Daily life in Hotel Madhouse.
It was very much a prison or workhouse type model where strict segregation rules applied. However, if you were a so-called private patent, someone had paid for you to be there, some lucky wife maybe, they would share a ward with a few other lucky souls. For the poor that found themselves there, space was money, so the more they could get inside a ward, the better, and privacy didn’t exist!
Male and female wards were kept well apart and never to meet for obvious reasons. Women are a terrible influence! That’s a bad joke, I know! I didn’t mean it; I’m just expressing a male line of the time! I think I got myself out of that hole!?
Routine was the thing. 7 am you got up, but if you want a few extra minutes, not a chance! Breakfast, tea or whatever drink available at the time. Porridge and, or bread, nice! 12:30 Whatever the vegetables available that time of the year, but mainly in a stew or soup form, boiling everything in a big pot is much better than Gordon Blue giving his individual touch to each meal. Then the early evening meal to round of a perfect feast of a day with a nice cuppa, a slice of bread, or if you were fortunate, a nice piece of cake! Then off to bed, nice and early, around 7. This gave the hard-working staff plenty of time off, and you didn’t want a whole group of nutters roaming the place at night, plus you save on the heating and lights! A win, win!
Now outside of those mealtimes that everyone must have dreamt of, life was about saving money and making more significant profits. The men would work as unpaid slaves on the farms that most of these places had attached to provide the food that the inmates were lucky to receive. Or, they may work in the attached bakery to produce their own goods; why pay someone from outside when you had a willing workforce!? If they didn’t work in the farm or bakery, then it was the kitchen!
Women, of course, were confined indoors. You didn’t want them wandering around too much. They were given the task they were obviously born to do, the laundry and, of course, mending in the needle room. They must have been so happy!
Men and women were used to keeping the place clean and tidy, but not together, of course!
Asylums wanted to be and did everything possible for self-sufficiency! The cheaper you could run the place, the greater the profits and remember, Mad meant Money!
What about those that they couldn’t get to work? Well, they were allowed out for a whole hour in the airing courts!
During the initial boon and rise of the Mad Houses, security was strict, tight and heavy-handed! No patients were allowed out without heavy protection! My thoughts are that this was more to stop them from expressing their delight at the culinary feast provided and the stimulating array of activities keeping them occupied!
After the initial money-mad rush to build your own Mad House, things did slowly, very slowly, start to change. Men, not women, were allowed to join sports teams, maybe a ball thrown into the airing courts. Men were allowed, or forced, to tend the gardens; this sounds like another activity to keep the place self-sufficient and look good from the outside, but it was something! I heard that women were allowed to have a gentle stroll around the gardens, but only gentle; you didn’t want them getting too excited! Keeping them inside for most of the time, doing those things they loved best was, of course, best for them!
Not all Mad Houses were the same; some were even worse! A few selected asylums were held up as shining beacons. This was mainly for the benefit of the Do Gooders’ remember I mentioned them before. They would visit to see how good their fantastic ideas were being applied!
Staffing these places was a bit different from today too. There were doctor’s in charge and nurses that helped the doctors, but the non-medical staff responsible for everyday care — tended to be “uneducated, intemperate, and untrustworthy and low paid.” The job was hard and all about control and not care. Mad Houses had a high turnover rate. Asylums had trouble retaining staff and took those they could get. Case files and accounts tell stories of attendants who regularly abused and stole from patients. There are even accounts of attendants who gave patients weapons and encouraged them to fight amongst themselves. If you weren’t so-called mad when you went in, I don’t think it took long before you became a bit hardened to this world you had been forced into.
As for those so-called patients that had no rights of appeal and even less say in the treatment received! They were isolated from the world, alone, lost and often with no hope! I mean, who’s going to listen to a nut job, even if you got the chance?
So, I bet you’re thinking it sounds like one of those all in holiday resorts you long to visit?
Close your eyes and imagine that beautiful vista, and next time, I’ll tell you about all the lovely treatments you could have enjoyed!
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