some other person appointed by Quarter Sessions) was to act as Clerk to the Visitors (*) ... (1828: in the same manner and for the same purpose in the execution of the Act as the Clerk to the... Commissioners is herby directed to act")

(*) The 1828 Act was so worded in certain sections (see (a) below for an example) that a strict interpretation of it only allowed the Clerk of the Peace to be the Visitor's Clerk. This appears to have been an error of draughtsmanship and contrary to the legislature's intention.

A Visitors Clerk who was not Clerk of the Peace became known as a Deputy Clerk and in 1832 the drafting difficulties were overcome by an entry in the interpretation clause that "the words Clerk of the Peace shall be deemed to include any person acting as such, or any Deputy duly appointed" (1832, s.2)

I use the term County Clerk to avoid the confusion that arises if the terms in the Act are used.

1832 section 13: The County clerk was to summon the visitors to meet to execute their duties at such time and place as the "Justices in Sessions" appoint.

1828 Madhouse Act section 12 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 13:

The same oath (with the necessary changes) as taken by the London clerk was to be administered to him by one of the visitors at their first meeting. The said (Visitors) clerk was to be paid out of the county rate for his services (1828: "as well in granting licences as in attending to the said visitors" (*)) a remuneration determined by Quarter Sessions.

(*) This assumes that the Clerk of the Peace was Visitors clerk as 1828 section 15 said the Clerk of the Peace was to make out the licences.

1832 Madhouse Act section 14:

Assistants If the county clerk employed any assistant in his work under the Act, the appointment was to be approved by one of the JP visitors who was to administer an oath of secrecy to the assistant. (section worded as corresponding London section)


["Clerk" means London or County Clerk]


The commissioners (1828 Madhouse Act section 9 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 8) and County Quarter Sessions (1828 section 10, 1832 section 10):

were only to grant licences "if they shall think fit".

1828 section 18, 1832 section 25: If renewal of an existing licence was refused, however, it remained in force until the Home Secretary (1832: Lord Chancellor) had sanctioned and confirmed the refusal.

1828 section 17, 1832 section 26: Licences granted could be revoked by the Home Secretary (1832: Lord Chancellor) on the recommendation of the commissioners or county visitors at any time.

The 1845 Lunacy Act sections 14 + 15 also use the phrase "if they shall think fit". Under the 1890 Lunacy Act "no new licence shall be granted" (section 207 (6)) except where an existing house was being moved or divided (in certain circumstances) - And licensing authorities "may" licence or re-licence only if satisfied that a house "has been in all respects well conducted by the licensees". (section 207)

1832 section 39: The visiting minutes were to be laid before the licensing meeting before it considered renewing a licence

Notice and Plan

1828 Madhouse Act section 13 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 15:

A licence applicant had to give notice to the clerk at least two weeks before the licensing meeting. This had to contain his correct name and address and, if he did not intend to reside in the house, the name and previous occupation of the superintendent who was to reside (resident superintendent). 1828: Upon application for a licence being first made, 1832: for any house not previously licensed.

The notice was to be accompanied by a plan of the house (scale not less than one-eighth of an inch to one foot), a description of its situation and every room and apartment, and a statement of the maximum number of patients proposed.

These notices and plans were to be laid before the licensing meeting.

1828 Madhouse Act section 14 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 17:

Notices and plans were to be kept up to date by the licences, who were to send details (including a plan on the same scale) of any additions or alterations to the clerk, within one month of their completion.

Wilful omission with intent to deceive was to be deemed a misdemeanour.


1828 Madhouse Act section 15 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 12:

Licences were to be made out by the clerk (1832: on form A), who also collected the licence fees.

1828 section 16, 1832 section 19: They were to be under the hands and seals of at least: the quorum for a (London) Quarterly Meeting (see above) or three JPs in the Counties (*)

Thus fixing the number required to hear licensing applications, which had not been stated in the 1774 Act

1828 section 15: Licences were to be renewed every year.

1828 section 19, 1832 section 18: No licence was to continue in force for longer than thirteen calendar months (1832 section 18: as the...commissioners or justices shall think fit. If granted for a shorter period, a reduced fee, not less than £5, could be charged).

1828 section 19: No one licence was to authorise a person to keep more than one house.

Licence fee scaled to number of patients

Under the 1774 Act, houses for ten or more patients paid £15. The Physician Commission had recommended scaling this as they considered the flat rate was an inducement to overcrowding. They also recommended charging for paupers at a lower rate than others. (1815 SCHC somewhere)

1828 Madhouse Act section 16 + 1832 Madhouse Act schedule A:

The maximum number of pauper and non-pauper patients to be received in the house was to be stated on the licence.

1828 section 16, 1832 section 18: The fee was scaled to this maximum, at the rate of 10/- for every non-pauper and 2/6 for every pauper (but there was a minimum charge of £15 for the licence).

1828 section 16, 1832 section 19: An additional 10/- was charged for a stamp.

1828 Madhouse Act section 16 + 1832 Madhouse Act schedule A:

The licensee's full name and profession were to be stated on the licence and, if he did not intend to reside, the full name of the superintendent or head keeper.

1828 section 19, 1832 section 23: Licences were to continue in force, however, notwithstanding the death of the licensee. 1828 section 19: unless revoked by the Home Secretary. 1832 section 23: whilst application as made to the commissioners or JPs to have the licence transferred to another name, such applications having to be made by the deceased's legal representative within ten days of the death.

1832 section 24: Emergency licences could be granted, upon payment of not less than exclusive of stamp duty, in the event of the incapacity of the licensee through sickness or other sufficient reason, or the destruction or damage of the licensed house such as rendered it unfit for use.

Refusing or revoking a licence

1828 Madhouse Act:

section 18: When the Commissioners or JPs refused to renew a licence, notice was to be given to the Home Secretary in the same way as when they wished to revoke a licence (see below).

As with revocation, the Home Secretary could then (within one month of receiving the notice) sign an Instrument to "sanction and confirm the refusal". The licence remained in force until the Instrument was signed.

section 17: If, at any time, a majority of any five Commissioners (one not being a physician or surgeon) or any three Visitors, should recommend to the Home Secretary that a licence should be revoked, the Home Secretary could ("it shall and may be lawful for"), "after making such enquiries as he shall think necessary", revoke the licence.

The "parties so complained of" had to be given seven days notice in writing before a recommendation to revoke was sent to the Home Secretary

To revoke a licence, the Home Secretary signed an Instrument of Revocation. This was then sent to the licensee by clerk of the London Commission or County Visitors ("in their respective jurisdictions"). After it had been sent (not before) notice of the revocation was to be published in the London Gazette. The revocation took effect at a period "not exceeding three calendar months" from notice having been published in the Gazette.

1832 Madhouse Act

The Lord Chancellor replaced the Home Secretary as the Minister who confirmed (or not) a refusal to renew or a decision to revoke a licence. In my copy of the Act, however, the margin note still says "Secretary of State for the Home Department"

section 25: refusal was otherwise as in 1828 except that the refusal of a licence was effectual if the Lord Chancellor did not, within one month of being notified, actually refuse to confirm it .

section 26: revocation appears (section is a little confusing) to be otherwise as in 1828 except that there is no quorum (just "a majority" of the commissioners present) and the notice previously sent to the licensee went to the "Superintendent" if the licensee did not live in the house.


The 1774 provisions for forfeiture if admission was refused was not repeated, presumably because the Home Secretary had general power to revoke a licence.

London visits

1828 Madhouse Act section 20 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 35:

Every licensed house has to be visited by at least three commissioners, one of whom was not 1828: a medical practitioner (see qualification), 1832: a physician; at least four times in every a year (quarterly visits).

[Therefore from 1828 to 1832/1833 the quarterly visits required at least an honorary commissioner (not a doctor), but thereafter could be carried out entirely by professional commissioners as long as one was legal (see composition of commission)]

From 1845 the composition was two professional commissioners, one a physician or surgeon, the other legal 1845 Lunacy Act section 16)

County visits

1828 Madhouse Act section 20 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 36:

County houses were to be visited by at least two county visitors at least 1828: four times, 1832: three times in every year

[It seems, therefore, that the quarterly/fourmonthly county visits were legally quorate with two JPs, two medical visitors or one of each. If only one medical visitor was appointed (as I take to be usual) the presence of one JP visitor would be necessary.]

From 1845, county visitors were again required to visit at least four times a year (1845 Lunacy Act section 62)

Clerks and visits

1828 Madhouse Act section 20 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 36:

It was not lawful for any clerk to 1828: inspect or visit any of the patients confined in such houses; 1832: accompany the commissioners or visitors on any visit of inspection to any... house, unless he be required for any special purpose by such commissioners or visitors

1832 section 38 requires the commissioners and visitors to "transmit a copy" of each minute to the clerk. So one can infer that recording minutes was not a special purpose for which he could accompany them. (see visiting minutes

Rules of visits

1828 Madhouse Act section 20 + 1832 Madhouse Act sections 35 and 36 :

Visits were to be made between 8am and 6pm in winter (September 21st to March 21st) and 6am and 8am in summer, (1828: with or) without notice, and for such length of time as the commissioners/visitors thought fit, and they could examine persons confined in the house in such a manner as they thought fit.

1828 section 21, 1832 section 40:

Any 1828: superintendent, keeper or servant 1832: proprietor or resident superintendent who fraudulently concealed or attempted to conceal (1832: any part of the house or) any person detained as insane from 1828: their "sight, knowledge or inspection", 1832: such commissioners or visitors or any medical or other person "authorised under the provisions of this Act to visit and inspect" (see special visits) was to be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour.

Night visits

1828 Madhouse Act section 22 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 42:

If the commissioners or visitors received information on oath that some malpractice had taken place which could not be ascertained by a day visit, it was lawful for (1832: any two or more of) them to visit 1828: "at such hour of the night as to them shall seem advisable, for the purpose of examining into the fact of such alleged malpractice but no further or otherwise" 1832 "at such hour of the night as that shall think fit.


1828 Madhouse Act section 23 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 5:

Preamble: for the better enabling the commissioners or visitors executing this Act to enquire into the several matters and things by this Act referred to them:

They (*) could require any person to appear before them

"to testify the truth touching any matters relating to the execution of the powers given them by this Act"

and were empowered to administer an oath or affirmation.

(*) By the 1829 Madhouses Law Amendment Act section 11 (partially) and 1832 Madhouse Act section 5 (fully): any three commissioners, one not being a physician, or any three visitors.

Anyone who failed to attend without reasonable excuse, or refused to be examined on oath or affirmation, was liable to a £10 to £50 fine on conviction before a JP for the county.


(1) 1828 Madhouse Act section 37: If after three (a) separate visits, with at least 21 (b) days between each, it appeared to the commissioners or visitors that any person was detained in a licensed house (c) without sufficient cause; the commissioners (d) or JPs (e), after giving notice to the keeper and the person on whose authority the patients was detained (f), could liberate the patient.. "or otherwise ... act under the circumstances as the case may seem to require".

(a) Until 1842 for Commissioners and 1845 for visitors, when the number of visits was reduced to two. (1842 Inquiry Act ss 5+16; 1845 Lunacy Act section 78)

(b) Reduced to 14 days by the 1832 Madhouse Act section 41, and 7 days by the 1845 Lunacy Act section 80.

(c) Within their jurisdiction; but by the 1842 Inquiry Act section 16 commissioners could release patients from county houses, and, by the 1845 Lunacy Act section 77, from hospitals.

(d) At a Quarterly Meeting or a meeting specially summoned at 3 days notice; increased to 4 days by 1832 Madhouse Act section 41; reduced to one day by the 1842 Inquiry Act section 5. Releases by Commissioners from County houses, from 1842, were made on the authority of the visiting commissioners, not the Board (1842 Inquiry Act section 16), and from 1845 the same applied to London houses (1845 Lunacy Act section 77).

(e) At Quarter Sessions, or a meeting specially summoned at 7 days notice. In the 1832 Madhouse Act the provision for a special meeting was omitted. Under the 1845 Lunacy Act section 78 County Visitors released patients on their own authority.

(f) The necessary procedures for this altered from Act to Act.

Quorum for release inquiry visits

LONDON: 1828 Madhouse Act section 37: Number of commissioners not stated, but three to be physicians or surgeons (See qualifications. 1832 Madhouse Act section 41: By three commissioners, at least two of whom were to be physicians.

COUNTIES: 1828 Madhouse Act section 37: Number of Visitors not stated, but one to be a medical visitor. 1832 Madhouse Act section 41: By three Visitors, one of whom was medical.

It appears to me that when release inquiry visits were not Quarterly visits, they could be made by three medical commissioners unaccompanied, in London, as the General quorum (3S.4.2) relates to Quarterly visits. Similarly, before 1832, they could have been made by one County medical visitor.

1842: The visiting commissioners to County houses (c + d above) were a medical and legal commissioner. Under the 1842 Inquiry Act (and 1845 Lunacy Act), surgeons could be paid commissioners.

1845: The quorum for release inquiry visits under the 1845 Lunacy Act, section 77 was one barrister and one physician commissioner (no mention of surgeons) with respect to all houses and hospitals, and by section 78: two County visitors, one of whom was a physician, surgeon or apothecary.

Chancery lunatics and criminal lunatics could not be released

1828 Madhouse Act section 37 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 41:
1842 Inquiry Act section 19 + 1845 Lunacy Act section 81:

The powers of release were not to extend to Chancery Lunatics or those detained under any order or authority of the Home Office.

The 1832 Madhouse Act section 41 stated, however, that: "it shall and may be lawful" for the Metropolitan Commissioners or County Visitors

"if they think fit, to examine into the state of mind or condition of any such person, and to report their opinion in writing" ...

to the Lord Chancellor or Home Secretary "as the case may be."

They had the same power under the 1842 Inquiry Act, section 19 and although the provision was omitted in subsequent Acts, nothing in those Acts appears to prevent Commissioners or Visitors from examining such patients and reporting, if they saw fit, to the appropriate Minister.


1828 Madhouse Act section 24 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 38:

VISITORS BOOK (*) A book was to be kept in every licensed house (1832: bound with a King's printers copy of the Act) in which official visitors were required to minute on every visit the "state and condition" of the house, the "care of the patients", and such other particulars they thought deserved notice together with their observations.

(*) Visitors Book is the name given to the book by the 1845 Lunacy Act section 62

1828 Madhouse Act section 38 Preamble: see also County asylum chaplain

"whereas the hopes and consolations of religion may soothe and compose the minds of patients, and thereby tend to subdue the malady under which they are suffering" :-

1828 Madhouse Act section 38 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 37:

Visitors were to enquire whether and at what times divine service was read and performed for the benefit and consolation of any patients, or what religious aid they received under any circumstances of intellectual improvement

1832: "and what description of employment, amusement or recreation (if any) is provided".

The results of these enquiries, with any observations, were to be entered in the Visitors book. If divine service was not performed or religious communication with a minister not permitted, the keeper (1832: proprietor or resident superintendent) was to state the reasons in the Visitors Book.

Subjects of Inquiry under 1845 Lunacy Act section 64: The provisions of the 1832 and 1842 Acts were consolidated so that commissioners and local visitors, to houses and hospitals, inquired "when divine service is performed and to what number of patients, and the effect thereof; and also what occupations or amusements are provided for the patients, and the result thereof; and whether there has been adopted any system of non-coercion, and if so, the result thereof; and also as to the classification of patients; and also as to the condition of pauper patients (if any) when first received, and also as to the dietary of pauper patients (if any); and also shall make such other inquiries as... shall seem expedient." Under 1845 Lunacy Act section 110: commissioners visiting "asylums for lunatics" [county and borough] inquired "whether the provisions of the law have been carried out as to the construction of each asylum visited, and as to its visitation and management, and also as to the regularity of the admissions and discharges of patients...; and whether divine service is performed therein; and whether any system of coercion is in practice therein, and the result thereof; and as to the classification or non- classification of patients therein, and the number of attendants on each class; and as to the occupations and amusements of the patients, and the effects thereof; and as to the condition, as well mental as bodily, of the pauper patients when first received; and also as to the dietary of the pauper patients; and shall also make such other inquiries... as such visiting commissioners shall seem meet." Under 1845 Lunacy Act section 111: commissioners visiting workhouses (where lunatics were or were alleged to be) inquired "whether the provisions of the law as to lunatics have been carried out as to the arrangements, visitation, and management of such workhouses, and as to the dietary, accommodation and treatment of the lunatics in such workhouses".


1828 Madhouse Act + 1832 Madhouse Act:

Medical certificates were required for non- paupers (1828 section 30; 1832 sections 27+28) and paupers (1828 section 31; 1832 section 29) received into licensed houses. The same certificates were required in 1828 for lunatics received into hospitals (except Bethlem, the Military, and Naval), but not under the 1832 Act (See exemption clauses)

1828 County Asylums Act:

Patients received into county asylums required a certificate under the 1828 County Asylums Act sections 38 and 51 with schedule 6. It is not clear, however, how comprehensive the requirement was.


1828 Madhouse Act section 29 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 27:

No person, not a pauper, was to be received into a house kept for two or more insane persons (*) (1832: licensed house) without a medical certificate (1832: and written notice from the person sending the patient, on Form B), or without a written minute of the name, occupation and address of the person sending the patient (1832: on Form M, in a Book of Entry). To do so "knowingly and wilfully" was a misdemeanour.

1828 Madhouse Act section 30 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 28:

The certificate (1832: on Form B) was to be signed by two doctors or, if special circumstances (not specified) prevented, by one doctor. If only one signed, the special circumstances were to be stated on the certificate, and another was to sign within seven days of admission. To sign a certificate with any false particulars, knowingly and with intention to deceive, was a misdemeanour.


1828 Madhouse Act section 31 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 29:

No parish patient was to be received without a written order signed by two (1832: one) Justices of the Peace, or by a parish overseer and the clergyman of the parish (1832: on Forms D and E and a certificate signed by one doctor (**) (1832: on form F. (1832: To do so "knowingly and wilfully" was a misdemeanour).

(*) The phrase "a house kept for two or more insane persons" is used in the 1828 Madhouse Act sections 29 and 31 because Hospitals were not excluded from the provisions for certificates. (See exemption clauses)

(**) Doctor: Physician, surgeon or apothecary. Under the 1828 Madhouse Act section 30 and 1832 Madhouse Act section 28 (with reference to any patient) no doctor was to sign a certificate for admission into a house in which he (1832: or his father, son, brother or partner) had an interest. To do so was a misdemeanour. (1832: When two doctors signed, they were not to be in partnership).


The law respecting non-paupers required an order and (one or two) certificates (1845 Lunacy Act sections 45 and 47) until 1890. From 1853, however, ex- patients could be received in licensed houses on a voluntary basis as boarders without certificates if the Commission consented (1853 Lunacy Amendment Act section 6, extended by the 1862 Lunacy Amendment Act section 18). The 1853 Act (section 6) also allowed the Commission to give its consent to relatives or friends of a patient to stay in a house as boarders "for the benefit of" the patient.

The 1890 Lunacy Act required a judicial "Reception Order" to be obtained at a hearing before a Justice of the Peace (1890 Lunacy Act sections 4 to 10). The previous "order" from a relative now became an "application".
(See mental health history words)

The law respecting the admission of private patients under the Act is outlined in a booklet for the private asylum at Haydock Lodge.

Pauper patients did not require an application from a relative (or whoever). Instead, various authorities had a duty to bring lunatic in need of asylum care before a magistrate, who asked the opinion of two doctors.

Reception Orders (for private or pauper patients) lasted one year. Before it expired, a medical report could be sent to the Lunacy Commission (later Board of Control) requesting extension for another two years, then another three years, then another four years, then five years and thereafter at five year intervals. (section 38)

By 1890 people could be admitted to licensed house or hospitals (but not county or borough asylums) as boarders even if they had not previously been a patient. The Percy Report (1957), section 216) states the "procedure" (1890) as "that the written consent of two of the Lunacy Commissioners or licensing justices was required before any voluntary boarder might be admitted to a licensed house. This was to be given only on the receipt of a written application from the prospective patient himself. If the visiting justices or visiting commissioners considered the patient 'unsuitable' to be a voluntary boarder when they saw him later, they were to order steps to be taken for his certification and detention if they considered him insane, or for his discharge"

The provision for boarders is in section 229 of the 1890 Act. The Act does not say that application to be a boarder should be made in writing. The term "voluntary" is not used in section 6 of the 1853 Act, but section 229 of the 1890 Act uses the phrases "receive and lodge as a boarder... any person who is desirous of voluntarily submitting to treatment". An explanation of the Act by a private asylum speaks of "Voluntary Boarders"
(See mental health history words)

1890, section 20: "Removal of lunatic to workhouse in urgent cases. If a constable, relieving officer, or overseer is satisfied that it is necessary for the public safety or the welfare of an alleged lunatic with regard to whom it is his duty to take proceedings under this Act, that the alleged lunatic should, before any such proceedings can be taken, be placed under care and control, the constable, relieving office or overseer may remove the alleged lunatic to the workhouse of the union in which the alleged lunatic is, and the master of the workhouse shall, unless there is no proper accommodation in the workhouse for the alleged lunatic, receive and relieve, and detain the alleged lunatic therein, but no person shall be so detained for more than three days, and before the expiration of that time, the constable, relieving officer, or overseer shall take such proceedings with regard to the alleged lunatic as are required by this Act.

up to seven days (not paupers)
1890, section 11: "Urgency orders In cases of urgency where it is expedient, either for the welfare of a person (not a pauper) alleged to be a lunatic, or for the public safety, that the alleged lunatic shall be forwith placed under care and treatment, he may be received and detained in an institution for lunatics, or as a single patient under an urgency order, made (if possible) by the husband or wife or by a relative of the alleged lunatic, accompanied by one medical certificate.
If an urgency order is not signed by the husband or wife or by a relative... the order shall contain a statement of the reasons why the same is not so signed and of the connection with the alleged lunatic of the person signing the order, and the circumstances under which he signs the same.
An urgency order shall remain in force for seven days from its date."


1828 Madhouse Act section 32 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 30:

Preamble: In order that the...commissioners and visitors may know when any patient is received into any house of (1832: licensed for the) reception of two or more insane persons (**)

1828 Madhouse Act section 32:

Admission notices

The keeper was required to send a copy of: such order and certificate as aforesaid to the London or County Clerk. (One can, I hope, assume it was sent to the authority that licensed the house).

Local Registers

The clerks were required to enter these in Registers with the patient's full name and the asylum or house (**) in which he was confined.

1828 Madhouse Act section 33:

Removal or death notices

The keeper of a house (**) for the reception of two or more insane persons was required to send a notice whenever a patient was removed from his house, or died, to the London or County clerk or a Justice of the Peace, "as the case may be". [No previous reference made the "as the case may be" any clearer]

(**): The absence of "licensed" in the 1828 Act, with the provisions of the exemption clauses [A.51], generously interpreted, meant hospitals were required to send copies of admission certificates (but not orders or removal/death notices).

[Penalties: See below]

1832 Madhouse Act section 30:

Admission notices

The proprietor or resident superintendent of every house was to send copies of orders and certificates, with a notice on Form G, to the London clerk (See Report of Licensed House Patients) County houses were also to send them to the County clerk.

Local Registers

Local Registers were to be kept according to Form M and clerks were made liable to a £5 penalty for omission to make an entry.

Removal or death notices

1832 Madhouse Act section 31:

As amended by the 1833 Madhouse Amendment Act, removal/death notices were to be sent in the same manner etc as admission notices.


1832 Madhouse Act section 32:

As amended by the 1833 Madhouse Amendment Act, a statement of the cause of every pauper patient's death, made by the medical attendant, was also required. The doctor, proprietor and resident superintendent were liable to a £10 fine for neglect.


1828 Madhouse Act sections 32 + 33 and
1832 Madhouse Act sections 30 + 31:

Knowing and wilful neglect to send notices was deemed a misdemeanour.


1828 Madhouse Act section 25:

County Visiting Minutes

Within 14 days of a County visit, the County Clerk was required to send a copy of the minutes to the London Clerk, who was to enter it in a General Register.

1828 Madhouse Act section 26:

Yearly Return (*) of Licensed House patients

In May every year, all clerks were to complete a report of the houses within their area on Form A, listing every patient. The London and County clerks were to send a copy to the Home Secretary, and county clerks also to the London clerk, who was to enter it in a register.

(*) Called the "Annual Report" in the 1828 Act, but I call it the yearly return so as not to confuse it with the annual report required under the 1832 Madhouse Act.

1828 Madhouse Act section 27:

Alphabetical List

From the yearly returns, the London Clerk was to prepare an alphabetical list of all patients confined in the licensed houses during the preceding year, with the house in which they were, or had been, confined.

1828 Madhouse Act section 28:

Chancery Lunatics List

A transcript of parts of the returns referring to Chancery Lunatics was to be sent to the Lord Chancellor (it was not stated who by).


Generously interpreted, the exemption clauses meant hospitals (except Bethlem, the Military and Naval) should make a yearly return of patients to the London clerk (but not the Home Secretary) on the form used by county clerks under the provisions for yearly returns (section 26). Section 26, however, made no reference to anyone in a hospital making such a return.

County Asylums

The 1828 County Asylums Act, section 56, required a yearly return (according to a form in schedule seven identical to 1828 A from each County Asylum to the Home Secretary and London clerk. The clerk was to prepare from these an alphabetical list of patients and where confined.


1832 Madhouse Act section 45:

County visiting minutes (*)

Every June, County clerks were to prepare a transcript of the years minutes to be sent to the London clerk by August 1st. These he was to preserve for inspection by the commissioners, Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor, or any person having authority from them.

1832 Madhouse Act section 30:

Register of licensed house patients.

The London Clerk was to receive notices of admissions, removal or death from all houses (see above), and was required to compile his Register from these. The central register, therefore, recorded patients within days of admission, which only local registers had done under the 1828 Act.

The prescribed forms for notices (1832G and 1832H) provided almost all the information previously provided by county clerks yearly returns (which were no longer required).

Hospitals (except Bethlem, the Military and Naval) were required to make a yearly return on form 1832 M and send one copy to the Lord Chancellor and another to the London clerk, who was to file and preserve for the inspection of the commissioners. As pointed out in the 1844 Report, however, the Act did not specify the individual with legal responsibility for making the return.

County Asylums: The 1828 County Asylums Act (see above) remained in force, but its yearly returns were required to the London clerk appointed under the (now repealed) 1828 Madhouses Act. (See (3.12.3)

County Visitors and Deputy Clerks: The names of all County visitors (section 11) and any deputy clerk (section 13) (See ...) were to be notified by County clerks to within 21 days of the appointments. The London clerk was to register Visitors in a book kept for the purpose. County clerks were liable for a £5 fine if they failed to send such a notice.

(*) From 1842 (respecting county houses) and 1845 (all hospitals and houses) the proprietor or resident superintendent of a house or hospital was responsible for sending a copy of minutes made in the books of his house or hospital to the commission within three days of entry, subject to a financial penalty for neglect (1842 Inquiry Act, s.26, 1845 Lunacy Act, s.67).


1828 Madhouse Act section 34 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 43:

Application for a search of the registers was to be made to any one commissioner or - 1828: any JP of a county in which any house was situated - 1832: any Visitor. If he considered it reasonable he was to give a written order to the clerk, who, if he found the person enquired after was or had been (1832: within the last twelve months) confined in any of the "said houses", was required to give the enquirer, in writing, the situation of the house, name of the keeper (1832: proprietor or resident superintendent) and (1832: "if required") a copy of the order and certificate/s; upon payment of 7/- as his fee.

Which Registers?

Section 34 of the 1828 Act and section 43 of the 1832 Act referred throughout to persons confined in the said houses, with no reference to county asylums or hospitals. Section 43 of the 1832 Act said enquiry should be made to a commissioner or visitor "within their respective jurisdictions... to be informed whether any particular person is confined therein" (my emphasis).

County clerks only had registers of local licensed houses (see ...), but the London clerk was to complete alphabetical lists of patients in county houses and county asylums and receive a yearly return from hospitals (see ...).

It is difficult to see why theses provisions (alphabetical listing especially) were made if registers etc could not all be consulted under the search provisions. Nevertheless (literally interpreted) section 34 of the 1828 Act and section 43 of the 1832 Act applied only to licensed houses and section 43 of the 1832 Act only to those in the London area.

The 1842 Inquiry Act, section 24, remedied the latter anomaly by providing for searches of London records respecting county house patients and the 1845 Lunacy Act, section 84, referred to enquiries whether a person was confined in "any licensed house, hospital, asylum or other place by this Act made subject to visitation of the commissioners".


1832 Madhouse Act section 44:

In June every year the Metropolitan Commission was to make a report to the Lord Chancellor on

"the state and condition of the several houses licensed by them ... the care of the patients ... and such other particulars as they shall think deserving of notice"

Whilst the 1828 Madhouse Act required yearly returns (called annual reports) to the Home Secretary, extracts on chancery lunatics to the Lord Chancellor, and the London Clerk's accounts to be sent to the Treasury, an Annual Report in the usual sense was not required. until 1832

Reports Printed 1828 to 1844

1829 Report

Nevertheless, the commissioners reported to the Home Secretary in July 1829 saying "the important nature of the duties" imposed by the Act had induced them to report after eleven months in office on "the general state of the houses under our inspection" and give "briefly an outline of our proceedings". This 5 page Report was printed in June 1830

1836 to 1841 Reports

No other Reports were printed until October 1841 when, on Ashley's motion, those for 1836 to 1841 were printed together. I assume reports were made in 1833, 1834 and 1835, but never printed.

1844 Report

The next, and last, printed Report of the Metropolitan Commission was its two hundred and ninety one page 1844 Report, containing the results of the national inquiry.


1828 Madhouse Act section + 35 1832 Madhouse Act section 33:

Houses "containing" one hundred patients or more were to have a resident physician, surgeon or apothecary.

[See Droitwich, Laverstock, Brislington, Hoxton House, Holly House, Bethnal Green, Peckham, Grove Hall]

Houses with less than 100 patients (unless kept by a doctor) were to have a doctor visit once or twice a week. (*) (1828 only): The doctor was to "report to the keeper the condition of the house and state of health of the patients".

Above sections plus 1828 Madhouse Act schedule (B) and 1832 Madhouse Act schedule (I):

Medical Journal The doctor was to keep a weekly register of the number of patients of each sex who were curable and incurable, and the number under restraint, with general remarks on the state of health of patients and condition of the house. In case of restraint he was to certify (1828): the necessity, (1832): his approbation or disapprobation.

1845: Medical Visitation Book or Medical Journal

1828 (only) section 34: When a house was licensed for less than eleven patients, the Commissioners or Visitors could reduce the required medical visits to at least one a month.

(*) From 1845, houses with between fifty and one hundred patients were to be visited daily (1845 Lunacy Act section 7) and the medical journal was required to be considerably more detailed.

The 1845 Lunacy Act, section 60, required a book called "The Case Book" (margin "Medical Case Book") to be kept by licensed houses and hospitals, in which "the physician, surgeon, or apothecary keeping or residing in or viewing such house or hospital shall from time to time make entries of the mental state and bodily condition of each patient, together with a correct description of the medicine and other remedies prescribed for the treatment of his disorder; and that it shall be lawful for the Commissioners from time to time... to direct the form in which such case book shall be kept"


1828 Madhouse Act section 36

The person who sent a patient to a house was required to visit at least every six months, or appoint someone else to do so. The visitor was to enter his name and the date of the visit in the Visitors Book (the same as that in which official visitors entered minutes). This provision was omitted in 1832 and never re-introduced.


None of these provisions applied to Bethlem, the Military and Naval Hospitals - (See exemption clauses)

1828 Madhouse Act section + 39 1832 Madhouse Act section 49: The Lord Chancellor (1828: Lord Chief Justice of King's Bench) or Home Secretary could employ a commissioners, doctor, or any other person, to inspect any lunatic asylum (*), public hospital or other house or place - 1828: "for the confinement of insane persons" - 1832 "wherein any insane person, or person represented to be insane shall be confined" - and report to him the result. Such inspectors were to be paid a sum determined by the (1832: Lord Chancellor or) Home Secretary, and paid from the Contingency Fund of the Home Office (1828: or "county rate, as the case may be").

(*) But not County Asylums (See exemption clauses). However, the 1828 County Asylums Act section 57 empowered the Home Secretary to employ any "medical or other person" to inspect a County Asylum and report to him. Such inspectors were to be paid a sum determined by the Home Secretary "from the same funds as the other expenses attending the...Asylum so visited"

1828 Madhouse Act section 42 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 48: The Lord Chancellor or, except with respect to Chancery Lunatics, the Home Secretary (1832: only with respect to Criminal Lunatics **) could direct a visit to be made to any insane person confined in the care of a relative, 1828: friend, 1832: guardian, or (1828: in the exclusive care and maintenance of) any other person they thought fit to be appointed, to make a report on such matters as they were directed to in the order.

(**) "any person confined as a State Lunatic, or under the Order of any Criminal Court of Justice"

mental health
timeline Citation: see referencing suggestion

Click for:


annual report

appointment of commissioners



central records



chancery lunatics

Commissioners' meetings

Commissioner's oath

Composition of Commission

county asylums

County Clerks

County Visitors

criminal lunatics


doctors required for licensed houses


erasure from register

evidence on oath

exemption clauses



general provisions

geographical operation


Justice of the Peace (JP)

licensed houses


local register

London Clerk

London Commission

mad houses





pauper lunatics

plans of houses


prohibition of interest


provincial counties

Quarter Sessions

release of patients

relatives etc to visit

religion and chaplain


single lunatics

single lunatics

special visits


Timeline 1828 Report.

Timeline 1832.

Treasurer Clerk


visiting minutes


workhouse asylums


1828 Madhouse Act section 40 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 46:


No person (*) was to receive into exclusive care and maintenance any one insane (1828: or alleged insane) person without first having the order and certificates required on the admission of a non-pauper to a licensed house. (See above)

(*) Except a (1832: guardian or) relative (1832: who did not derive any profit from the charge) or the committee of a Chancery Lunatic.

Certificates for the reception of a single lunatic were also required under the 1845 Lunacy Act section 90 and the 1890 Lunacy Act section 4

1828 Madhouse Act section 40 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 47: THE PRIVATE RETURN

Within 5 days (1832: 12 calendar months) the person receiving the patient was to send to the London clerk; sealed and endorsed "Private Return"; a copy of the admission document/s and notice of the parish, county and occupier of the house (1832: unless the patient had by then returned to his/her "own or usual place of abode"). He was also to send an annual certificate, in the first seven days of every year (1832: in subsequent Januarys) signed by two medical practitioners, describing the "then actual state (1832: of mind)" of the patients (1828: and to notify the clerk of a patient's removal or death.

The Private Returns and Private Register were only open to inspection by the Home Secretary, Lord Chancellor or a person authorised to inspect them by order of one or other of them.


1828 Madhouse Act section 40:

The clerk was to compile a separate register of patients notified by private return with their names and where they were confined.

1832 Madhouse Act section 51: "After the passing of this Act the clerk ... shall forthwith deliver up any register of private patients (*) which may be in his possession to the Lord Chancellor ... in order that the same may be cancelled"

(*) Private patients was not a term used for non-pauper patients in the Act so it can only refer to patients of whom a private return was made.

The Private Register was reinstated by the 1845 Lunacy Act


1828 Madhouse Act section 40:

Admitting a single lunatic without the required documents was "under pain of being deemed guilty of a misdemeanour (see 3S.6), but failing to notify the clerk was not. (I do not know if any legal action could have been based on the clear provision of an Act requiring an action, without it prescribing a penalty for neglect).

Any legal action would have to be taken by the clerk on the order of the Commissioners under the general enforcement] provisions. This appears rather peculiar as commissioners could not see could not see the Private Return or Private Register.

1832 Madhouse Act section 47:

Omission to notify (as well as admitting a patient without the required documents) was also to be deemed a misdemeanour. The clerk, with the sanction in writing of the Home Secretary, was

"required to enforce the due execution of this provision"

and was to be paid for such proceedings by the Home Office.


1828 Madhouse Act section 41:

The Home Secretary could, if he saw fit, direct the name of a patient who had died or been discharged cured to be

"wholly erased from the said register" [that is, The Private Register]

1832 Madhouse Act section 50:

In all cases in which any patient died or was discharged cured, the order, medical certificate and notices required under the 1828 or 1832 Act could (*) be delivered to the Lord Chancellor to be cancelled,

"and the name of such person to be wholly erased from the register thereof, within one year after the period of such death or discharge"

(*) The text said "may", although the margin note said "to be".


1828 Madhouse Act section 49 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 59:

Legal actions under or by virtue of the Act were only to be taken by the order of a (1828: Quarterly) meeting of the commissioners or General Quarter Sessions within their respective jurisdictions 1832: "or as is otherwise directed by this Act" (see single lunatics)

1828 section 44, 1832 section 60: The London and county clerks (1828: in counties where any house for the reception of insane persons was situated) were authorised and/or (*) required to (1832: enforce the due execution of the Act and) sue for and recover all penalties and forfeitures granted by the Act, on their own authority, in all cases not requiring the previous order of the commissioners, JPs, Lord Chancellor or Home Secretary (see single lunatics)

(*) authorised and (1828: required) to sue. 1832: required to enforce

1828 section 46, 1832 section 56: Except where otherwise directed [I cannot see what this related to] actions were to be taken before one (1832: two in some cases - [It is not clear to me which]) or more JPs for the place where the offence was committed. 1828 section 47, 1832 section 57: There was a right of appeal to Quarter Sessions.


Most offenses with penalties imposed by the Acts were "deemed misdemeanours", which meant they were crimes not subject to capital punishment nor involving automatic forfeiture of all the convicted offenders property, as felonies did until 1870. Misdemeanours were thus, by definition, offenses subject to fines or imprisonment.

Commissioner Sykes (See 3.9) referred to the offenses "carrying the penalty of misdemeanour".

Minimum and maximum penalties were not, however, otherwise fixed and I assume this was left to the JPs.

The 1828 Madhouse Act section 46 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 56 seem to say JP/s should first attempt recovery of a penalty by distress and sale of the offenders goods, and only if such pecuniary penalty could not be realised, sentence the offender to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months. But Moseley in 1836-1837 was sentenced at Clerkenwell Sessions to twelve months for keeping an unlicensed house. He was, in fact, released by the Home Secretary after only three months, but not because the JPs had exceeded their powers, but because the magnitude of sentence was owing to "some misapprehension of the facts" (1837 Report)

Only two offenses in the 1828 Madhouses Act had a penalty stated in another form: Refusal to attend as a witness or give evidence on oath (see above) and acting as a commissioner whilst interested (see above) were subject to specified fines.

It was a misdemeanour to:


1828 Madhouse Act only:

section 48 provided protection as in the 1774 Madhouse Act section 33

section 49 included:

"No commissioner or Justice shall in any way be liable to any criminal proceedings or civil action for any reason to be given in the execution of this Act"


1828 Madhouse Act section 50 + 1832 Madhouse Act section 62: Nothing in the Act was to apply to Bethlem, the Royal Military or Naval Hospitals or to County Asylums (*)

(*) But note that certificates for and yearly returns from County Asylums were required under the 1828 County Asylums Act, which also empowered the Home Secretary to employ special visitors.

1828 Madhouse Act section 51: Nothing in the Act was to apply to other hospitals: "excepting in as far as it relates to certificates of admission" (*), visitations appointed by the Lord Chancellor, King's Bench, Common Pleas or the Home Secretary, "and the transmission to the clerk of the commissioners annual report" [Yearly Return] "as herein-before directed" (**)

(*) Generously interpreted, this also included sending copies to the commission

(**) Which, generously interpreted, related back to section 26. (See Central Records, Yearly Return and Hospitals

1832 Madhouse Act section 63: Nothing in this Act to apply to other hospitals excepting as far as relates to [note no mention of certificates] visitations appointed by the Lord Chancellor or the Home Secretary and "the transmission in August... every year of a full and complete report, according to the Form Schedule (M)... of every patient confined... or confined... within twelve months preceding, and ending... 31st July, to the Lord Chancellor... and also to the Clerk of the Metropolitan Commissioners, who shall file and preserve the same for the inspection of the said Metropolitan Commissioners". (see 3S.4.8.2)


The costs of the Physician Commission (and some County Visitors before 1828) were met entirely out of Licence fees (see 1774 finances and excess costs), but the 1828 Madhouse Act allowed excess costs of the commission to be met by the Treasury, and those of County Visitors from County Rates

(1) The Commission's Finances

1828 Madhouse Act section 15:

The London clerk was to retain the Licence fees and from them pay and defray all the expenses required to be disbursed in the execution of the Act, on the commissioners' order. He was to keep a true Account of these receipts and payments to May 31st each year, which was to be signed by five or more commissioners and sent to the Treasury which could direct any surplus to be paid into the consolidated fund, or, "if there be any balance due to the said Clerk", direct it be paid out of the consolidated fund.

If these provisions had not been amended before the end of the first financial year, the London Clerk could only have met all the expenses by advancing of £1,200 to the Commission (over the £1,040 received for Licences). As it was, he was only kept in surplus during the year because the fees of the medical commissioners and a shorthand writer, and his own salary, were not paid until the next year (Account 1829).

By the 1829 Madhouses Law Amendment Act (Royal Assent 14.5.1829) section 8, the Treasury could pay the Clerk "from time to time" such sums it deemed fit to defray the expenses, on the application of a commissioners meeting with at least seven commissioners signing the application, and provided it was shown that such a balance was due the Clerk. By section 9, an annual Account of the receipts and expenses (a) of the clerk, under the Acts, to the 1st August, was to be laid before Parliament on or before the (following, I assume) 25th March or, if Parliament was not sitting, within a month of its sitting.

(a) Actual receipts, but "several heads of expenditure". Actual payments as distinct from expenses incurred were indicated by footnotes to the 1829 Account.

1832 Madhouse Act section 20:

The corresponding provisions consolidated those of 1828 and 1829, further providing that the Act laid before Parliament should be signed by five or more commissioners and amending the wording so that the Treasury could make a payment before a balance could actually be shown to be due, and that payments could cover expenses "incidental to" as well as "incurred under" the Act.

(2) County Finances

1828 Madhouse Act section 15 + 1832 Madhouse Act sections 20+21:

The county clerk was to retain the Licence fees and from them pay all expenses (1828: upon the order of the visitors). His Account (1828: to the day before Michaelmas Quarter Sessions, 1832: to August 1st), each year, was to be (1832: approved and) signed by at least two visitors and submitted (182???: by the clerk) to Michaelmas Quarter Sessions. Any surplus was to be paid to the County Treasurer or, if a balance was due, the Treasurer was to pay it to the clerk out of the County Rate on the order of two or more of the JPs (1832: in Quarter Sessions assembled)



Not used in the Acts. I use it when reference is to a medical practitioner or to a "physician, surgeon or apothecary".


Defined in the 1828 MadhouseAct section 52 and the 1832 Madhouse Act section 2 to mean an authorized apothecary under the 1815 Apothecaries Act or the 1825 Apothecaries Amendment Act.


No definition in 1828. By the 1832 Madhouse Act section 2 to mean a Fellow or Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in London.


No definition in 1828. By the 1832 Madhouse Act section 2 to mean any member of the London College of Surgeons.

insane person

By the 1828 Madhouse Act section 2 to mean any lunatic or dangerous idiot. By the 1829 Madhouse Amendment Act section 15 extended to all persons whatsoever who are lunatic, idiot or of unsound mind. (Extended definition continued in the 1832 Madhouse Act section 2)

The Lord Chancellor

Under the 1832 Madhouse Act section 3 appointment of commissioners was to be by:-

"The Lord Chancellor or the Lord Keeper or Commissioners of the Great Seal of Great Britain, or other person or persons (*) for the time being intrusted by virtue of the King's Sign Manual with care and commitment of the Custody of the Persons and Estates of Persons found idiot, lunatic or of unsound mind."

The many subsequent references to the Lord Chancellor in the 1832 Madhouse Act refer back to this definition by phrases such as "or other the person or persons intrusted aforesaid". The 1842 Inquiry Act (considered as incorporating the 1832 Act. See 4.1) did the same.

The wording of the 1832 definition makes it clear that it was in his capacity as custodian of chancery lunatics that the Lord Chancellor was empowered to appoint commissioners. The crown was custodian of the property of lunatics and there was no necessary relation between having custody of the Great Seal and exercising the crown's prerogative with respect to lunatics. If it had been desired that the Lord Chancellor as such (or his constitutional substitute) should appoint commissioners, only the words "The Lord Chancellor or Lord Keeper or Commissioners of the Great Seal of Great Britain" would have been used, as they were, for example, in the court order provisions of the 1774 Madhouse Act.

The 1845 Lunacy Act section 114 (The Interpretation Clause) defined Lord Chancellor as in the 1832 Madhouse Act (above) except that it said "and other the person or persons"...


The forms were in schedules to the Acts which were referred to in the Act and therefore part of the Acts.

1828 A Annual Report (Yearly Return)
1828 B Medical Journal

1832 A Licence
1832 B order and statement for non- paupers
1832 C non-pauper medical certificate
1832 D order for paupers used by JPs
1832 E order for paupers used by clergyman and overseer
1832 F pauper medical certificate
1832 G admission notice
1832 H removal or death notice notice
1832 I Medical Journal
1832 K permission for reducing medical attendance
1832 M: multi-purpose form:

Form M, 1832 was modelled on Form A, 1828. It was to be used as the local register; a book of entry in hospitals (non paupers) and an annual report from licensed houses, with certain adaptations in each case.

On the form was listed every patient admitted during the preceding year, in the order of admission (with dates), the name of the person who sent the patient, the name of the person who signed the medical certificate, the patient's name, sex, age, marital status, occupation and parish, whether the patient was a chancery lunatic, the date of discharge (and whether cured, relieved or incurable) or death.

The signature of the medical attendant, the date (s?) of his visits and his observations were required, and the signature of the commissioners or visitors, with date (s?) of their visits and their general observations on the condition of patients and the state of the establishment.

© Andrew Roberts 1981-

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"With respect to... insane patients... lodged... in single houses... there were no returns, the commissioners were excluded by the statute from any interference... The only control they had over the single houses was this - that if a patient resided in one more than twelve month, the owner of the house was compelled to communicate under seal the name of that patient to the clerk of the commission. But for the most part no notice whatever was taken of this law, and it was frequently evaded by removing the patient, after a residence of eleven months, to some other lodging." (Ashley, Hansard 23.7.1844 cols 1258-1259)

The 1844 Report (pages 166-167) said about sections 46 and 47 of the 1832 Act: "it is a misdemeanour to receive to board, or lodge, in any house not licensed, any insane person, pauper or otherwise, without having the usual order and certificates required for private patients confined in asylums, and copies of such order and certificates are directed to be transmitted to the Clerk of the Metropolitan Commissioners in Lunacy. The law in this respect appears to be wholly disregarded as respects paupers, and very much evaded as respects private patients. No orders or certificates whatever, authorising the reception of paupers, are ever sent to our clerk, and those relating to private patients are so few in number as to render it manifest that the most culpable negligence exists. The 47th section [of the 1832 Act] does not require the orders and certificates to be sent until within twelve months after a patient has been received. The length of time allowed to send in the orders and certificates has, we incline to think, been one cause of the provisions of the Act being evaded.

We have reason for believing that the proprietors of licensed houses receive private patients in lodgings, without ever making any return of the orders and certificates, which they are required to receive and to transmit to our clerk."