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At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, by J. Hamlett

By J. Hamlett

At domestic within the establishment examines area and fabric tradition in asylums, accommodation homes and colleges in Victorian and Edwardian England, and explores the strong effect of domesticity on all 3 institutional forms.

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Additional resources for At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, Lodging Houses and Schools in Victorian and Edwardian England

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The increasing use of domestic furnishing within the asylum can be interpreted as a means of control through the material world. Elsewhere in Victorian society, domestic interiors were also expected to inspire correct behaviour. 44 At Brookwood, it was hoped the interior would work along similar lines. The staff manual notes that: ‘The patients must not be allowed to sit or to place their feet on the fire-guards. They must be taught and encouraged, when requisite, to occupy the chairs and seats in a proper manner.

154 At Broadmoor, however, things were different. 158 But the room of a well-behaved Broadmoor patient could be positively opulent. 160 The patient casebooks in general leave little evidence of the interaction between patients or their thoughts and feelings about each other, but every now and then reveal the social world in the wards and dormitories of the asylum. Simply having day rooms for the patients, supplied with recreational activities, created a place where inmates could interact. Of course, some patients were withdrawn, quarrelsome and even violent.

54 The piece goes on to weigh up the respective merits of practicality and the emotional importance of the open fire, judging both significant in securing patient well-being, noting ‘it appears to be by far the most effectual method of securing thorough ventilation’. While guidelines for asylum staff were not explicitly religious in tone, the effort expended on building chapels at all four asylums underlines the importance of religious practices within asylum life. All four institutions had chapels as part of their original buildings.

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