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History of Montrose
Chapter XXI. - Asylum, Infirmary, Dorward’s House of Refuge

THIS far famed Asylum, for the treatment and cure of J lunacy, instituted in 1782, is situated in the south links, near the Wet Dock; but its proximity to such a noisy and bustling scene being thought unfavourable to the patients, and these being on the increase, it was thought better to build a New Asylum, than to make any more additions to the old one, as had to be done more than once before. The New Asylum at Sunnyside was accordingly built in 1857, at a cost for the buildings of 27,513 7s. 5d and for the furniture of 2558 15s., besides Dr. Howden the superintendent’s house, 1218 19s, farm stock, 496, and carriages and horses, 78. The patients, according to the Report for 1865, were distributed as follows, viz.: 361 at Sunnyside, and 60 at Montrose Old Asylum. Patients came so far as from Caithness and Shetland. 58 Patients in all were admitted last year, being a less number than for several former years, as to which Dr. Howden remarks “That it would be gratifying if this change was an index of the decrease of insanity, and no doubt the continued tranquility and prosperity of the country must have a certain influence on the mental health of the people; but the fact that additional asylum accommodation has been erected in connection with Dundee Poors’ Houses, must be looked to as the main cause of the decrease.” In another part he says “the proportion of recoveries to the admissions is large this year, being as 48 nearly to every 100. This ratio is higher than usual, because the admissions are fewer; and a large proportion of recoveries took place of course in cases admitted last year, 1864. It is gratifying that the list includes several cases of long standing. Twelve had been nearly two years, one three, one five, and one six years resident in the Asylum. On the other hand, two men recovered under two months, and a man, and two women under three months.” Every effort is made for their recovery by amusements, indoor and outdoor, farm work, excursions to the country, as far as Edzell sometimes, where I danced with them on the castle-green in summer.


The Infirmary, under the medical superintendence of Drs. Johnston and Lawrence, is a most excellent and useful Institution, and deserving of every encouragement and support. The Medical Report of last year says, “The number of patients admitted during the past year has been 276, being an increase of 13 over the number received during the previous year. Ten cases of small pox have been under treatment during the past 12 months, all with one exception (that of a sailor), having occurred in the town. The last cured of the disease was brought into the house in December, and it may therefore be considered that this epidemic has now exhausted itself. During the 18 months over which the admissions of small pox were spread, much annoyance and inconvenience were experienced from the fact, that it was necessary to receive into the same wards, at the same time, patients labouring under this disease and fever. The result was, that many of those treated for fever, during their convalescence, contracted small pox and vice versa. This will now be thoroughly remedied by the two new wards now in course of erection, which are as completely isolated from the other parts of the establishment as possible. Along with the improvements alluded to, a new washing-house is being erected at the back of the garden, and this must likewise greatly improve the sanitary condition of the Infirmary.” The expense of the above, Mr Cooke reports, amounts to 850, towards which sum 650 have been subscribed, leaving 200 still to be raised.


The building for this benevolent Institution, which is of the Elizabethan style of architecture, was founded in the year 1838, and completed the following year, at an expense of 2000, but was afterwards enlarged. It was founded and endowed by the late William Dorward, Esq., merchant in Montrose. There was a grand procession of the public bodies, schools, &c., and the fishermen of Ferryden, headed by Dr Brewster, on the day of its foundation being laid. Mr Dorward lived for about ten years after it was built, and had the happiness to see the purposes of his benevolent mind so fipr carried into execution. It is under the management of 24 Trustees. It is provided for the reception, maintenance, care, and employment, of such a number of poor, infirm, and indigent old persons, and orphan children belonging to the town and parish of Montrose, including old worn-out and decayed pauper fishermen or orphan children, belonging to the village of Ferryden, as the size of the building would admit The portrait of the founder is hung over the fire-place of the dining-hall, and has under it the following inscription:—“William Dorward, Esquire, the benevolent founder of this institution, died 10th April, 1848, aged 83. To erect and endow which, he gave and bequeathed 26,000.” In 1851 the number of inmates was 109, of which 28 were men, 30 women, and 81 boys being the greatest number that the house could admit in now April, 1866, the inmates are 24 men, 24 women, 28 boys, 16 girls—total, 92. The House of Refuge and buildings are valued at 3534.

There is a chaplain who has 10 salary, and a medical attendant at 12. The ground in front forms a fine approach to the house, and on both sides and behind is cultivated as a garden by such as are able to work. The whole, both inside and out, wears an air of comfort and good arrangement, very creditable to the superintendent, Mr John Smith and his wife, who have held their present situations since the departure of Mr Christie, who succeeded Mr Robert Moodie, the first superintendent. Besides what is given in the House of Refuge, there is an annual gift to the Soup Kitchen of 50, coals, 25, Destitute Sick Society, 10.

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