British Pathé, the vintage news organisation, have released all of their archive online including some fascinating newsreels on psychiatric institutions of times past.
A particularly interesting film is Inside Rampton! a 1957 newsreel which focuses on Rampton Secure Hospital – which was, and still is, one of England’s three highest security psychiatric hospitals.
The others are Ashworth and the more widely known Broadmoor Hospital – all three of which are designed to treat mental illness in people who pose a serious risk to the public.
On of the points of the film is to report on the hospital following accusations, common at the time, that people were admitted to the institution despite having ‘nothing wrong with them’ and that patients were subject to harsh treatment.
You can read about the controversy in this 1957 Spectator article that talks about the classic and still relevant tension in forensic mental health services between treatment and legal sanction.
Both the film and the article mention the case of Marie Mayo, who was sent to the hospital due to an ‘administrative error’ causing a significant scandal. One of the other Pathé films is a brief report on her release and return home.
There was widespread public concern at the time that psychiatric institutions were randomly locking people up and that residents were subject to abuse.
The Inside Rampton! film is the first wave of serious concern that subsequently led to Enoch Powell’s ‘water tower’ speech and the political moves to bring down the asylum system, as well as the anti-psychiatry movement and its push for a radical approach to mental distress.
Link to Inside Rampton! on YouTube.
Link to Spectator article ‘Heartbreak among the roses’.
4 thoughts on “Heartbreak among the roses”
A combination psych hospital and sweat shop. Nifty! Powell seems to have a point they might have been treated better in a medical hospital.
This is alarming and reminds me of Freudian times when women were admitted because they were believed to be suffering from “Hysteria.” We must remember Dorothea Dix who was a crusader to ensure care/reforms were made to assist the mentally unstable not lock them away from society!
“There was widespread public concern at the time that psychiatric institutions were randomly locking people up and that residents were subject to abuse.” That concern still exists and is justified to a certain degree.