Following on from my previous visit to the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), which I described last week, I scheduled another visit to the ESRO to view the next set of documents several weeks later.
Things were moving slowly, one piece of information, in this case the admission number, was unlocking more information, and slowly I was beginning to build up a picture of how my 2x great grandfather had ended up in the Sussex County Asylum at Haywards Heath, Sussex.
The first document I looked at that morning presented a number of challenges, not least it’s size. It was the case book (ESRO HC33/1) for patients admitted between February 1896 and February 1899, and it must have been at least six inches thick, although not particularly tall or wide.
The next challenge was what it actualy contained, a description of George Thomas GASSON’s condition when he was admitted, and the changes in his condition whilst in the asylum. At first much of this information was just a repeat of what I had already seen, his name, age, residence etc. but then I came to the section Facts indicating Insanity related in Medical Certificate.
This was what I really wanted to find out, why did they think he was insane? The moment of truth had arrived for me, as well as for George Thomas. There were two statements:
a) He tells me that he hears voices & at times sees figures who hold conversation with his, also sees different little animals running about is nervous
b) George Gasson of Chaites Grove, Bolney. son. says that he is always swearing at night and suffers from various delusions. all the people in the house are terrified on account of his conduct.
The first part seemed almost comical, hearing voices and seeing things, it sounded more like he had a drink problem than a mental illness, but then second part really knocked me back. When I thought of his family in the house and what they must have gone through. I could only imagine how frightening it must have been for them.
When I thought back to the 1901 census return where George Thomas had been absent (and three years after he had been admitted), it struck me that it would have been a house full of children. In 1901 the eldest was 17 years old, and in total there were seven children, right down to the youngest son Harold, who was only three. No wonder they were frightened, it didn’t bear thinking about.
So, not only was there a house full of children when George Thomas was admitted to the asylum on the 24th January 1898, but George Thomas’ wife Mary Ann was pregnant with their son Harold (he was born 23 days later).
My own mind was in turmoil, although there was no mention that he had been violent or aggressive, there must have been such relief among the family when George Thomas was admitted to the asylum. I had gone from feeling sorry for poor old George Thomas and what he was suffering and how his family must have missed him, to feeling a sense of relief for them, that he could do them no harm and they could live a normal life, albeit a without a father at home.
[to be continued]