Catalogue Finding NumberC85
Office record is held atWakefield, West Yorkshire Archive Service
DescriptionIncluding admissions books, registers, case books and patients' case files, post mortem records, minutes and reports, photographs, maps, plans and correspondence
This collection is in the process of being renumbered so please conatct the Wakefield Office for further guidance
Extent13.13/538 boxes plus 3.71MB
Access ConditionsSome records under 100 years old are subject to legal restrictions on access. You will be informed of any restrictions which apply when you contact Wakefield Archives. For further information please see the West Yorkshire Archive Service Policy on Access to Records, which is available on our web site
AdminHistoryThe County Asylums Act 1808 authorised the establishment of county asylums for the care and treatment of the insane poor, using local funding. As a result the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum was opened at Wakefield in 1818, the 6th such asylum to open (out of 20 under this Act). This was the only such institution in the county, apart from the Lunatic Asylum at York, which had been built by general subscription in 1774. Originally set up for the accommodation of pauper lunatics, the York asylum subsequently admitted paying patients. This change led to such continued abuse that a thorough reform was considered necessary, and was carried out in 1813 by, among others, Samuel Tuke. His advice was later sought by the magistrates in the planning of the new asylum, as a result of which he produced his 'Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums', and his detailed instructions to the architects.

An earlier result of the abuses at the York asylum was the foundation in 1796 by William Tuke, tea merchant, Quaker and grandfather of Samuel, of the Retreat, a Quaker institution run on the basis of kindness and a minimum of restraint. This was for many years a model for treatment in the rest of the country, and its influence undoubtedly affected the principles on which the county asylum was founded.

The new county asylum was administered by the magistrates at quarter sessions from 1818 until responsibility was transferred to the County Council, through its Asylums Committee, in 1889. From 1912 the County Council shared the task with the county boroughs, forming the Asylums (later Mental Hospitals) Board. After 1948 the re-named Stanley Royd Hospital, came under the control of the local health authority. The hospital closed in 1995

A further influence on the development of the asylum was that of the Lunacy Commission, a government body created in 1845 to supervise and inspect local provision for the insane. Three other hospitals were later opened to expand the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, two of which were in West Yorkshire, and WYAS also holds records for High Royds Hospital, Menston, opened in 1888 and Storthes Hall, Huddersfield, opened 1904.

Throughout the nineteenth century there was a considerable amount of legislation relating to the regulation of pauper lunatic asylums, culminating in the Lunacy Act 1890 (53 Victoria, c.5). This Act remained in force alone until 1930, when it was supplemented by the Mental Treatment Act. It was finally repealed until the Mental Health Act of 1959.

Throughout its history from 1818-1995, the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, Wakefield (hereafter Stanley Royd) was one of the world's most famous and active research institutions, aiming for the systematic study of the insane brain, and drawing visits by doctors and asylum administrators from all over the country and world. The research work and the resulting scientific developments were ground-breaking and instigated global scientific changes in the treatment of the mentally ill. The first pathologist in a British asylum, it is believed, was appointed at Stanley Royd in 1872. The work of the Scottish neurologist David Ferrier there in 1873 led to the first modern maps of the human brain, Charles Darwin borrowed innovative clinical photography developed there for his writings, the first outpatient clinic for mental diseases in the country was opened there in 1890, and Stanley Hall, an enlightened model of care and custodial home for 'idiot and imbecile boys' as young as three, was opened in 1901, pre-dating the beginnings of state responsibility.

The records are not only an unparalleled resource for a pioneering research centre, but also for the medical, social and family history of the West Riding, the largest geographical county in England. This extensive and comprehensive collection covers every aspect of life in the institution. At its heart, however, are the patients' records themselves recording, in intimate and extensive detail, the admission, family and social background, illnesses, treatment, and ultimate fate of the thousands of men, women and children who passed through the doors of Stanley Royd. The collection includes over 5000 photographs of patients from the late 1860s onwards, literally putting a human face on a patient number.

Related MaterialSee also C110 for West Riding Mental Hospitals Board reports and minutes; also estate plans.
Some photographs of inmates held at Wakefield Headquarters under reference Z169
Some items also held at the Mental Health Museum at Fieldhead Hospital, Wakefield
Records of some child and youth patients may also be found in the records of the Northern Counties Asylum (later the Royal Albert Hospital), Lancaster; held as ref HRRAat the Lancashire Record Office ( For a transcript of children from the Calderdale area admitted to Royal Albert Asylum, Lancaster, 1870-1942 see WYC:1770.
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