The asylum patients being given their stories back

Selina Baiss

"They were referred to as idiots and illiterates. Nobody had heard of the terms dementia or schizophrenia. Psychiatry was a young branch of science.

A small group of volunteers are sensitively and gradually telling the tales of those who resided at the Somerset and Bath Pauper Lunatic Asylum in the town of Somerset.

One of the volunteers, Clare Blackmore, said, "Patients who were put in there were dirt poor.".

"They were in need. There were a good deal of kids there. The mother can no longer handle it, it frequently says in their notes," she continued.

Clare Blackmore
The asylum's patients, according to Clare Blackmore, were "dirt poor.".

In South Horrington, close to Wells, the asylum first opened its doors in 1848, initially housing 300 patients.

Prior to the structure's closure in 1991, it accepted patients from Somerset and Bristol and went by the name Mendip Hospital.

When it first opened, "Dr. Robert Boyd ran it," Ms. Blackmore recalled.

He supported the ethical treatment of the insane. He valued compassion, consideration, physical activity, a healthy diet, and a comfortable bed.

"He would feed the patients well, give them work experience, music therapy, and entertainment. He stated that if you could improve your physical condition, your mental condition would also improve, she continued.

Asylum building as it is now (flats)
The former asylum structure has been converted to apartments.

An area close to the asylum was designated for patient burial, and a chapel was built there.

There were about 2,900 burials there, but the cemetery was abandoned after the asylum closed.

Gertrude James
For "idiocy," Gertrude James of Leigh on Mendip was admitted. She reportedly struggled with speech and frequently grinded her teeth. When she was 11 years old, she passed away.

A community campaign in Wells resulted in the site being saved, with volunteers reclaiming the land as a nature reserve. It had grown overgrown and was slated for development.

No headstones were present because the patients were destitute. An iron marker with a number was instead placed over each grave to help identify the person interred there.

Many of the original markers have been uprooted and are now scattered around the cemetery, but the volunteers hope to locate each patient's grave and erect a plaque to honor them specifically.

Iron markers in graveyard
Iron markers were placed where patients were buried because they could not afford headstones.
Iron markers in graveyard
An iron marker with a number was placed on each grave to help people find their loved ones' graves.

The volunteer group's leader, Peter Jaggard, claimed that "We have the records for everyone who is buried here.".

They provide information such as their name, the names of their relatives, their occupation, and a description taken from hospital records.

"We are building a database where people can look up their ancestors or read about the working classes in the 19th century.

These individuals received excellent care. Its name was not given to it by accident. People seek asylum despite the negative perception that lunatic asylums are bad places. It was for the purpose of caring for people, he continued.

Peter Jaggard
Peter Jaggard claimed that the organization had records of every person interred there.

The lives of many asylum residents were essentially forgotten for many years. The Somerset Heritage Centre's archives contain their notes, which have been kept out of sight but are now being transcription for the first time.

Casey Reddin claimed that while looking through archives to learn more about patients' lives, she frequently experiences emotional distress.

She cited the example of Joseph Tye, a young boy who entered the facility at the age of ten and passed away there.

Casey Reddin
When learning more about those interred there, Casey Reddin claimed that she frequently experiences emotional reaction.

"I cherish him so much. Here, he is interred. He and I speak frequently. I converse with each of them. It has been incredibly emotional.

It is an emotional journey, Ms. Reddin continued, "to see people either improve and go on to a better life or see people go downhill.".

People living in America, Australia, Germany, as well as here at home, have contacted the group with inquiries about their ancestors.

Mark Whitcombe
Mark Whitcombe, a Coleford resident who was described as "dull" and "a lunatic," passed away from general paralysis of the insane.

One woman reportedly saw a picture of her great-grandmother for the first time at one of the group's most recent exhibitions, according to Ms. Blackmore.

She said, "One lady cried, she had to leave for a while to gather her thoughts.

"I cherish this location. It's not something you'd typically say to people, but we're proud to welcome visitors to the cemetery.

"We're proud of the work done by only volunteers, as well as the passion and research that went into it. It's a special, distinctive place," she continued.

Starting at the beginning of April, the cemetery is accessible to the public on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Source link

You've successfully subscribed to Webosor
Great! Next, complete checkout to get full access to all premium content.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Unable to sign you in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.