Hoxton House

The first sections are based on an a text I copied from the internet that has now been removed.

From 1695 when it was founded until 1902 when it was closed, Hoxton House was a lunatic asylum - the largest in Hoxton.

In 1885, in a sale, it was described as then having:

"Workrooms, wards, dormitories, attendants dwellings, 3 cottages, a residence, dining room, theatre, landing, lodge etc."


"An area of upwards of two acres."

The present building [34 Hoxton Street] is a later addition to the site, which is obviously much smaller than it once was. It has been built on or adjacent to the site of an ancient disused Jewish cemetery.

From 1902 onwards the buildings changed hands several times. From Mrs. Hannah Jennings, a wardrobe dealer, to Michael Stephen, a tool dealer, to Benjamin Chernovsky, an upholsterer, and then to the London County Council, who used the buildings from at least 1934 for a gradually changing range of functions dependent on the demands of the times. These included using the buildings as an Education Office, as home to their Public Health Dept, a Children's Care Office, a Special School, The Invalid Children's Care Association, the Youth Employment Bureau, as a base for the Inner London Education Authority, and as a Young Person's Advisory Centre.

More recently it has been purchased by Jake and Dinos Chapman, artists whose work has often been the subject of controversy due to its preoccupation with the disturbed, grisly and the horrific, and amongst others has included 'Zygotic Acceleration', 'Great Deeds Against the Dead' and 'F****** Hell'.

No doubt they will easily be able to find fuel for their future work in this building's past.

"The name Hoxton was once synonymous with lunacy...For nearly three hundred years it had achieved an unwanted notoriety from its private madhouses."

In the latter half of the seventeenth century and early part of the eighteenth century, nearly all of London's private lunatics were accommodated in Hoxton. In 1819, of 1551 certified lunatics in private (paupers are not included in this as they weren't registered), Hoxton House held 348, and the two other major asylums in Hoxton (Whitmore House and Bethnal Green House) held much of the remainder.

From 1792 the Admiralty had been sending those sailors and officers who had become lunatics in the Navy to Hoxton House. Increasing public awareness led to demands for enquiry and reform in the treatment of lunatics.

In 1815 reports were presented to a Select Committee of the House of Commons that

"revealed the abominable conditions in the asylum and exposed to the public the harsh treatment of the seamen, some of whom had served under Lord Nelson." (Morris, A.D. 1958))

Accounts of the situation at Hoxton House played a key part in the evidence.

Dr John Weir, Inspector of Naval Hospitals said that conditions were "exceedingly bad" . Dr James Veitch, a Staff Naval Surgeon agreed with him.

"The violent and quiet patients were not kept separate; men were unnecessarily handcuffed and chained to their beds or benches; and six of the beds had two patients in each..." (Morris, A.D. 1958))

Dr James Birch Sharpe describes the means used to secure the dangerous:

"To the men in particular, handcuffs, chains to the leg or both legs, and also a chain from the handcuffs to a chain passing between their legs at their ankles, called bazils...when they are in bed, their arms, one or both, are put through a large ring in their crib, before the handcuffs are put on..."

Twenty patients were accommodated in a room 19ft 5 inches by 14 ft, and were under the care of but one

"...keeper, who was supposed to see their clothes taken off and put on, their skin washed and kept clean, their hair combed, and to shave them."

The exercise grounds were cramped, with no shelter, and a high wall.

"Since there was no sick room, the sick remained with the healthy. Blankets, sheets, bolsters, etc. were all in short supply. No tables were provided for meals and no cutlery"

Dr Weir said that in his inspections he had never met Dr. Sharpe, the Apothecary and Doctor who was charged with their care, and whom might have been expected to meet with him at such a time to discuss patients. He had instead

"observed patients labouring under febrile or dysenteric complaints, lying in their beds without medicines, without attendance..."

Dr. Sharpe for his part reported that he was only expected to attend to the patients 'corporeal ailments' , not their mental difficulties, and that the 'cleanliness, order' and 'management' were things that he was not responsible for.

Dr. Veitch, who had been appointed medical attendant of the naval lunatics when Dr. Sharpe was dismissed, was criticised by the members for his excessive drugging of patients, including his use of mercury and digitalis. He said that

"he had prescribed the mercury for metal derangement with good results, but he agreed that the mouths of the patients suffered badly. Purging, bleeding, cupping, or blistering was carried out, but never to excess, and he explained the rationale of his treatment."

He did though agree that 'occupation or labour' would have been of benefit to the patients, but that it was impossible due to the lack of space.

* * * * * * * *

It transpired that Sir Jonathan Miles, the owner of the establishment, whose family had run it for some years had not been on the premises as much as may have been expected. He had only begun attending it regularly 18 months before the commission was called, and had offered 'presents' to Dr.Weir.

Sir Jonathan was examined by the committee at his own request. He explained the situation: of 484 patients, 135 were naval officers, seamen or prisoners of war. He had a large number of pauper lunatics from nearby parishes for which he was paid 10/6d per week, whilst the government paid him 4d per week for the medical attendance of the naval patients. Private patients could be visited and treated by their own Doctor. Dr Sharpe was only paid to attend to the 'bodily health' of the patients.

"The committee was suprised to learn that none of the patients received treatment for their medical disorders...and Sir Jonathan said he certainly could not provide such treatment for the naval patients out of the sum of half a guinea a week"

He never refused a patient

"in spite of the grossly overcrowded state of the house...

and 'recently' he had not needed to put two patients in one bed, naval and pauper patients had been separated, and the 'violent from the quiet'.

When it came to deaths the patients were dealt with in a similarly perfunctory manner.

The normal procedure after a death was that the Parish Clerk was notified. The Parish Searchers were then sent to view the body and report back the cause of death. These searchers were often aged female paupers, who gave their own opinions

"...merely after questioning the relatives or friends in most cases"

They were paid little for their services (four pence), and thus it was easy to pay them a little more, and ensure that their enquiries weren't too searching.

"They were incompetent, untrustworthy, often illiterate, and no reliance could be placed on their reports"

It was reported that the Coroner was not always called in the cases of sudden deaths, except for usually (but not always) in the case of suicide, and that often relatives and friends of the dead never found out the circumstances of the death. Accidental deaths, such as that of Mrs. Hodges in Bethnal Green, who died of suffocation whilst being forcibly led were often overlooked. Juries when they were summoned for Inquests to establish the causes of such sudden deaths were taken from local tradespeople, often from officers of the madhouse itself.


Jovis, 8" die Junii, 1815. The Right Honourable GEORGE ROSE in the Chair.
Sir Jonathan Miles called in at his own request, and Examined.

Where do you reside ?-At Hoxton-house, Hoxton. How long have you kept that house ?-Myself and my family, above a hundred years; myself, personally, twenty-five years; I was born in the house, and have been there ever since.

Have you been personally engaged in the management of the house for twenty-five years ?-Yes, I have; I have two managers under me ; I have not been always upon the spot, but mostly.

Have you any partner ? -None.

How long have the rooms been aired and ventilated in the manner they are at present ?-I suppose about eighteen months in the way in which they are now. Have you ever taken the judgment of other persons, as to the competency of the mode in which they are aired and ventilated ? -No further than that of my own medical man; it is a plan of my own.

By whom is that medical man engaged and paid ?-By myself

To whom is he answerable ?-To me.

Do you allow him a satisfactory sum for his attendance? -Yes - I never heard him complain yet of what I allowed him. '

Is he liable to be discharged at any time at your pleasure ? - Yes. What is the sum you allow ?-I do not recollect the precise sum, but it is nearly £150 a year.

Have Patients insensible to the calls of nature ever been placed in the same beds or cradles with clean Patients in your house ?- No.


Has not it happened that a Patient insensible to the calls of nature has used the same bed with a man who was cleanly m bis person? - No.

And they never mixed, either in the sitting or the sleeping rooms ?
- No, they are not, they are divided; the cleanly by themselves, and the dirty in other apartments.

Uniformly without exception ?-Yes, uniformly without exception.

Have you any person of the name of Evans in your house ?-

Yes, Captain Evans.

In what state of health is that gentleman ?-He is in a very good State of health at present, but he is troubled with fits; there is no likelihoods of his dying at present that I can see ; he eats his food very heartily, and is as well as can be expected of a man in his situation.

Has his situation been such as to require medical attendance ?- It has.

Has that medical attendance been given him? - It has; Mr Sharp has attended him.

Has Mr Sharp any directions from you to give any particular attention to the Patients on account of their insanity, or merely when their bodily health seems to require it? - Merely when their bodily health requires it, nothing further.

Is any medical attention particularly directed in your Establishment to the cure of the insanity ? - None; our house is open to all medical gentlemen who choose to visit it.

That is at the expense of the Patient ?-It is.

Do you mean to say, that if any medical person visits your house with the intention of seeing the state in which the patients are generally, he would be admitted ?-No; what I mean by its being open to any medical gentleman is, that if they send a Patient, they will visit their own Patients.

Then unless the friends of a Patient send a medical attendant, he will not receive, during any length of time which he shall be confined in your house, any course of medicine or attention whatever, merely with reference to the cure of his insanity ? - Certainly not.

What proportion of the persons confined in your house, receive visits from medical persons sent by their friends ? - That I am not able to answer.

Can you form any opinion what proportion receive those visits? -I cannot.

Do any of them ?-Certainly.

Whereabouts is the number of Patients under confinement with you? - 484.

How many of those are, properly speaking, Government Patients?- 13O seamen and marines, and 18 officers.

Are not the Government Patients under the more immediate care and attention of Doctor Weir? - Doctor Weir never prescribed any thing for them, he only inspects into their clothing and victualling; he has never prescribed for one to my knowledge.

You do not consider yourself as at all responsible for the medical treatment of the Government Patients? - Yes, I am, because Mr. Sharp is appointed by me to attend them.

Do the Government Patients receive any medical treatment for the cure of their insanity ? - I cannot say that they do exactly, because they are Patients who have been sent to Bethlem, and returned back after the first twelvemonth.

Then of the 336 in your house who are not Government Patients, inform the Committee how many, to the best of your knowledge and belief, receive any medical attendance whatever, with a view to the cure of their insanity ?-Not any that I know of, only by their own Doctor.

How many are visited by their own medical men ?-That I cannot tell, without reference to my Books.

Do you suppose there are twenty ?-Yes, from twenty to thirty probably.

It is your opinion then, that there are above 300 persons in your house, who receive no attention whatever, on account of the peculiar complaint for which they are confined ? - Certainly, they have nothing prescribed for the cure, no doubt of that, their pay will not allow it.

What attention is paid, in your house, to the clothing of the patients? - They are clothed when they want it; we generally write an order to the Board for what clothes we want for the Government Patients, and the order is sent down, and the clothes are procured, and Dr Weir inspects to see that they have them. With respect to the pauper Patients, we apply to the different parishes, or to their friends, who send them clothes when they want them, which are regularly put on.

If, then, the Government Patients are not properly supplied with clothing, you consider that as the fault of their superintendent, and not yours? - Clearly so.

Supposing, that is to say, that you had made the application to the Transport Board ? - Yes; we never let any man go without clothing, and the Board always sends an order down, on our writing for them.

You think they are sufficiently clothed? - Yes. In the year 1808 the Patients were very badly clothed, and went about the yard stark naked, with only a bit of a blanket on them. I could [p.229] not get Dr. Weir to interfere, and I reported it to the visitors of the College of Physicians, and a letter was written to the Transport Board, and since that time they have been properly clothed, on my representation.

For what Parishes do you keep the insane paupers ? - St. James's is one, St. Margaret's, Westminster, and a great many other Parishes.

Are any of those Parishes in the habit of sending their medical men? - Certainly they are, whenever it is wanted.

Not periodically? - No.

On your sending? - No, without our sending they come two or three times a year, or more or less.

They have always free admission? - Certainly. Can you take upon you to say, that all the Parishes send their medical men? - I believe so.

At what rate do you keep the parish paupers ? - 10s. 6d. a week. The Government patients I receive 10s. 6d. a week for, and find medical attendance.

Do they all sleep single ? - Yes, all but six cribs that are double.

Have you not a bed or beds containing more than two each ?- I believe there are two cribs containing three each, but I am going to remove them.

Are there not four? - I cannot say indeed.

Are you doubtful whether in your own house there are one, two, three, or four cribs, in each of which three persons sleep ? - I am not exactly clear how many there are of those, I must say.

How often do you personally visit the apartments of the patients ? - Every day.

Every bed-room? - No, not every bed-room; I go through the house every day where they sit, and see them. I have two superintendents, to whom I pay very large salaries. I go through the house every day to see the provisions which are furnished to the patients.

How often do you see all the bed-rooms ? - About twice a week.

But you cannot speak to the number of treble cribs you have in those rooms? - No, I cannot precisely ; I believe there are six double cribs and two treble cribs; those double cribs were approved of by Doctor Harness.

Is each of the two containing three, wide enough to allow the persons using them lying in parallel lines? - Yes; those double ends are safer than bedsteads for the patients.

Do any two Patients sleep in the same bed without a separation? [p.230] - No, they do not, there is a board between each nearly four feet high, that applies likewise to the cribs for three.

When you say that you visited the bed-rooms twice a-week, do you mean that you visited them at stated times, or as may happen? - As it may happen.

Do you give previous notice of your visit ? - No, I do not.

When the Commissioners visit your house, do they inspect into the diet and provisions of the Patients ? - Yes, they do.

Have they ever stated to you any complaints upon that subject? - Not any, they have always approved of it.

Do they visit the bed-rooms ?-They go through the house and see every place.

Have they made any complaints upon that subject? - Not any.

Do you mean to say that the house has been at all times, during the last ten or twelve years, in a state as little subject to complaint as it is at present? -- It certainly is better than it was, since the improvement; it is larger, but I never had any complaint.

Had you ever, in point of fact, any complaint of your house being too crowded? - No, I had not.

Do you ever refuse Patients when sent to you? - Never.

Do you mean, you have always spare beds? - We have always some, not above three or four perhaps; but we always have a great number going out and in.

You mean to assert, that the house has never been so full as to compel you to put two persons in one bed? - I cannot say that; we have in former times, not just now; we have not for the last two or three years, because we have had more room.

Are the violent and the quiet patients separated in your house? -They are.

How long has that been the case? - For the last eighteen months, I should think.'

Do you mean to speak particularly to the period of eighteen months? - Near about that time, I should think.'

What was the case before that time? - The violent Patients' used to sit amongst the others,

To what part of the establishment do you speak? - I speak of the whole.

Was there at that time any separation in the house, of the three classes, the Government Patients, Pauper Patients, and those whom yon call Pay Patients, who were sent by their friends, and for whom a greater allowance is made? - Certainly.

How long has the separation been made between the Government and the Pauper Patients? - I cannot tell how long it has been, perhaps two or three years.

I think it must be more than three years.


On what account, or for what reason, were they then separated? - By desire of Doctor Weir.

Then before this separation, which took place at the request of Dr Weir, the Paupers and the Government Patients were thrown together indiscriminately? - The yards opened into each other, and they walked one amongst the other.

Did they sleep separately before? - Yes, they always had the same gallery they have now.

At that time there was no separation of the violent from the quiet Patients? - No, at that time there was not, but there is now.

What was the reason of the separation of the violent Patients which you mentioned to have taken place about eighteen months ago? - It was a plan of my own; I thought it better to divide them, to keep them separate from the others.

What is the separation of which you speak? - By placing them in a room by themselves.

In a bed-room or sitting-room? - Both in the bed-rooms and sitting-rooms.

Is it the practice of the house to permit all the Patients who are at liberty to mix together? - According to their classes ; those that are not violent walk about with the others.

Do you mean that all those Patients whom you class as violent Patients are prevented from walking about with the others, and confined in a separate room during the day ? - Certainly, they are kept in a separate room, and walk out when the others go in.

In what manner do you confine or restrain violent Patients? - In waistcoats or handcuffs, according to the state they are in; handcuffs are safest of the two.

Have you any persons chained to their beds, or to the sides of the rooms? - No, not one; we have not a thing of the sort.

Have you ever, in the course of your practice, met with men in the most outrageous degrees of insanity, and such as you apprehended would if at liberty have been guilty of violence, or even murder, upon the keeper or others? - Several.

Was the degree of confinement of which you have been speaking, sufficient for those persons? - Generally so; there have been men who have been more heavily ironed than others, but those were persons sent from Newgate, who have been tried for murder, but the Jury had brought it in insanity, and the irons have been put on by order of the Lord Mayor; they stay with us till they either get better or die; one has been sent back quite well, and another is with me, who is getting better.

Do not you think a strait-waistcoat a more irritating instrument of restraint than manacles? - I am sure it is.

Do not you conceive that a belt from behind the Patient's [p.232] shoulders, confining the upper joints of the arms, would be preferable to manacles, as giving the Patient the use of his hands in all the calls of nature? - No, I do not; because if a Patient is bad, it must injure his arms, he would always be working; with a half waistcoat I think it might be done; I will make the experiment certainly.

Have you ever opposed the discharge of Patients from your house, when it has been proposed by any medical attendant? - Never.

Do you know whether the persons you have employed as superintendents have so done? - No, never; I am sure they have not in any instance.

Do you know of any patients who have been discharged without your approbation, when you have thought them unfit? - Certainly; eight men were discharged one day, and nine another, by order of Doctor Weir, in the year 1803, who in my opinion were not cured.

Have you had any and what reason to suppose that those men were not in a state fit to be discharged? - By examining them.

After their discharge, did any circumstances come to your knowledge which confirmed you in the opinion that they were unfit to have been sent out? - I never heard any thing more of them after they left my house.

At Christmas, Easter, and Michaelmas, is there any change in the diet of the Patients?-The poor people on Easter Sunday have all roast veal; on Michaelmas Day they have geese and giblet pies, in the higher class; and on Christmas Day they have roast beef and plumb pudding, and a pint of ale each man ; that has been a standing rule a long while ; and sometimes a glass of negus.

Did you ever consult your medical attendant, whether that was proper ?-No; I was certain myself that it could not do them any mischief, so small a quantity.

Martis, 30 die Maii, 1815.
The Right Honourable GEORGE ROSE in the Chair.
Mr James Birch Sharpe called in, and Examined.

You are a Member of the College of Surgeons, residing at Hoxton? - Yes.

Do you practice as Surgeon and Apothecary ?-I do.

How long have you attended the house of Sir Jonathan Miles at Hoxton ?-Five years, up to the first of last March.

In what capacity?-As Surgeon and Apothecary; generally styled Surgeon.

What is your age? - I am twenty-six.

What have you conceived to be your duty ?-To attend to all lunatics within that place, who may be indisposed at any time; any who may be in a bad state of health.

Has the duty required of you by Sir Jonathan Miles, or the keeper of the house, been to attend solely to their corporeal ailments, or to pay any attention to their mental disorders ?-I never understood I was to pay any attention to their mental disorders; merely to their corporeal complaints.

Do you apprehend that any good effect might have arisen from attention to their mental ailment? - Undoubtedly so.

But no such attention has been expected from you? - Certainly not.

What have been the hours of your attendance? - Till within a month or two, or perhaps three months, I was required to attend daily, by eleven in the morning, but now I am required to attend daily, by ten o'clock.

Did you frequently meet Doctor Weir? - No; I have frequently seen him, but never could get a meeting but twice, and that was by application.

What was the reason that you were not to be seen when Doctor Weir attended the house? - Because Doctor Weir came always at one o'clock, or thereabouts, consequently I was never there at that time, unless by accident, which did once occur.

Were you always ready to attend him? - I have always expressed a desire, if he should wish it at any time; and I may state that it has been put to him, whether he would wish to see me, but he has uniformly refused.

Did you ever meet the Medical Commissioners when they visited the house? - I have seen them there, but never expressly met them; I never was required to meet them, and when I have seen them, they never put to me any questions concerning the [p.206] state of the patients, or their medical treatment in any particular, which to me was matter of surprise.

Did you conceive it your business to attend to the cleanliness, order, or management of the patients in any way? - It never was required of me till very lately, by Sir Jonathan Miles; but if I saw any thing that I thought in the least improper, I made a point of mentioning it; I always took that upon myself.

What time do you mean, by very lately? - Six months or more. To whom did you mention it? - To the managers, Mr John Watts, and Mr Griffiths, and lately, to Sir Jonathan Miles.

Were those representations attended to? - Always.

How many patients were there generally upon the whole establishment? - I never could accurately tell; I have conceived them to be 6OO; I have always rated them, I believe, at more than they have absolutely been ; I have frequently thought there must have been 600 in that house.

Have you ever had among those, any number of patients in a state of most violent and outrageous insanity? - A great many.

Persons who were considered to be dangerous to their keepers? - Certainly; there are many at this time under such circumstances.

What mode of confinement is adopted to secure such persons from doing mischief? - Different modes.

State them? - To the men in particular, handcuffs and chains to the leg, and to both legs, and also a chain from the handcuffs', to a chain passing between their legs, at their ankles, called bazils: that is the course when they are up; also when they are in bed, their arms, one or both, are put through a large ring in their crib, before the handcuffs are put on; and I have seen in some instances, where the man was very strong, and very violent, also a chain, from the chain of the bazil to the foot of the crib.

How long a time was it usual for such patients, to he confined in the manner you have represented? - Generally on their going to bed, which, I believe, is about seven or eight o'clock, or may be a little earlier; the most violent, I believe, are put to bed first; they are kept in that state till they get up in the morning, which is six or seven o'clock.

Did you ever know the most violent patient, and from whom the greatest mischief was to be apprehended, chained down in his bed for any length of time together ?-At no other times, except when either it was necessary for me to attend them under particular circumstances, or at their sleeping hours.

Under such circumstances of necessary surgical attendance, what was the longest time that you can recollect such patient ever to have been so confined? - I believe there was a condemned' lunatic, as they term it, a man sent from Newgate who had murdered [p.207] his wife; he had an inflammation, and a formation of matter on one arm; he was determined to destroy himself; it was almost impossible so to confine him as to keep the poultice on his arm, and the necessary application; and I think he was under such confinement as I have described, for three, four or five weeks; sometimes the restraint was greater; and if he seemed the least better, he was immediately relieved to a certain extent; that was a very particular case, and it was a matter of great difficulty to do the man any service.

When the confinement, was no longer required, on account of the medical treatment of his arm, was the man continued in it for the safety of the keepers, or other persons about the house?
-No ; he was so weak after this illness, that when he got out of the illness, no chain or fastening was put upon his hands, and the man seemed much more composed, and more rational.

Then you have never known, in any other case than that, a patient chained down to his bed for more than one or two days?
-I have never known a man chained to his bed during the day, unless there was a necessity for my attending him for some particular purpose; I have only known them so confined when they were sent to their bed, at night.

Do you recollect a patient of the name of Captain Evans ?- Yes, I know him perfectly well.

Do you know in what apartment he is confined?-Yes, on Mr Griffiths's side.

Do you know how long he has been in that room? - No ; but some months.

Was the apartment in which he was confined, before his removal into that room, as good and convenient for his situation ?
-The first time I saw him was in that room ; I believe he was not in that house, till he was placed in that room.

Do you interfere at all with the diet of the patients? - If I see it necessary.

Do you know whether wine or beer, or other fermented liquors are allowed as part of it? - When I order it, it is always given.

Does it form any part of their diet? - Beer does, in their regular diet; that I believe is small beer.

Do you know whether wine is allowed to them as matter of indulgence? - No, I cannot say that it is to my knowledge.

How long has Sir Jonathan Miles himself, been personally engaged in the superintendence of the house? - I cannot say exactly; I have seen him very busily employed about the house of late, that is, I think, the latter end of last year, and the whole of this, but not before. I cannot say as to what share he may take in the management of it.

Do you think that any alteration to the advantage of the patients [p.208], has taken place since his personal attendance? - No, I do not know of any.

What is your opinion generally as to the propriety of the treatment of the patients, during the five years you have been accustomed to attend, as to diet, cleanliness, exercise, coercion, and moral treatment? - As far as diet, cleanliness, and exercise may go, I can find no fault whatever; I think it has been correct and fair; but with respect to coercion and moral treatment, I can say nothing upon that point, because I have not seen any thing at all done with an intent to cure the insane person; with respect to coercion, it has generally been from motives of safety and personal prudence.

Is not that treatment more directed to the safe confinement than to the recovery of the patient? - Undoubtedly.

The species of coercion which you have already described, you conceive to have been perfectly sufficient to provide for the safety of the keeper and the other patients, even against the most violent attempts of the most outrageous maniacs? - Yes, though notwithstanding I have seen men break through a great deal of restraint; their handcuffs have been frequently broken, and their chains have been snapped; and they have even got their hands out of the handcuffs.

What is the general rule of the house, with respect to using force, or striking any of the persons confined? - Striking a patient they consider as an undue force, and therefore if any keeper should strike a patient, he is instantly discharged; I believe I have known two instances during my attendance there, in which a keeper struck a patient in each instance but once, and he was discharged either that night or the next morning.

Are you of opinion, that your inspection of the house was such, as that if any person had been so ill treated by the keepers, it must have come to your knowledge? - Certainly; as far as I have been able to see.

Have you never observed upon any of the patients, such marks as induced you to suppose they might have been beaten? - Yes, I have frequently seen bruises, and I have then enquired into it; but I have found such bruises to have arisen from falls, or from injury that they have done to themselves in struggling against the restraint.

You mean that on examination, your own mind has been convinced, that the bruises have resulted from such causes, and not from the ill treatment of the keepers? - Yes.

Do you recollect a patient of the name of Wilson ?-I do.

Do you recollect any circumstance respecting that gentleman, which induces you to suppose he had been ill treated in the way alluded to? - No; he had, I perfectly well remember, a cut over [p.209] one of his eyes, which I was desired to attend to; I cannot say whether I was not sent for in consequence of the circumstance; if my memory serves me, it was in consequence of a fall in the garden; I remember the circumstance perfectly well; I have an idea there was also a cut in his lip.

In the course of your attendance, have you had much opportunity for observation on the conduct of the keepers? - Yes, I have.

What is your opinion of them? - I consider that they have not acted improperly, but I believe it has only been owing to a fear of being turned away; they are of a class of beings not likely to act from very fine feelings; in a general point of view, I think their conduct has been fair.

From your observation on the superintendents, do you think that they would themselves be guilty of any violence towards any of the patients, or that they would permit it to be used by any of the subordinate keepers? - Certainly not; the very contrary, so far as I have seen.

Do you consider yourself as having the care of the naval lunatics? - Not entirely.

Of course, any that are ill in the intervals between the visits of Dr. Weir, come within your care? - Certainly; in fact I never understood that Dr. Weir had authority to order, or to attend, in case of bodily disease.

Do you remember the case of a person who is ill of a consumption, who has lately been removed out of the situation in which he had been kept, into a better apartment? - I understand that Dr. Weir made a report respecting a man of the name of Blake; he was removed out of what is called the straw room, to a room where several others sleep.

What was the state of the patient when he was confined in that room ?-He was ill at that time, and he was in a weak state ; he had fever, but he had not pulmonary consumption.

Do you think that the situation in which he was then placed, was one that was suited to his state of health? - I did; in fact he was there, I believe, if not exactly by my orders, at least by my consent; for I saw him every day in that room.

What was the state of the room; was not the room tainted with the smell of urine, and the floor stained red with it? - It is stained with urine, and it has a smell at the first part; but I believe towards the close of the day, that very much goes off; but from what I have seen, it is impossible to get it out of the boards, though I know the room is washed every morning, because I have been exceedingly particular about this room,

Do not you think a mode might be contrived, by which the urine might be carried off from under the bed, without tainting [p.210] the floor? - To some of the cribs they have a drawer lined with lead.

Does that answer the purpose? - I cannot say accurately, because it is in a room where there are others not so furnished, consequently I cannot judge of the effect of it.

Do you believe that a construction of that kind would answer the effect of carrying off the urine? - To a certain extent, but not if the floor of the crib was made of wood; it might be managed, tut not easily, I think.

That person has now a better apartment? - He is now dead; he died on Sunday morning.

He was removed into a better apartment? - He was removed certainly into a more comfortable apartment; but at the time he was lying in that lower apartment, he had had a diarrhoea upon him; and in fact he has been offensive the greater part of the time that he has been in that better room, insomuch that if he had lived long, I should have removed him into a room by himself.

Do not you think that an establishment in the nature of an infirmary, is necessary for persons whose bodily health is affected ?

The room in which Blake was, was adapted to that purpose; there was a fire-place made in it: but there were never enough to occupy it as such-; and in most cases a separate room is required.

What was your reason for not considering him in such a state as that it was fit for him to be removed from the place where he was first found by Doctor Weir? - Because he was a dirty patient, exceedingly so.

Is it the practice there, if patients are dirty, to keep them in such a place as that in which this patient was confined? - To sleep them in such a room.

So that if a person is unable to move out of his bed, he may lie in such a place as that in which Doctor Weir found this man, Blake, for days, or weeks, or months: - If the disease continues upon him.

Any disease that confines him to his bed? - No, certainly not; if he is really in the ordinary way a dirty patient, by having a stool a day, he would not remain in such a room, because I have such patients removed generally into a little room by themselves, as there are a number of such rooms in the gallery.

Is it a practice in the house, for persons who are insensible to the calls of nature to be placed in the same day-room with those who are not in that situation? - No, they are removed into a room where there are others in such situation, if there should be any others; if not, they remain in a room by themselves.

Are not all the rooms of the lunatic seamen open, so that the [p.211] whole of the patients can go backwards and forwards into such room as they think fit? - No, certainly not; because those patients who are dirty, are generally kept in a room by themselves ; among the seamen, where there are those who cannot answer to the calls of nature, they are generally placed in a part of a large room. I have answered the question particularly as to the officers, with respect to the seamen, it is not strictly attended to.

Will you take upon yourself to assert distinctly, that in no instance an officer in that lamentable situation, insensible to the calls of nature, has been placed in a room where other officers were, not so insensible to the calls of nature? - To the best of my knowledge they never have, during my attendance.

If you found them in that situation, you would have mentioned it? - I should have instantly ordered a removal.

Have you ever known an instance of a clean patient being put into a room with a number of dirty ones? - No.

Do you know whether all the patients have single beds? - No, I cannot answer to that.

Do you know the reverse? - I do not.

Do you not know the reverse in the case of pauper patients? - No, I have never seen two in one bed.

Neither male nor female? - Never; I was never but once in a part where the female patients sleep of a night; I was then called to an accident, and I cannot say that I saw two in any bed.

In the room in which Blake was confined, how many patients slept? - I do not know how many; there were several.

Were there not eight? - Very likely more than eight.

How many beds were there? - That I cannot say.

Do you think there are more than four? - I think there are more than eight; there are three wooden cribs and some beds on castors.

Will you take upon yourself to say that those eight persons do not sleep in four beds in that very room? - In that very room I may certainly say so.

Do you know that at this moment six persons sleep in double beds in that house? - No, I do not.

Had Mr. Watts any communication with you upon that subject? - Yes, he has mentioned it to me, and I observed to him such a thing would be improper; he also said it was improper, and that he never allowed it himself; but there are rooms where there are but two, and three beds.

Will you take upon yourself to say that Mr. Watts, in expressing to you his observations upon the practice, stated that it had not taken place in his house? - I cannot charge myself as to that fact; I cannot say that he said it had never taken place; but he said that it was exceedingly improper, and he would not allow it. [p.212]

You cannot inform the Committee, at present, whether such a practice existed last night in the house? - I cannot say that such a fact existed last night, or at any time, but I can say that I believe it is not the case.

What was the diet of Blake at the time he was confined in that lower room? - His diet was tea and bread and butter in the morning, or he might have had any thing else he would have taken; he had milk porridge, he had rice milk, he had not at that time porter at first, but he has had porter and broth in addition since.

Can you state that he has had it, or only that you have ordered it? - I have ordered it, and they have consented to it; I have not seen him take it.

The Committee have been informed, that when that man was seen by Doctor Weir, the room was locked, and there was a bowl by him in which there were a certain number of potatoes, and that upon Dr. Weir's asking as to the diet, the man said, he had ate his beef. Do you believe from the state in which he was that he was capable of eating beef, or that potatoes and beef were fit for him? - He certainly had not it by my order, and if he had it, it was very improper.

At the time referred to it is stated that he was very ill? - Then it was very improper indeed.

The patients have now the use of certain gardens as exercising grounds? - Yes.

How long has that been the practice? - The officers have for some little time back had the use of the garden; before, they used to walk in a yard; there is the addition of a large airing ground for the seamen.

Did you see Blake every day? - Yes, when he was ill, I saw him every day; when he got better, I saw him every other day.

What medicines did you principally give him, powders? - No, the diarrhoea was checked by two doses of calomel, which is my invariable remedy; I then ordered him a nutritious diet. Had the disorder continued, I should have sent him a mixture I am in the habit of giving there.

Are you acquainted with the fact, that at certain times of the year wine and ale are given to the patients? - Yes, I do know that fact certainly.

Are you consulted upon it? - No ; I took the liberty of observing once, and that was the last time it was given, I think it was about Christmas, when they gave every patient a drop of ale, that it was very improper.

They did it in the first instance without consulting you? - In every instance; if they had consulted with me, I should have said positively that it was improper.

Do not you believe that the patients, generally speaking, have [p.213] more exercise and air thai they used to have? - They have better air and of course they have more exercise, for the grounds are larger. I believe the same regulations are now acted up to, and the yards are larger. I always lamented that I have not more management over the lunatic seamen, and that it was not in my power to attend to their insanity; it may appear very strange that I have these feelings, and have not taken any notice of it. I did think once of writing to the Transport Board: but conceiving that the consequence might be prejudicial to me, I declined interfering.

Have you any appointment under Government? - No, only under Sir Jonathan Miles.

Have you ever dissected the body of any one who has died at Hoxton? - I have never been permitted to make an anatomical examination of those lunatics who have died there; I have wished to do it, but they have objected to it; that people would consider their house was a house of experiment, and merely to cut up bodies. I think if examinations, in all cases, were to take place, the greatest benefits would accrue from such examinations.

What do the Commissioners do when they visit the house of Sir Jonathan Miles? - They pass through most of the rooms, and look over most of the patients, and look to the certificates.

Do they compare the certificates with the patients who have been admitted? - They do not; that is to say, they do not take a certificate and then look for patient A. and see whether it is proper or not.

By whom are you paid? - I am paid by Sir Jonathan Miles.

Do you consider such a plan proper in regard to the Government patients? - I think it opens a field to undue influence, and cannot ensure proper attendance; and this, without any reference to the class or character of the patient; for these two reasons, that if he is paid generally for his attendance, he may not do all that is necessary; and if he is paid individually for so many patients, he may absolutely do too much, in order to make out a bill.

From Morris, A.D. 1958:

The Select Committee was particularly concerned with the deaths of naval patients in Mile's madhouse. The members enquired closely into the procedure following a death. A death in the parish had to be notified immediately to the Parish clerk, who, as was the custom in those days, sent the parish searchers to view the body and report to him on the cause of death. Two female searchers employed by the parish of St Leonard's, Shoreditch, Martha Wall and Margaret Slater, were summoned, and appeared for examination before the Committee on the 8th May, 1815.

Martha Wall was questioned and answered as follows,

Q. "What duty have you to perform ?"

A. "When we go to search, that is, to view the bodies that are deceased ; to the best of our judgment, we are sworn to give a true report to the Parish Clerk."

Q. "Of every person who dies in the Parish ?"

A. "Yes."

Q. "And you do, whenever you hear of a person dying, call at the house to view the body ?" ;

A. "Yes."

Q. "And are you always admitted to see it ?" '

A. "Yes; if we are not admitted, we endeavour to find out where it is removed to, if it has been removed without our knowledge."

Q. "In the parish or out ?"

A. "Yes, in or out of the parish."

Q. "If it has been buried before you hear of it, you proceed no further?"

A. "We proceed as far as to make a report to the magistrate, whom we are sworn before, to see the corpse; '

Q. "If you are satisfied with the appearance of the corpse you proceed no further ?"

A. "Yes, without particular grounds for it.'

Q. "Do you make a report to the parish clerk whether there is anything particular or not."

"Yes in all cases the disorder of which the person has died is represented to the parish clerk."

Q. "Is Sir Jonathan Miles' madhouse within your parish ?"

A. "Yes." ,

Q. "Are you called upon when lunatics die there, to view the bodies ?"

A. "Yes, none pass there without our seeing them to our knowledge; and I believe, of late years they have been very particular."

Q. "You see all the bodies that die there you think?"

A. "Yes."

Q. "Where are they put ?"

A. "There is a place set apart for them to be removed to, where we see them."

Q.. "Have you any reason to believe any lunatics have died, whose corpse you have not seen ?"

A. "Not to our knowledge; we have them brought back."

Q. "You have not reason to suspect you do not see them all ?"

A. "No."

Q. "Have you an account of the number that have died there ?"


"We could make an account of all of them."

Weir was recalled on the following day,, and examined" concerning the deaths of naval lunatics in Miles' establishment.:

Q. Do you know if every naval maniac who died at Hoxton is examined by the searchers of the parish, previous to the body being interned"

A. "I have been informed by the superintendent that the searchers of the parish examine every naval maniac that dies at Hoxton previous to the body being sent to the undertaker."

Q. "Where are the officers and seamen buried ?"

A. "The undertaker informs me that the seamen lunatics are buried in the pauper burying ground at Shoreditch, and the officers in Shoreditch churchyard."

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