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Change Minds Online: Arundel Shoard by Amy Moffat

Arundel Shoald

A photograph of Arundel in his Bethlem casebook entry, located in Casebook CB-132. Unlike the others we hold, it seems to have been created

Arundel Shoard was born between January and March 1852 in Bedminster to Jane Shoard, nee Rogers from Helston, Cornwall and John Shoard, a Miller & Coal Factor from Somerset. The first time he appears in the census is in 1861 where he lives in 22 Hampton Park, Clifton (a suburb of Bristol). At this point in time Clifton was an affluent area that attracted the middle classes thanks in part to the proximity to the Downs, Bristol Zoo (the fifth oldest zoo in the world), the Observatory that sits atop an Iron Age hillfort and Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge[i]. A middle child, Arundel was living in a house with his mother, two sisters, four brothers, two servants and one visitor. Jane is listed as a widow by this time; in Arundel’s Bethlem records, it states that his father died of insanity, but sadly John’s death and burial records are missing from the digital archive.

Arundel came from a big family. Jane was John’s second wife; with his first wife, Mary nee Proctor, he had already had a total of six children. Sadly at least two died young, and Mary may have passed whilst in childbirth with their last son, Thomas Ayres, as they both died between July – August 1845; we know that in Victorian England stillbirths and mother mortality was still high, in part because of the rate of infectious disease[ii]. With Jane he had a further nine children, with at least six surviving in to adulthood.

It seems as though Arundel follows his father’s financial footsteps, although instead of being a business broker he becomes an accountant. This secures his position as an affluent middle class citizen, and he seems to spend the rest of his life in and around Bristol. Many of his siblings also secure middle-class positions, for example his sister Jane becomes a Governess and his brother Francis (also known as Frank) a Bank Clerk. He never goes on to marry, instead living with his brother and “spinster” sister. We may never know if this arrangement was through choice or circumstance, but even after Arundel’s death his siblings continue to live together, joined later by their other “spinster” sister Ellen.

Bethlem was not Arundel’s first experience of a private asylum. In 1876 to 1877 and again in 1880 to 1881 he was admitted to Barnwood House Hospital for the Insane in Gloucester, a private asylum. During this period Barnwood was upheld by the Commissioner for Lunacy as a shining example for other hospitals, in particular for its hygiene and sanitary standards[iii]. Barnwood’s hospital records are currently held by Gloucestershire Archives but have not yet been digitised, meaning that without a trip to Gloucester we won’t know why he was admitted. This was not the end of Arundel’s’ difficulties; in August 1887 he was once again admitted, this time to Northwoods, a house in Bristol that took up to 50 private patients of both sexes. He was there until October, when he was transferred to Bethlem Royal Hospital. Unfortunately in his admittance record it does not note why he has been transferred from Gloucester to London and, as with Barnwood, Northwoods records are only in physical format in Bristol Archives.

When he first arrived at Bethlem on 11 October 1887, the Doctors noted that he was in fair general health. The reason for his admittance is listed as “overstrain;” it would be wrong to presume Arundel’s feelings, but perhaps he felt the burden of being the head of the household and supporting his brother and sister. They would most likely have had a close relationship of sorts, and indeed it was his brother Frank and sister Ellen who provide evidence for the Doctor’s writing the admittance medical certificate. The final diagnosis from the Bethlem doctors was “Acute Mania with destructive impulses.”

Upon his admittance to Bethlem he was not listed as dangerous to others, but Frank, Ellen and the Doctors providing the certificates note that he becomes “violent if thwarted.” This is seen later in his casebook notes, when he strikes the night watch for “no reason.” It later transpires that Arundel has an intense dislike of the night watch that is further exacerbated by his paranoid delusions that people were plotting against him. Whilst we might consider this behaviour as evidence for potential harm to others, the Victorian doctors did not, showing the different standards between then and now.

The doctors write that Arundel is easily irritable, and we see this through his outbursts at the regular Bethlem dances. The dances seem to be a common theme throughout his casebook notes; he is eager to attend them but seems to have an awful time whilst there.

“Nov 1. Last night asked to be allowed to go up to the Dance. Sat looking empty + morose for a time then during A waltz threw a pack of cards + 2 old pipes into the piano. Used bad language + had to be removed to his ward.”

Before his admittance to Northwoods he had worried about returning home lest he be put in an asylum, and whilst at Bethlem he was very unhappy with his treatment for the first three months; perhaps his paranoia and irritability isn’t as unfounded as the doctor believes.

In the medical certificates Ellen states that he is “ridiculously benevolent ‘throwing’ money about” and also lists “cleptomania.” We see an example of both of these behaviours on 13 January 1888. “Went out to a concert in the afternoon with Mr{?} Davies, head attendant. Afterwards went to a pipe shop, on the way home he found that he had 2 pipes in his pocket, having only bought + paid for one. Was not able to account satisfactorily for the fact of the 2 being there. Bought a newspaper at a street corner. Offered the man his purse to take the money from. A crowd collected at once”

As with many patient case notes from this period, although there are many updates about Arundel’s state of mind and incidents that he may or may not have caused, we do not get a list of the types of treatment that was administered to him during his stay. Patients at Bethlem in this period were often given various tasks to keep them busy; this was mainly in an attempt to distract them from their mental health problems, as talking therapies hadn’t been created at this point in time and dwelling on your problems was seen as a bad thing. It also links in to the Victorian view on recovery or “cure,” as for them mental health problems were short term and finite. If you could go back to work, you were effectively “cured.” Usually an effort was made to work with the patient and find them work that they would enjoy, however this does not appear to be the case with Arundel. On 3 November 1887 he says that he wants to do men’s work and not women’s. Unfortunately they do not list what he is doing, but it does raise questions about his treatment during this time.

One of Arundel’s biggest issues appears to be with his mother. On his admission he says that he was not present at his birth and therefore cannot be certain that his mother truly is who she says she is. By January 1888 he does believe that his mother is his, but is “vindictive and opposed” to any allusion of her, and on his discharge in May the doctor notes that he “is quiet and grateful for the caretakers of him but still has a dislike to his mother + relatives.” His mother passed in Spring 1890, with her daughters Jane and Ellen being the executors of her will rather than Arundel or Francis.

Arundel was discharged well from Bethlem on 16 May 1888 after a short stay at Witley and appears in the 1891 census living in with Jane and Francis and two domestic servants, Mary and Elizabeth, in Bristol. His story ends at some point between July and September 1900, where he died in Bristol at the age of 48.

[i] https://www.bafhs.org.uk/bafhs-parishes/other-bafhs-parishes/72-clifton

[ii] https://livingwithdying.leeds.ac.uk/2017/08/09/top-ten-ways-to-die-in-victorian-britain/

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnwood_House_Hospital#cite_note-8

'Facade' by Amy Moffat

DSCN5794 2

I wanted to explore the mix of emotions Arundel might have been faced when first admitted to the Bethlem Royal Hospital. We see in his records that he is worried that people are watching and plotting against him, that he is suspicious of everyone and responds to this anxiety through destructive acts. It is not difficult to imagine that he might have been feeling scared, abandoned and powerless. The image shows a simplified form of the Bethlem Royal Hospital façade, and the pillars can be read as a poem from left to right.

To see more on Change Minds Online you can find more blog entries here or you can see the exhibition of all our participants' creative work via our page here .