St Nicholas hospital and its impact on the mentally ill in the North-East
Before the Asylum
The early years of St Nicholas
Treatments and conditions
The war years
After the war
The N.H.S and care in the community
For my local study I have chosen to write about St Nicholas hospital in Gosforth and the impact the building has had upon the people in the North-East. I will explore how the hospital has changed and grown over the years with medical advances in treatments and better living conditions. Also how the building has grown to accommodate the needs of the local people community and to the needs of the country during the war. Before the Asylum
Medieval Newcastle-upon-Tyne was a place of superstition and the mentally unwell were thought of as possessed or as witches although we now know that the confessions of the accused witches were symptomatic of melancholia. This ended in 1736 with the passing of an act to repeal the witchcraft acts. Newcastle was a town of monasteries and over time each settlement provided shelter for a number of individuals thought to be ‘divinely inspired’. However some lunatics were less well tolerated, they were the objects of scorn and pity. They were punished for acts of behaviour disapproved of by society and were whipped, imprisoned in Newcastle gaol and even publically executed on the town moor. The only psychiatry at the time was in fact exorcisms carried out by priests which naturally had very little effect and the only surgery was extremely harmful and usually carried out by barbers and their assistants.
The early years of St Nicholas
Due to the lunacy act of 1845 discussions began in 1846 about the need for an asylum to be built in Newcastle for pauper lunatics. Newcastle’s first public lunatic asylum, Wardens Close had been closed a few years earlier and the privately owned Bellevue Retreat was due to close. However it was not until 1866 that a 50 acre farmhouse was bought and a new asylum for Newcastle was built in the meantime patients from Newcastle were boarded out to Sedgefield Asylum in Durham and then later to Bensham Asylum in Gateshead. In July 1869 the new asylum was opened as Borough Lunatic Asylum and housed just 159 patients. By 1882 the asylum had changed its name to Newcastle Upon Tyne City lunatic asylum and the number of patients had risen to 265. Due to overcrowding permission was given to extend the hospital and in 1884 work was completed to accommodate a further 80 patients. Overcrowding continued to be a problem however and the council extended again 1891 to accommodate a further 350 patients this extension was completed in 1864 and the new asylum was greeted by favourable reception from the press on 4th July 1900. In 1904 a medical superintendent’s report book stated that there were 798 patients in the hospital of which 442 were men and 356 were women. Of these 798 patients 564 of them were employed daily around the asylum to keep them occupied. In that particular month there had been 23 patients admitted, 4 discharged and 9 deaths. Of the patients chronicled most seemed to be suffering from mania, dementia and melancholia Treatments and conditions
Asylums of the past such as Wardens close it is known had chains, iron- bars and dungeon like cells among the devices in use and had treatments such as the administration of chloroform, opium and belladonna. The new asylum had more moral treatments and men worked as gardeners, ward helpers, stokers, tailors, shoe makers and one even as a painter. The women helped in the laundry and the kitchen and also occupied themselves with sewing, knitting and fancy work. As well as this general work patients were encouraged to make things, take group exercise and participate in new therapy techniques.
General meals in the asylum consisted of soup, beef and pork with pease pudding and a popular drink was tartar with lime juice and sugar. The dining room was...
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