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By J. Hamlett

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

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

Example text

At Broadmoor and Hanwell, patients’ stitchery supplied basic textiles, as well as some decorative goods. 147 Needlework was one of the main tasks female patients were asked to perform – and it was often seen as a signifier of their return to sanity and normative gendered behaviour. ’149 Margaret’s dolls took on a life of their own, and we hear that she ‘frequently goes out to spend the afternoon in other wards where she amuses herself and other patients with her dolls’. 150 But her needlework continued to annoy the medical attendant; her case notes state that, she ‘does nothing useful, makes dolls dresses in a very grotesque and strange manner’.

Some asylums pioneered central heating systems, in which warmth was supplied through large steam pipes. 52 But most authorities stressed that a fireplace was needed. Conolly writes: It is impossible to witness a party of lunatics sitting round a cheerful fire in winter, without wishing to see a fireplace in every ward. ’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’.

The Establishment had a suite of day rooms: a communal dining room, a billiard room, a library, and shared sitting rooms, as well as some private ones. It had four wings, with eight rooms on each floor, linked by short corridors, which created a domestic feel. The scale of the rooms was that of a small elite home. 22 As patients would have been able to dine in their rooms, it may only have been used for special social occasions, or for groups of guests. 1. 23 The situation was different at Bethlem.

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