"Previous attacks of insanity and inherited tendencies." - Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum.

A view of Angelton Asylum - 1898.

As some of my readers know, last June I was given a copy of  the 'Twenty-Fifth Annual Report of the Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum, Bridgend – for the year 1889'. Recently, while researching the history and beginnings of Bridgend & Cowbridge Union Workhouse, I found myself reading the report again.

The Annual Report of the Medical Superintendent addressed to the committee of the Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum is written by Dr. Henry T Pringle and is dated 30th March, 1890. His report makes interesting reading, as some of his medical opinions and thoughts regarding lunacy and insanity would not be of much value today.

Dr. Henry Turnbull Pringle was appointed Physician Superintendent of Angelton Asylum in 1867 and was later appointed Medical Superintendent in 1874. He retired in 1904, after 37 years at Glamorgan County Lunatic Asylum. The report tells us that during the year 1889, Dr. Pringle's salary was £800. He had allowances that included: House, Coal, Gas, Laundry, Garden Produce, Groom, Hay and Straw for two horses. 

Extracts from The Annual Report of the Medical Superintendent 

"No fewer than 34 were suffering from that hopeless form of insanity, General Paralysis. Moreover, of the 34 cases of this sad disease, 19 were aliens and only 15 Welsh, which illustrates a well-known fact that Celtic races generally are much less liable to suffer from this malady that their Saxon neighbours. " 

"No man or woman capable of any intelligent thought and possessed of ordinary self-control would deliberately marry a weak-minded person or an epileptic; and yet many of the class that feeds our Asylums seem to be quite ignorant of the terrible consequences to their children of committing what ought almost to be regarded as a crime. "

"The intermarriage of those nearly related, in isolated villages and country districts, is often carried to such an extent that eccentricity, if not actual insanity, is the predominant characteristic of the inhabitants and is often associated with exceeding, narrowness of mental vision and inability to see questions from any standpoint but their own."

"Amongst the causes of insanity in the new cases, 57 were ascribed to those of a moral nature, such as domestic trouble, worry, anxiety, and money losses; and 127 to a physical, of which the chief intemperance, injuries to head, previous attacks of insanity, and inherited tendencies."

"Isolation is as injurious to a race as it is to any individual, and from this, by reason of its mineral wealth, Glamorgan has to a great extent been preserved; and moreover, as I have formerly pointed out, it has a smaller percentage of lunatics to its sane population that almost any other county, and therefore financially a lighter burden to bear."     

"A new and excellent mortuary has been erected and is one of the most convenient I have seen in any Asylum. The old one is being converted into a meat store." 

Along with his report, Dr. Henry Pringle includes detailed tables to mortality, admissions, discharges, diet etc. One of the most interesting tables (in my opinion) is his table of  'Causes of Insanity'.

Showing the probable Causes of Insanity in the Patients admitted during the year 1889. 
(I have transcribed the table; M = Male & F = Female.)

An illustration of Dr. Pringle, 1894.

  • Intemperance in Drink: M51 - F11
  • Domestic Trouble: M9 - F16
  • Adverse Circumstances: M3 - F4
  • Mental Anxiety and Worry: M7 - F7
  • Religious Excitement: M1 - F1
  • Love Affairs: M1 - F1
  • Fright and Nervous Shock: M2 - F5
  • Sexual Intemperance: M10 - F5
  • Venereal Disease: M2 - F0
  • Self Abuse (Sexual): M2 - F0
  • Over Exertion: M3 - F1
  • Sunstroke: M1 - F0
  • Accident or Injury: M8 - F0
  • Pregnancy: F2
  • Parturition and Puerperal State: F4
  • Lactation: M0 - F0
  • Uterine and Ovarian Disorders: M0 - F0
  • Puberty: M0 - F0
  • Change of Life: M0 - F5
  • Fevers: M0 - F4
  • Privation and Starvation: M1 - F2 
  • Old Age: M2 - F2
  • Other bodily diseases and disorders: M3 - F2 
  • Previous Attacks: M30 - F16
  • Hereditary Influences: M23 - F36
  • Congenital Defect: M1 - F6
  • Other ascertained Causes: M0 - F0
  • Unknown: M24 - F11 

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