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200 Years Ago Today 6

Elizabeth Forbes was asked by the Committee on Madhouses about the sixty-six women in her care, and the four or five who were restrained.

She replied: “One of the female patients has been confined a long time, chained by the leg, as much as five or six years, I have been told; and we have another constantly chained by the hands, that came in about two months since, two of the other blanket patients are only chained at times. I have them loose, to walk about occasionally.”

Mrs Forbes had started work at Bethlem in February 1815, and prior to that had never seen an “insane person”. She said the main changes he had introduced were having the patients washed and clean and having their hair cut to make them “as decent as their situations would admit of.” She said that it was not possible to separate noisy and quiet patients, and added there were few really dirty patients.