You are here: Home > Galleries > Fair Mile Hospital > Victorian Treatment

Victorian Treatment

Register of mechanical restraint

Register of mechanical restraint, 1890 (D/H10/D5/2/1)

The Asylum’s treatment regime consisted of rest and routine.  Patients were fed a nourishing diet, given fresh air and exercise, and kept occupied if possible with work and entertainments. Mechanical restraint - usually defined as a straitjacket, was seldom used, as the practice had begun to be challenged in the 1840s.  Any use of restraint had to be recorded in a special register.  In keeping with the concept of the Asylum as a refuge, the Victorians also believed that admission in itself was treatment, as it would remove a patient from the causes of insanity in their day-to-day lives, such as worry or emotional excitement.

There were very few medical interventions used, although both sedatives and purgatives were administered.  Many of the patients were admitted with malnutrition or other physical debilities, and these were treated at the same time as a patient's mental health.  The regime worked for a substantial proportion of patients: around a third of those admitted between 1870 and 1914 were discharged recovered.

Patients worked on the farm and in the gardens and laundry, and did cleaning, sewing, and shoemaking, which acted as early forms of occupational therapy. If their condition improved, they were gradually given greater freedoms, progressing from walking round the outside airing courts to going on supervised walks and outings.

Those patients who had recovered enough to go home were discharged on probation and given a monetary allowance so that they did not have to find work immediately. They were discharged after a month if they managed to cope in the outside world.

Post mortem brain drawings

Extract of drawings from postmortem book, c.1885 (D/H10/D5/1/2)


Related Content

Founding the Asylum

Patients in Victorian Fair Mile

Early years at Fair Mile

Leave a Comment

Fields marked with a * are required

4 response(s) so far…

Lynn Davis
Posted on the : 3 Aug 2011

I found this gallery very informative. In my FH research I have found a relative who died at Cholsey in 1900 and I think quite a lot of the general information will probably apply to the Portsmouth Asylum where my gt grandfather died in 1907. Thank you for making these archives available. I hope to be contacting you for more information in due course - if I can't find it on the webpage.

Linda Kenealy
Posted on the : 8 Jun 2016

How can I find out about my great grandmother who was a resident in fairmile from approximately 1942 until her death in 1955. I understand that some records are closed - is this true for all residents of Fairmile. Thank you very much for any help

Posted on the : 8 Jun 2016

Hello Linda Kenealy We hold admission and discharge registers that cover the period your Great Grandmother was at Fair Mile. There may also be something in the medical register, though they only go up to 1948. Unfortunately case books giving more detail on the health of patients only go up to 1931. You are correct in that there is closure period of 100 years on such sensitive information. However, as a direct family member, you may be able to gain access to the information through staff research. You will need to apply for access. Please send us an email via the online Contact Us form (link on the left of the web page) and we can explain the process further. Regards, BRO.

Maggie Jenkins
Posted on the : 28 Aug 2018

My great great grandmother was admitted for the final years of her life in the 1880s. As it was over a hundred years ago ,I was able to apply for her records. So very sad to see that she was described as mumbling she was rich and was unpleasant to others. She had been very well off. Living off own means I think it would be referred to. In solicitors letters she refers to having developed epilepsy when around forty. Of course,back then, who knows what the actual diagnosis may have been. It was a sad end to her life but at least she was fed and had a roof over her head which took the worry away from her only daughter who had six young sons and must have found it impossible to care for her ailing mother.


Latest News
Stocktake and Christmas closure dates announced
Dates now available for when we will be closed this year
Distance Survey 2017 Results
BRO does very well in the latest survey of distance users
Visitor Survey 2016 Results
The results of the UK Visitor Survey 2016 are now available
We're Accredited!
The BRO is now an Accredited Archive Service
10,000th collection received at the BRO
The Berkshire Record Office celebrates receiving its 10,000th accession
Oscar Wilde and Reading Gaol online exhibition
New online gallery showcases Oscar Wilde and Reading prison

Latest Galleries

Oscar Wilde and Reading Gaol

Oscar Wilde and Reading Gaol
Biographies of Wilde and Berkshire's Victorian prison

Small Objects of Power

Small Objects of Power
An Exhibition about Medieval Seals

Enemies of the State

Enemies of the State
Irish Patriots in Reading Gaol

The Berkshire Echo

The Berkshire Echo 84
July 2018: Coleshill House and Estate - Conserving Coleshill - New to the Arc...