46 Haunting Portraits Of 19th Century Mental Asylum Patients

The mental asylum of 19th century England housed the criminal, the insane, and the unwanted. These are their portraits.

The Victorian Era ushered in several significant changes with regard to medicine and the treatment of the ill. Shifting political mores brought forth increased investment in public health institutions — one of which included the lunatic asylum, a product of the nascent medical practice of psychiatry.

Though intended as a refuge for the sick, the asylum operated more as a correctional institution than a treatment facility. This perhaps stemmed from the fact that not just the ill resided in the site: as prisons became overcrowded, criminals often carried out their sentence in the asylum, while others used the institution as a dumping ground for unwanted dependents.

Given the need to generate funds in order to maintain the burgeoning medical institution, the asylum used its residents — sick, criminal, poor — as revenue sources. This culminated in the general public paying to visit the asylum, creating a circus-like environment for those in treatment.

Harriet Jordan, admitted in 1858 and diagnosed with acute mania.
Captain George Johnston, admitted in 1846 with mania and charged with homicide.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Esther Hannah Still, admitted in 1858 and diagnosed with chronic mania with delusions.
John Bailey and his son Thomas Bailey, both admitted in 1858 with acute melancholia.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Eliza Camplin, admitted in 1857 and diagnosed with acute mania.
William Thomas Green, admitted in 1857 and diagnosed with acute mania.
A criminal inmate at West Riding Asylum is restrained while photographed.
Unidentified female patient diagnosed with acute mania.
Unidentified female patient admitted with chronic mania.
Eliza Camplin, admitted in 1857 and diagnosed with acute mania.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Unidentified woman admitted to West Riding Asylum with chronic mania.
Eliza Josolyne, admitted 1856 and diagnosed with acute melancholia.
Eliza Josolyne, photographed again in 1857 in convalescence.
A patient at West Riding Asylum diagnosed with “mono-mania of pride,” a condition where an otherwise sane patient suffered from partial insanity due to a singular pathological occupation.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Unidentified female patient admitted to West Riding Asylum with general paralysis.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
A criminal prisoner housed at West Riding Asylum is held up by a guard.
Unidentified female patient admitted to West Riding Asylum in 1858 with acute mania.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Fanny Barrett, admitted in 1858 and diagnosed with intermittent mania.
Eliza Griffin, admitted in 1855 and diagnosed with acute mania.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
A ‘self-decorated’ patient in the 1800s.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.
Asylum patient, name unknown.

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