For other records of the hospital, including post 1948 material, see 6523/1/-, 6817, QS5/6A/21 (Earlswood) and QS5/6/24 (Farmfield); records previously transferred from the Earlswood Museum are held as 3247/-; plans of the hospital, 1856-1986, are 6376/13/1-4 and 2451/5/-; photographs of patients, 1850s-1860s are 4645/-.
For reports of the visitors appointed by Quarter Sessions under the Mental Deficiency Act, 1913, 1914-1960, see QS5/6A/1-20.
|Administrative / biographical background:
The 'Asylum for Idiots' was founded in 1847, and established at Park House, Highgate in 1848 when fifty patients were admitted. By 1849, 145 patients had been admitted, and the accommodation was fast becoming insufficient. A 'model asylum' at Earlswood near Reigate was planned and William Bonython Moffat, the architect and partner of Sir George Gilbert Scott, was asked to design the institution. The move to Earlswood took place in 1855, although considerable improvement to the establishment still needed to be done. From 1855, the number of inmates was usually about 500. In 1849, the Board of Management had secured Essex Hall near Colchester, for its younger patients, and it was vacated in 1858, after its inmates had been transferred to Earlswood. Essex Hall was opened in 1859 as the Royal Eastern Counties Institution for Mental Defectives.
Aims of the Charity
The Charity was founded by Andrew Reed (1787-1862) an independent minister and active philanthropist. Apart from the Aylum for Idiots, he founded the London Orphan Asylum (now at Cobham), the Infant Orphan Asylum for fatherless children (now at Reedham), and the Royal Hospital for Incurables (now in Putney).
The plight of the idiot, who, until the foundation of Earlswood, has been lumped together with the lunatic, aroused the interest and compassion of Andrew Reed who became convinced that special and individual attention would help the idiot develop as far as was possible. Before the foundation of the Asylum Andrew Reed entered into correspondence with medical specialists in mental illness including Drs Itard and Seguin in Paris and Dr Saegert of Berlin, and with Dr Connolly (one of the founding members of the Charity) who had reported on the treatment of mental disease in Paris. In 1847 Andrew Reed visited several institutions for the care of idiots in France, Switzerland and Denmark.
The avowed aim of the institution was 'not merely to take the Idiot and Imbecile under its care, but especially, by the skilful and earnest application of the best means in his education, to prepare him, as far as possible, for the duties and enjoyments of life' [Bye-laws 1857].
Both patients whose fees were paid privately, and patients whose fees were paid by the subscribers of the institution were accepted as inmates. Cases were admitted either for life or for periods of five years. Preference was to be given to young children, who it was felt, would benefit most from the education given at the insitution. Admission was by payment or by election, each subscriber having a number of votes commensurate with the amount of his subscription. Elections were to take place in April and in October, and the number of children to be admitted was determined by the Board of Management, depending on the places available and the financial position of the institution.
Management of the Charity
The Board of Management, which consisted of no less than twenty five persons, was elected at an annual general meeting of subscribers held in April, when the Treasurer and Secretaries who were members of the Board ex officio, were also appointed. The Board appointed a House Committee of no less than eight people from its own number. The House Committee which was to meet at least once a fortnight, was to discuss and to decide current problems, and to report to the Board at least once a month.
Implementation of the National Health Service Act, 1946
In July 1948, Earlswood was taken over by the Government under section 6(1) of the National Health Service Act. The position of the institution had been somewhat confused from 1946, but the record of an interview between the Board and the Board of Control on 25 June 1947 (-/2/22) shows that, by no longer taking any life-patients the institution was preparing for an easier transfer of responsibility. Several members of the Board of Governors carried on as members of the Management Committee responsible to the Regional Hospital Board.
The Earlswood Management Committee group 43 comprised Earlswood itself, 'Farmfield' at Horley, an institution formerly under the London County Council for deliquent mental defectives, and, from 1949, the Forest Hospital at Horsham, originally under West Sussex County Council.