For over thirty years I have been collating Social History, daily life, during one century in a Victorian built long-term psychiatric hospital (aka asylum). The work includes my own experience, supported by staff colleagues, as a student in the 1960s, and subsequently as Registered Mental Nurse and generic Senior Mental Health Social Worker, working in Graylingwell Hospital and Sussex Community at large. It is an austere, sometimes dramatic, mostly routine duty-of-care history of day-to-day workings of any closed similar old long-term caring institution. Throughout the work, I am observer and one inquiring participant.
The record includes memories of long past staff, civilian and ex- military-service psychiatric patients. Thirty-plus years recording personal memories given in debates with practitioners working ( or who had worked ) in one or more of our long-stay mental hospitals. A Primary Source. Many of my informants date back to their working in the early 20th century – persons employed on site in Military, Health and Welfare care institutions. Narrative threads woven into the uneven script include administrators, cleaners, clerks, cooks, doctors, engineers, mental-welfare-officers, nurses, occupational-therapists, painters, pharmacists, philosophers, physicists, porters, psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, relieving officers and social workers, volunteers and ward-orderlies – even a 1940 hospital shepherd and his family (who lived on the hospital estate). … And of course – our patients.
The Book is written in Two Parts. A narrative with personal memories, aided by considerable research and observations – including self-observation. And a detailed Appendix, as background, which includes – one hundred years of Graylingwell’s year-by-year Social History in chronological abstracts; its life and times; topography; tithe maps; and numerous illustrations with b&w and coloured photographs. And many collated and captioned contemporary forms and interviews taken from transcripts of personal field and hospital surveys; the whole together, are testimonies, of my own and older colleagues (living and many, since deceased) – like a Topsy compendium. … A way of life no longer existent.