Dealing with people who had mental health problems was originally severe, partly because they were regarded as bad (and possibly possessed by the devil) rather than mad. They could be locked up to prevent them harming themselves or others, and visitors gawped and mocked them (for example at Bedlam in London). Treatment was gradually introduced, but much of it was unlikely to be helpful (e.g. cold baths and electric shocks). Small private lunatic asylums were set up for patients who could pay, and paupers supported by local authorities.
The History of the Site
Towards the middle of the 19th century the government ordered that asylums should be built; locally this was Warwick County Lunatic Asylum at Hatton, which opened in 1852. It was renamed Warwick County Mental Hospital in 1930, changed its name to Central Hospital in 1948, and finally closed in 1995. Some of the original buildings survive and the whole site is now residential.
Records at the County Record Office
Annual reports on Hatton feature in the Quarter Session minutes that are held at the Warwickshire County Record Office along with a large number of other records about the Asylum (some of which are of course confidential).1 The regime of ‘moral treatment’ encouraged patients to participate in work and social activities; the asylum was almost self-sufficient with its own farm, laundry and fire service, and eventually it had well over 1,000 patients.
1 Quarter Session Minutes reference QS 39; Warwick County Lunatic Asylum records reference CR 1664.