Prison or palace? Haven or hell? : an architectural and social study of the development of public lunatic asylums in Scotland, 1781-1930
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In 1897 John Sibbald, Commissioner in Lunacy for Scotland, stated that ‘the construction of an asylum is a more interesting subject of study for the general reader than might be supposed.’ This thesis traces the development of the public asylum in Scotland from 1781 to 1930. By placing the institution in its wider social context it provides more than a historical account, exploring how the buildings functioned as well as giving an architectural analysis based on date, plan and style. Here the architecture represents more, and provides a physical expression of successive stages of public philanthropy and legislative changes during what was arguably one of the most rapidly evolving stages of history. At a time when few medical treatments were available, public asylum buildings created truly therapeutic environments, which allowed the mentally ill to live in relative peace and security. The thesis explores how public asylums in Scotland introduced the segregation or ‘classification’ of patients into separate needs-based groups under a system known as Moral Treatment. It focuses particularly on the evolving plan forms of these institutions from the earliest radial, prison-like structures to their development into self-sustaining village-style colonies and shows how the plan reflects new attitudes to treatment. While many have disappeared, the surviving Victorian and Edwardian mega-structures lie as haunting reminders of a largely forgotten era in Scottish psychiatry. Only a few of the original buildings are still in use today as specialist units, out-patient centres, and administrative offices for Scotland’s Health Boards. Others have been redeveloped as universities or luxury housing schemes, making use of the good-quality buildings and landscaping. Whatever their current use, public asylums stand today as an outward sign of the awakening of the Scottish people to the plight of the mentally ill in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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