history of the Hanwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Hanwell 1848




Twelfth Night at the Hanwell Lunatic Asylum

"Seven years have elapsed since the experiment of non-restraint has been fully tried in the Hanwell Asylum; and Dr Conolly, in the spirit of a Christian philosopher, thanks God, with deep and unfeigned humility, that nothing has occurred during that period to throw discredit on the great principles for which he has so nobly battled".
We quote this emphatic testimony to the success of the non-restraint system of management of lunatic asylums from the first number of the Journal of Psychological Medicine and Mental Pathology, edited by Dr Forbes Winslow; a work specially devoted to the humane treatment of the insane, and from which the most beneficial results may be anticipated. The accompanying engraving presents a very interesting illustration of the non-restraint system pursued at Hanwell. Among the indoor recreations for the patients during the winter days and evenings, music is the greatest favourite. There are three pianos; flutes, clarionets, and violins have been brought for patients who could play. Some of the attendants are tolerable musicians, and a small band has been formed, which contributes much to the enjoyment of the winter evening parties. It is by no means uncommon, on approaching the wards appropriated to the more troublesome patients, on the male side of the asylum, to hear a lively performance on the fiddle, and to find patients dancing to it.

The patients often have small parties for dancing, and there are some entertainments on a larger scale. One of the latter, given to the female patients, took place on New Year's Eve; and, on the 6th instant (Thursday week) the usual Twelfth Night entertainment was given to the male patients, in the institution.

They assembled in the number of about 250, in the gallery of No 9 ward, and in the adjoining tower, both of which were tastefully decorated with evergreens; coloured lamps were suspended from the ceiling, and the gas burners were altered so as to appear like ornamental fan-lights; and many devices and mottoes were placed on the walls. At about half past four o'clock these patients partook of coffee and cake in the above apartment, and all the others were similarly regaled in their respective wards; after which some danced, others sang, some played on various instruments, others amused themselves with cards, draughts, dominoes, bagatelle, etc. At eight o'clock a supper of roast beef and vegetables was served to them, with an allowance of beer and tobacco. At the conclusion of this repast they again engaged in amusements till about half-past nine, when, after singing the National Anthem, they retired to bed in tranquillity and order. Good humour and mirth prevailed during the entire evening, not a single circumstance occurring to mar the happiness which all appeared to enjoy. The attendants were most zealous and assiduous in contributing to the festivity of the patients; and their exertions were, in the highest degree, praiseworthy. All the officers of the asylum, and several of the Committee of Visitors, were present.

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