Posts Tagged ‘Asylum’

Museum Miscellany

September 18, 2010

(Some of the) Treasures of Market Lavington

Tonight at 7.30pm in Market Lavington Community Hall

Tickets, on the door at £5 each.

We celebrate our Silver Jubilee tonight. The event will take the form of a concert in images and sounds with a number of pieces presented. This has not been done before and the programme may get altered to match the time available but the plan is.

Part 1

  1. “Candown Farm”, one of the lost farms of Salisbury Plain
  2. “Broadwell”, Market Lavington’s water supply, narrated by former curator, Peggy Gye
  3. “A Basket Case”, the story of a basket made and used in Market Lavington
  4. “Transport of Delight”, how we travelled by road, rail and air
  5. “Village Worthies”, some famous people from Market Lavington
  6. “Lavington Songs”, performed by the Lavington Community Choir

An interval so that you can sample some Market Lavington nibbles and refresh your glasses at the bar. You will also have a chance to chat with Tim and Helen of the Wiltshire Museum Service who will tell you how the county support local museums like ours at Market Lavington

Part 2

  1. “Bang it on a Big Bass Drum”, the story of Market Lavington bands
  2. “Chalk and Cheese”, farming in Market Lavington
  3. “Fun and Games”, leisure activities in the parish
  4. “Along the High Street”, shops and shopping in Market Lavington
  5. “In sickness and in Health”, some aspects of medicine in the parish
  6. “The ballad of Sam Rumble”, a folk song about a man from Market Lavington who drove traction engines

Do come and enjoy what will be a fun and interesting evening

J L Maddox and sundials

July 15, 2010

Mr Maddox was a resident at Fiddington House Asylum in the 1940s (possibly before) and 1950s. His tale is one of those which perhaps shows past unfairness to people who don’t quite conform to the most usual norms of social behaviour. One would guess that in the 21st century, Mr Maddox would have been diagnosed with asperger’s syndrome. He may well have found an appropriate job to suit his undoubted skills and would probably have been regarded as a useful member of society. But in those less caring days, within living memory, he was classed as a lunatic and housed in an asylum.

However, it was not all bad. It seems to have been recognised that Mr Maddox was harmless, gentle and of a generous spirit. He was not locked away but had a bicycle and rode into the village centre with his long, white beard blowing in the breeze. In his pocket he had verses of text which he had cut from a bible and he gave these to the local children. They, not surprisingly, called him Jesus and he is remembered fondly by those village youngsters. This could be because, at times, he gave them sweets. In the present climate of opinion this might have been regarded as a bit odd, and maybe it was, but nobody reports that Mr Maddox was ever anything but a decent chap.

Well actually, Vicars at the time might have got a bit fed up with him, for his real fixation was with sundials. He regularly checked the sundial on the church and found it to be eight minutes out, at which point he’d send another grumbling letter to the vicar wanting it put right.

Mr Maddox did sundial calculations on a door at the asylum and we have this door in Market Lavington Museum – a particularly fascinating relic from a former era and a past way of treating people with mild psychiatric disorders.

Sundial calculations on a door from Fiddington House Asylum - signed JLM and now at Market Lavington Museum

If anybody knows where Mr Maddox came from or where he ended his days we’d love to hear from them.

Fiddington House Asylum

July 14, 2010

Fiddington is the area which was transferred from the parish of West Lavington to that of Market Lavington in the 1880s. Geographically speaking it was always separate from West Lavington and adjoined Market Lavington so the move must have made a lot of sense.

Fiddington House was purchased by Mr Robert Willett in 1834. He had been running an asylum at Palm House on Market Lavington High Street since 1816. Stories suggest he was forced to move because of complaints from local High Street residents about the noise made by the patients. At the museum we rather wonder if Mr Willett, who was an entrepreneur rather than a medical man, didn’t see the bigger property as a chance to increase his income.

Fiddington House Asylum was registered in 1834 for 180 patients. Whilst it was always a private asylum and well advertised as suitable for gentlefolk of a nervous disposition, it also took pauper inmates. In fact in 1844 when a report classed the asylum as one of the best in the country, there were 144 parish residents – each bringing eight shillings a week of parish money with them and just 36 private patients. We do not know what they paid but it seems a fair guess that Mr Willett’s business venture had a gross income of about £100 per week.

Our photograph, showing two unknown gardeners, was taken in 1912.

Fiddington House Asylum in 1912 - a photograph at Market Lavington Museum

For genealogists looking for relatives who might have been in the asylum remember that on the censuses before 1891 to look in West Lavington and from then on in Market Lavington (except that one of the best known on-line census sites has, quite wrongly, attributed most of Market Lavington to West Lavington in 1891). Some of the censuses only give the initials of people who were classed as ‘lunatics’ so researchers may find it useful to browse through the pages for the appropriate district rather than just search for a particular name.

There will be more about Fiddington House in the future.

An Advertisement for Fiddington House

January 22, 2010

Last year we were handed this advert for the Private Lunatic Asylum at Fiddington House. It comes from an 1880 Kelly’s Directory.

Advert for Fiddington House

A lunatic asylum was founded in the early nineteenth century at Palm House on the High Street. It has been said that there were complaints of noise and that was the reason for the move to Fiddington House – or maybe it was pure commerce and the Palm House site was no longer big enough – the owners felt they could make more money at bigger premises. By the 1840s the asylum was set up in the old country house at Fiddington.

For those who know the layout of the area it may be a surprise to know that Fiddington used to be in West Lavington but by 1880 when this advert appeared there had been boundary changes and the asylum had become a feature of the parish of Market Lavington.

The museum has other items connected with the asylum including photographs and a booklet which advertises the premises, rather as though it was a holiday camp.

The asylum closed its doors in about 1960 and the buildings were demolished to make way for the Fiddington Clay housing.

If you have anything to share or would like further information then please contact the curator.