At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, by J. Hamlett

By J. Hamlett

At domestic within the establishment examines area and fabric tradition in asylums, accommodation homes and colleges in Victorian and Edwardian England, and explores the robust effect of domesticity on all 3 institutional forms.

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Additional resources for At Home in the Institution: Material Life in Asylums, Lodging Houses and Schools in Victorian and Edwardian England

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170 To what extent was it possible to feel at home in the asylum? The ‘domesticity’ of the asylum, in terms of elaborate furnishing and ornament, was the domesticity of the ideal middle-class home, or at least a well-off working-class parlour. Elaborate drapery, ornate plants under glass, frills and furbelows, may have puzzled and alienated very poor patients, as much as putting them at their ease. But some, like George E. were appreciative of the material efforts made on their behalf. Moreover, throughout the period, a small number of patients became attached to the asylum, and were reluctant to leave.

30 am. There was a strict division of labour on a basis of gender. Men were allowed a range of occupations (mainly outdoors and relating to the asylum’s upkeep) but there was also an attempt to match their skills to their former professions. Women worked exclusively at needlework and in the wards, laundries and sometimes in the kitchens. But such decoration and activities were not always seen as primarily about control. Some drew a contrast between the domestic organisation of the asylum and the penal regimes of carceral institutions.

161 This illustration of asylum life was probably drawn by someone who had visited Broadmoor, and may give some indication of relationships between the patients. , a patient who was brought into Brookwood in 1880, is quite illuminating here. 162 The statement reveals that there was a social life in the asylum day room – involving both conversation and games between the patients. The associated dormitory system left patients constantly in each other’s company, and as we have seen, could be very brutal.

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