This was a lecture by Kim Ross, a visiting student from the University of Glasgow, to the Centre for Irish and Scottish Studies.  It was an introductory lecture and had to cover a lot of material lightly.  It has something to say about the history of Lunatic Asylums and Mental Health in New Zealand too.

When this period of building for Lunatic Asylums  began in Scotland of 1857 the authorities began a plan to create 21  district asylums around industrial and urbanised Scotland.  They were medium-sized institutions, neither cottage asylums, nor the county asylums that existed in south of the border in England.  They were intended to be built in semi-rural areas away from the stimulus of the cities while close enough to house the patients.  They were separate from society, places of care and therapy for lunatics, and meant to be self-supporting.

Opinion changed over fifteen years of annual reports until the final districts were established.  It was observed that keeping patients out of the cities didn’t make much difference and the asylum became closer to the city.  It became evident that some patients were incurable.  The places that were built had to become permanent home environments for them, to a given model of a middle-class home, which was not necessarily familiar to every patient.

It is interesting to note that in Otago SeaviewSeacliff, a similar institution at the end of this period, gave way to housing patients at Cherry Farm, now Hawksbury Village.  This in turn lasted for a generation until in recent history the intellectually handicapped are housed in community homes in Dunedin.  While the community homes are in suburban residential areas they may prove to be no less institutional than what has gone before them.  What will be the next change in opinion?

Kim Ross’s studies can be followed on WordPress at Asylum Geographies.