HC Deb 13 June 1827 vol 17 cc1263-5
Mr. R. Gordon

called the attention of the House to the motion of which he had given notice, respecting the state of Pauper Lunatics in Middlesex. He particularly referred to the dreadful state of misery in which the Pauper Lunatics of the parishes of Mary-la-bonne and St. George's were situated. When the overseers of the parish of St. George visited Dr. Warburton's asylum, they found, in a room eighteen feet long, sixteen cribs, with a patient in each crib, some of them chained and fastened down, and all of them in a state of great wretchedness. On one occasion, a visitor having gone there, and reported that there was nothing objectionable in what he had seen, went again the next day, and discovered five rooms, in which the patients were in a most horrid state of misery. This he found out, although, when he was there the day before, he was informed that he had seen every thing. The unfortunate persons placed in these cribs were kept there from Saturday until Monday; their food being administered to them while in them. The infirmaries were another subject of just complaint. When a medical person visited them, the patient was brought into another room, and put on a decent bed; for the infirmary was kept in so shocking a state, that the keepers were unwilling that it should be seen; but, as soon as the medical person was gone, the patient was reconducted to the crib.—He spoke of this asylum previous to the 26th of February, when it was visited by lord Robert Seymour. A temporary change for the better might have been since made; but what security had the House for its continuance? On the facts that he had stated, and others which showed still more the extreme wretchedness of the condition of the pauper lunatics of Middlesex, he would first refer these facts to a select committee; and secondly, move for leave to bring in a bill for amending the 14th Geo. 3rd, ch. 49, and of extending its provisions to pauper lunatics, By this bill, he proposed to give further powers to magistrates, and to subject these asylums more to the superintendance of the overseers of the parishes, than they at present were liable. He would also propose that, in cases of the death of pauper lunatics, a coroner's inquest should be held, as in jails. In all asylums, where the number of patients amounted to one hundred, there should be a resident medical man, who should keep a diary of the medicines administered, and of the general treatment of each patient; a practice which had been attended with great advantage, in accounting for the causes of the deaths in the Penitentiary, and in assisting to check an epidemic distemper which broke out there. —The last alteration he would propose was, that convalescent patients should not, as in Dr. Warburton's asylum, act as attendants on the other patients. In that asylum there were two hundred patients, and only two male and two female attendants; all the business of the House being done by assistant patients. This was doubly injurious—injurious to the convalescent patients, as the business retarded their recovery; and to the other patients, as they were attended by persons not fit properly to take care of them. The number of recoveries of patients in the vicinity of London was very disproportionate to the number of recoveries in other places, where there were proper lunatic asylums. For instance, in Norfolk and Gloucester, one half of the patients recovered; whereas in Middlesex not one tenth ever sufficiently recovered to be discharged.—The hon. member having remarked upon the disadvantage of a lunatic asylum being in such a crowded state as that of the White House at Hoxton, where there were not less than four hundred patients, concluded by moving—"That a select committee be appointed to inquire into the treatment of Pauper Lunatics in the county of Middlesex, to consider the propriety of extending the provisions of 14 Geo. 3rd, c. 49, to Pauper Lunatics, and of the consolidation of all acts relative to Lunatics, and Lunatic Asylums, and of making further provisions relative thereto."

Colonel Wood

thought the hon. gentleman was entitled to great praise for having brought forward the motion. He cordially concurred in every word that had fallen from him. The means of accommodation for pauper lunatics was a great desideratum in the county of Middlesex; and he was happy to state, that it was the intention of lord Robert Seymour to bring forward a motion at the quarter sessions, in July next, for the erection of a pauper lunatic asylum for the county of Middlesex.

Mr. Secretary Bourne

thanked the hon. mover for having brought this interesting subject underthe consideration of the House. The only doubt on his mind was, whether, instead of moving for a committee, it would not be better to proceed to legislate by bill at once; for the information which the hon. gentleman had collected was evidently of the best description. In fact he could himself confirm part of it.

Mr. Liddell

approved of the motion, and complimented the hon. member for his exertions on the subject.

Mr. Spring Rice

highly approved of the motion. He was persuaded that it would be found, that the present establishments were calculated only for the custody of lunatics, and by no means for their cure.

Mr. Alderman Thompson

was desirous, if possible, that the report of the committee might be made in the present session. The rumours afloat, many of which, he had no doubt were exaggerated, demanded inquiry.

Mr. S. Bourne

believed that some of the reports respecting Mr. Warburton's establishment were much exaggerated.

Mr. R. Colborne,

while he admitted that some of the reports in circulation were perfectly true, must say that others were much exaggerated. Mr. Warburton had always been ready to give every information in his power. He believed the only effectual way of remedying the evils complained of would be by building a county lunatic asylum.

Mr. M. A. Taylor

declared that, in his opinion, there was not a chance for an individual confined in these asylums becoming convalescent. Many of them were sent to them by overseers of parishes, who bargained for the cheapest terms; and in some cases gave only 8s. a week. The hon. gentleman described the state of destitution in which some of these unfortunate creatures were left. A more horrible sight he had never witnessed. He trusted that some humane legislative provisions would be adopted with a view to remedy the evils.

Mr. Estcourt

wished the hon. gentleman would move for a general bill; which, having been introduced, might be circulated through the country during the recess; the result of which step would be the production of much more information than could be obtained by any parliamentary inquiry during the present session.

Sir F. Burdett

declared that, in his opinion, there was no subject which more loudly called for interference than this. No persons stood in greater need of legislative protection than the unfortunate individuals under consideration. Being paupers as well as lunatics, they had a double claim on general humanity. He highly approved of his hon. friend's proposition; but he thought that the more extensive it could be made the more advantageous it would prove. Not only was it necessary to look to the manner in which pauper lunatics were treated in the establishments in question, but it was also highly expedient to place some check on the manner in which they were put under restraint. It appeared to him, that something more than alienation of mind ought to be required. It should be proved, that the aberration was one of a dangerous character.

Mr. R. Gordon

said, he wished the House would permit him to pursue his original plan. That great mismanagement existed in lunatic asylums, was notorious. He would give a proof, in which one lunatic employed to take care of another actually scooped out the eye of the man upon whom he was employed to attend. If the committee were appointed to-morrow, he would submit to it by Monday the outline of a bill which he wished to introduce.

The motion was agreed to, and a committee appointed.