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Portraits of Mania… The Inmates of West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum

West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum in Wakefield opened its doors in 1818 as a place to house “paupers” with mental illness in the UK. The asylum was exemplary for the time, built to house 1000 inmates and cure them of their manias. The following series of photos were taken circa 1869 of patients at the asylum, which later became the Stephen Royd Hospital, closing its doors in 1995. You’ll notice that “mania” is a common diagnosis for the patients, now called “manic disorder.” Some of the patients are diagnosed with “mono-mania,” or an obsession with one thing or idea despite being otherwise sane. Others are diagnosed with “mono-mania of pride” – believing themselves to be figures of historical importance – or “mania of suspicion” – paranoid – and all were kept in the “gaol-like buildings” of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum. Pictures like this are a window into the history of the silenced, of society’s cast-offs, and they are haunting to look at…

L0019069 Man in restraint chair; by H. Clarke; 1869

Images via Wellcome Images CC

L0019061 'Consecutive dementia' patient at West Riding Lunatic Asylum L0018944 'Monomania of pride' patient at West Riding Lunatic Asylum

L0019072 West Riding Lunatic Asylum: man restrained by warders; 1869L0019064 Man suffering from mania of suspicion; H. Clarke, 1869 L0019062 'Senile dementia' patient at West Riding Lunatic Asylum L0019071 West Riding Lunatic Asylum: prisoner; H. Clarke; 1869 L0019068 Man suffering from consecutive dementia; H. Clarke; 1869 L0018942 'Simple mania' patient at West Riding Lunatic Asylum L0018945 Woman suffering from acute melancholia; H. Clarke, 1869 L0018943 'Imbecility' patient at West Riding Lunatic Asylum L0019067 Albumen prints: photographs of patients at L0019063 Woman suffering from general paralysis; c. 1869 L0041119 'Monomania of pride' patient at West Riding Lunatic Asylum L0019060 Woman suffering from chronic mania; c. 1869

Further reading:

The West Riding Lunatic Asylum by JM Pearce

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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