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Online Gallery: Snapshots of Institutional Life

In the nineteenth century there was a growth in all kinds of institutions where people lived away from the family home for short or longer periods. These galleries offer a themed series of snapshots of the material world of three different types of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century residential institutions in south east England: mental hospitals, public schools, and lodging houses.

During the nineteenth century there was a growing concern for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Many new mental hospitals (generally called lunatic asylums at the time) were built for them. The galleries include pictures of the charitable Holloway Sanatorium, the enormous rate-funded public asylums of Hanwell, Long Grove and Brookwood and the Criminal Lunatic Asylum at Broadmoor.

In the same period, affluent middle-class families increasingly sought a public-school education for their sons. The Victorians also pioneered secondary education for girls, allowing them to compete academically with boys for the first time. There are images here from Winchester College and Charterhouse, as well as the more unusual charitable foundation, Christ's Hospital, and the recently established North London Collegiate School for Girls.

Common lodging houses—commercial enterprises that let beds to the poor by the night—were very different from public schools and lunatic asylums, but in the Victorian period they became partly ‘institutionalised’ through state regulation. We take a look at portrayals of the heavily criticised common lodging houses and also improved ‘model’ lodging houses and ‘monster doss houses’ that were developed in an attempt to deal with the problems of overcrowded urban life.


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These galleries were assembled by Jane Hamlett, Lesley Hoskins and Rebecca Preston at Royal Holloway University of London, and are part of the Economic and Social Research Council funded project At Home in the Institution? Asylum, School and Lodging House Interiors in London and South East England, 1845-1914 (ESRC RES-061-25-0389).

The images have been reproduced by kind permission of Christ's Hospital; the Headmaster and Governing Body of Charterhouse School; London City Mission; London Metropolitan Archives; The Warden and Scholars of Winchester College; North London Collegiate School Archives; Octagon Developments; and Surrey History Centre.


We would especially like to thank the following people for their help: Mike Barford (Christ's Hospital Museum); Suzanne Foster (Winchester College Archive); Karen Morgan (North London Collegiate School Archives); Octagon Developments; Jan Pimblett (London Metropolitan Archives); Julian Pooley (Surrey History Centre); Catherine Smith (Charterhouse School Archives); and Joy Whitfield (Egham Museum).


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