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Unfortunately, they are arranged by county and poor law union, and there are subject indexes only (MH 15).Correspondence with asylum districts in MH 17 may be worth looking at.You may wish to start your research by consulting our introductory guide to research on asylum inmates.
There are several musters of lunatics who were patients at Hoxton House, 1755-1818 (ADM 102/415-420) and at Haslar, 1818-1854 (ADM 102/356-373); Yarmouth too was a major hospital for naval lunatics.They were the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor (although the Court of Wards took this over from 1540 to 1646), and were sometimes known as the ‘Chancery lunatics’.The king was entitled to administer the lands of an idiot during his life, but of the lunatic only during periods of insanity.Before the establishment of lunatic asylums in the mid-nineteenth century, pauper lunatics were dealt with locally under the poor law, vagrancy law or criminal law.They were therefore likely to end up in workhouses, houses of correction or prisons. Workhouses were run by poor law unions and administered by central government.
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This guide explains which records of mental health patients are held at The National Archives and which are held in local archives.