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the causes of the misconduct which the labours of this Committee have happily brought to light.
Of the parts of their inquiry, that which to a far greater extent than any other has occupied the attention of the Committee
, is the misconduct displayed in two of the great public charities for the benefit of the insane, the Lunatic Asylum at York, and Bethlem Hospital in London. We shall endeavour to give our readers some idea of the abuses which have there prevailed; and it is to be lamented, that the limits within which we are confined, allow it to be given very incompletely:
The Committee began their inquiries with the examination of Godfrey Higgins, Esq. a Governor of the York Asylum, and a Magistrate of the West Riding of Yorkshire. This gentleman had been instrumental in exciting a new degree of attention to the state of the York Lunatic Asylum; and obtained the appointment of a Committee of investigation. After this Committee had finished their inquiries, and made their report, Mr. Higgins visited the Asylum. The Committee ask him
“In what condition did you find the Asylum when you visited it in the Spring Assize week of 1814 ?-Having suspicions in my mind that there were some parts of that Asylum which had not been seen, I went early in the morning, determined to examine every place. After ordering a great number of doors to be opened, I came to one which was in a retired situation in the kitchen apartments, and which was almost hid by the opening of a door in the passage ; I ordered this door to be opened: the keepers hesitated, and said, the apartment belonged to the women, and they had not the key. I ordered them to get the key, but it was said to be mislaid, and not to be found at the moment. Upon this I grew angry, and told them, I insisted upon
its being found, and that if they would not find it, I could find a key at the kitchen fire-side, namely, the poker: upon that the key was im. mediately brought. When the door was opened, I went into the passage, and I found four cells, I think, of about eight feet very horrid and filthy situation: the straw appeared to be almost saturated with urine and excrement; there was some bedding laid upon the straw in one cell, in the others only loose straw. A man (a keeper) was in the passage doing something, but what I do not know; the walls were daubed with excrement; the air holes, of which there was one in each cell, were partly filled with it; in one cell there were two pewter chamber-pots loose. I asked the keeper, if these cells were inhabited by the patients and was told they were at night. I then desired him to take me up stairs, and show me the place of the women who came out of those cells that morning. I then went up stairs, and he showed me into a room, which I caused him to measure, and the size of which he told me was twelve feet by seven feet ten inches, and in which there were thirteen women, who he told me had all come out of those cells that morning.
“ Were they pauper women ?-I do not know; I was afraid that afterwards he should deny that, and therefore I went in and said to him, “ Now, Sir, clap your hand upon the head of this woman,” and I did so too; and I said, “ Is this one of the very women that were in those cells last night,” and he said she was.
'I became very sick, and could not remain longer in the room, I vomited. In the course of an hour and a half after this I procured Colonel Cooke of Owston, and John Cooke, Esquire, of Cams Mount, to examine those cells; they had come to attend a special meeting which I had caused to be called that day at twelve o'clock. Whilst I was standing at the door of the cells waiting for the key, a young woman ran past me, amongst the men servants, decently dressed; I asked who she was, and was told by Atkinson, that she was a female patient of respectable connections. At a special meeting of the governors which I had caused to be called, I told them what I had seen, and I asked Atkinson the apothecary, in their presence, if what I had said was not correctly true; and I told him, if he intended to deny any part of it, he must do it then; he bowed his assent, and acknowledged what I said was true. I then desired the governors to come with me to see those cells ; and then I discovered, for the first time, that the cells were unknown to the governors : several of the Committee, which consisted of fifteen, told me they had never seen them; that they had gone round the house with his Grace the Archbishop of York; that they had understood they were to see the whole house, and these cells had not been shown to them. We went through the cells, and at that time they had been cleaned as much as they could in so short a space of time. I turned up the straw in one of them with my umbrella, and pointed out to the gentlemen the chain and handcuff which were then concealed beneath the straw, and which I then perceived had been fixed into a board newly put down in the floor. I afterwards inquired of one of the committee of five, who had been appointed to afford any temporary accommodations which they could for a moderate sum of money to the patients, if those cells had been shown to that Committee, and I was told they had not. Before I saw these cells I had been repeatedly told by Atkinson the apothecary, and the keepers, that I had seen the whole house that was occupied by patients. I afterwards was told by a professional man, Mr. Pritchett, that he had beard Mr. Watson the architect ask one of the keepers what those places were: Mr. Watson at that time was looking out of the staircase window, and he heard the keeper answer Mr. Watson, that they were cellars and other little offices. "The day after my examination of these cells, I went again early in the morning to examine them, after I knew that the straw could have been used only one night; and I can positively say, from this examination, that the straw which I first found there, must have been in use a very considerable time. Early in the investigation which took place into this Institution, several gentlemen came forward to state, that they had examined the house on purpose to form a judgment of it, but though several of them were present when I stated the case of these cells, they did not state that they had seen them. When Colonel Cooke of Owston was in one of the cells, he tried to make marks or letters in the excrement remain.
ing upon the floor after it had been cleaned, and fresh straw put into it, which he did without any difficulty, and which he will be ready to state to the Committee if required. The day after I saw these cells, I went up into the apartments of the upper class of female patients, with one of the men-keepers as I should suppose, about thirty years of age, one of those who were dismissed in August; and I asked him, when at the door of the ward, if his key would not open those doors; I did not give him time to answer, but I seized the key from his hand, and with it opened the outer door of the ward, and then went and opened the bed-room doors of the upper class of female patients, and locked them again; I then gave him his key again ; Mr. Samuel Tuke, a Quaker, of York, was standing by and saw me.
“ Do you know of any unfit practices with respect to the female patients ?--Yes; I have been informed they have been got with child; and I have now in my hand a copy of a warrant granted by Frederick L'Oste of the county of Lincoln, to apprehend James Backhouse the head keeper, who was charged with having got with child Elizabeth West a female pauper, sent to this Asylum by the overseers of the poor of the Township of Louth; the warrant appears to have been backed on the 17th of June 1797, by R. Metcalfe. I am in formed that he was taken by the authority of this warrant to Louth, where Elizabeth West fathered the child upon him. Elizabeth West was admitted into the Asylum August the 17th 1796, was removed May the 8th 1797, and was delivered of a male child August the 19th 1797; the keeper Backhouse paid 301. to the overseers of the poor of the parish of Louth, for the maintenance of the bastard; he paid it by three instalınents; it appears by the town books, that the overseers of the poor have made themselves debtors in these sums to the township: I am informed that Elizabeth West was a young woman of exceedingly good character before she went to the Asylum; and she is now a woman of exceedingly good character, and has been living some years in a respectable family. Some time after this the head keeper retired from this house ; upon which occasion a piece of plate was voted to him as a mark of approbation of his conduct during a service of twenty-six years. I have not the most distant suspicion, that any one of the governors who voted for this piece of plate had any knowledge whatever of this transaction between Backhouse and West, except the physician Hunter,
“ In what line of life is Backhouse at present?–He now keeps a private madhouse in York.
“ Do you know of any case more recent, of the same nature?-Yes; the case of Dorothy Exilby of Kirby Malzeard ; she was admitted February 8th 1801, she was discharged cured February 20th 1802, delivered of a male child the 21st of September 1802; the father of this child is said to have been one of the patients. I have heard also, and believe from the respectable authority from which I received it, that a woman in a superior situation in life, who was there as an insane patient, was got with child by some person within the house."
(Report, p. 1-3.) The circumstance which first called the peculiar attention of Mr. Higgins to the state of the York Asylum, was described to the public by himself at the time, and this statement we insert as containing more circumstances in fewer words, than the spoken account which he delivered to the Committee.
“ A few days previous to the 17th of April 1813, complaint was made to me by an old woman, that William Vicars, of Fishlake, had assaulted her, &c. in consequence of which I granted a warrant to apprehend him, and upon his being brought up, I found he was insane. He being a pauper, 'I ordered the overseer of the poor, Thomas Leach, to take proper measures for conveying him to the Asylum at York, to which place he was taken on the 17th of last April; and from which he was brought away on the 13th of last October. When I saw Vicars before he went, he appeared in good bodily health, no ways weak or emaciated.
“ About a fortnight ago, application was made to me by Sarah the wife of William Vicars, for an order for more relief from the overseer of the poor. I summoned him to the Town Hall, in Doncaster, and upon inquiring into Vicars's situation, the following documents marked A B CÔ E, were sworn to be true by Sarah Vicars, and the overseer, Thomas Leach, in the presence of W. Wrightson, Esq. and myself :
“ A. Inventory of what clothes William Vicars took into the Asylum, and also of what he brought back with him.
“ He took with him a good and nearly new blue coat, a new scarlet silk shag waistcoat, a pair of good velveteen breeches, a new down hat, cost 15s. two pair of blue stockings, never been mended, a pair of new shoes, two new blue and white striped shirts, a short velveteen jacket, another scarlet waistcoat, spotted with black, another pair of velveteen breeches, two neckerchiefs, one of silk, and one of cotton, two pocket-handkerchiefs, and two night-caps.
“He brought back with him, one short jacket and one waistcoat, two white shirts, two pair of stockings, an old hat, not the hat he took, and a pair of bad shoes: he has not brought back one article he took with him. He has brought back the itch with him.
York, July 5th, 1813.
£. s. d. 4. yrds dark cloth, 3s. 9d.
0 16 11 24 yrds stout cord, 3s. 9d....
0 9 5 4) yrds ditto cotton, 1s. 2d.
0 5 3 Pocketing for 3 coats.
1 10 3} dozen buttons, 8d..
0 2 4
€ 1 15 9
The Overseers of Fishlake, Dr.
Board, &c. of Wm. Vickers, 4 weeks 3 days, 9s......
£. $. d. 1 19 9 0 2 4 0 06
E. This is to certify that I was sent for, by Mr. Hopwood, of Thorning Hirst, on Thursday the 14th instant, to examine the state in which William Vicars, of Stainforth, was dismissed from the York Asylum. He had the itch very bad, was also extremely filthy, for I saw his wife not only comb several lice from his head, but take them from the folds of his shirt neck; his health was so much impaired, that he was not able to stand by himself; his legs were very much swelled, and one of them in a state of mortification. He is now much recovered, both in mind and health, by bark and a generous nourishing diet. Witness my hand this 29th day of October, 1813.
CHARLES MAPLES, Surgeon."
(Appendix to History, p. 6–8.) We cannot afford to proceed with any more of the evidence of Mr. Higgins. The two specimens of abuse which we have selected, are, it is to be remembered, extreme cases. But the general state of the house is represented to be just such a state as one would expect to give birth to such instances, and altogether conformable with them.
The following testimony, as far as it goes, confirms the state ment presented by Mr. Higgins.
Bryan Cooke, Esquire, called in, and Examined. YOU are a Magistrate of the West Riding of the County of York? I am.