As regular readers will know, the Wellcome Library is engaged in an ambitious programme of mass digitisation, covering both our own holdings and associated material in other repositories. Codebreakers, the first fruits of this programme, made available large amounts of material on the history of genetics.
Now the second phase is about to begin. ‘The Asylum and Beyond’ will focus on records of mental hospitals in the 19th and 20th century, and also touch on the movement away from institutional care as the 20th century progressed. Central to this will be the records of Ticehurst House Hospital (held in the Library as MSS.6245-6790, 8408-8409, 8591 and 8928). The records of Ticehurst House are unrivalled as documentation of a privately-run asylum – a type of institution whose records have a notoriously poor survival rate.
Ticehurst was founded in the late 18th century and we have records back to this time, with detailed patient records going back as far as the early 19th. The records extend well into the 20th century; the most recent material is still held by the hospital, which continues to treat patients, now as part of the Priory Group. We are extremely grateful to the Priory Group for granting permission for this unique and priceless material to be made available for research online.
Digitisation of Ticehurst House archives will take fifteen months, and will take place in batches, according to a digitisation schedule. Each batch, whilst being digitised, will be unavailable for readers to use, but we will aim to turn each around as fast as possible: and when the material returns to circulation, of course, it will be with the added bonus that it will no longer be necessary to come to the Library in order to see it. The first batch came out of circulation at the start of this week: the journey has begun…
Author: Dr Chris Hilton, senior archivist at the Wellcome Library