Building Ideas: lunatic asylum reform in the British Isles, 1815-1845

Author(s): Katherine Fennelly

Year: 2014


At the end of the eighteenth century, lunatic asylum reform became a popular topic amongst physicians, philanthropists, politicians and architects, culminating in a series of Acts to reform lunacy provision in the British Isles. This paper will outline the features of lunatic asylum architecture which were drawn from these ideas of improvement and reform, the application of these ideas in architectural plans and management practice, and their limitations. Two comparable examples from England and Ireland will be used to illustrate how these features were applied. The asylums constructed immediately following the reform Acts in the British Isles were proving grounds, spatialising the reform ideals. In the decades immediately following their construction, early asylums had developed and adapted to the various economic and demographic demands of their respective locales. In England, this took the form of expansion programmes, and in Ireland management and classification practices were adapted. Though lunatic asylums in the early nineteenth century have largely been seen as uniform, this paper proposes that asylum architecture evolved according to social and economic demands.

Cite this Record

Building Ideas: lunatic asylum reform in the British Isles, 1815-1845. Katherine Fennelly. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436679)

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-12,04