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Staffordshire Asylums - Patient Database, 1818-1920

From our project, ‘A Case for the Ordinary: The Patient Experience of Mental Health Care in Staffordshire’, funded by Wellcome (Home | Wellcome). Follow the project blog at: Staffordshire's Asylums | A Case for the Ordinary – Asylum records in an English County ( and for an overview of the project see About the Project.


The early 19th century saw intense debate about how the problem of pauper lunacy should be addressed. At this time, costly private asylums and pauper workhouses offered the only alternative to treating the mentally ill at home. This problem was exacerbated by the long-term detention of criminal lunatics in County gaols.

The 1808 County Asylums Act (Wynn’s Act) enabled counties to raise funds for asylums. The Lunacy Act of 1845 extended this legislation, making it mandatory for counties to provide for the care of the mentally ill. As a result of this legislation, 3 county asylums were established in Staffordshire before the end of the 19th century.

The establishment of pauper asylums in Staffordshire

Stafford Asylum (1818)

Stafford Asylum, opened in 1818, was one of the earliest County Asylums and was highly regarded as an innovative institution. Situated on a 40-acre site to the north east of Stafford town centre, the asylum was able to admit up to 120 patients of all classes – paupers, private patients and charity cases. When Coton Hill Asylum opened in 1854 for private paying patients, Stafford County Asylum became a predominantly working-class institution. The asylum, later called County Mental Hospital, was transferred to the National Health Service in 1948 and later renamed St George's Hospital.

Burntwood Asylum (1864)

A further pauper asylum was established at Burntwood, to the south of the county, as Stafford Asylum became overcrowded. Burntwood County Asylum, later St Matthew's Hospital, Burntwood, opened in 1864. In an updated version of the approach at Stafford, it was comprised of a central service block, with the two wings – one male and one female – on either side. Upon completion, each wing could accommodate 240 patients.

During the First World War patients were transferred to Burntwood from surrounding counties and cities when their own asylums were taken over as war hospitals. At this time, many patients were admitted from Rubery Hill, Worcestershire, and Berrywood Asylum, Northamptonshire. From 1940-1947 the hospital took emergency military and civilian patients and was called Burntwood Mental and Emergency Hospital. In 1948 Burntwood Asylum was transferred to the National Health Service and was renamed St Matthew's Hospital. The hospital closed in 1995.

Cheddleton Asylum (1899)

Overcrowding at Stafford and Burntwood Asylums towards the end of the 19th century led the County Lunacy Committee to propose a new hospital in the north of the County. The County Asylum at Cheddleton, later renamed St Edward's Hospital, opened in 1899 with accommodation for 600 patients. The building was extended, 1907-1908, when eight new wards were added.

As with Staffordshire’s other asylums, during the First World War, Cheddleton admitted patients displaced from hospitals which had been requisitioned for war casualties. Patients from Rubery Hill Asylum, Worcestershire, Berrywood Asylum, Northamptonshire, and Nottinghamshire County Asylum were transferred to Cheddleton. No medical records for the evacuated patients were held at Cheddleton but patient names appear in the indexed visitors' registers.

About this Index

This index includes patients at the hospitals in the period 1818-1920 only since medical records less than 100 years are not normally available for consultation by the general public.

Please be aware that hospital records can be distressing and that terms used to refer to people with mental health problems are historic and reflect the attitudes and language of the period. These terms might now be considered derogatory, or offensive.

A successful search of the index can provide you with some or all of the following information:

  • Surname
  • Forename(s)
  • Occupation – This refers to occupation recorded on admission
  • Union of Residence – Poor Law Union. To view Staffordshire parishes/places within a Union, please see the link below. Where abode was given rather than Union, this has been marked with an asterisk, e.g. Leigh*, Albrighton*
  • Institution – This field includes the 3 county asylums: Stafford Asylum, Burntwood Asylum, Cheddleton Asylum.
  • Year of Admission, Discharge, Death - You may only find a date of admission or death or discharge as there are gaps in the records or because the dates are in other documents that were not consulted for the index. You may get multiple dates if a patient was readmitted
  • Diagnosis - This is the diagnosis recorded on admission
  • Additional Items - This field records items that may be included in the case book, such as a photograph, notice of death, or newspaper cutting.
  • Continuing Notes – This may include a reference to the previous case book, or any following case book in which a patient’s treatment is recorded.
  • Repository - This is the repository where documents can be viewed.
  • Document Ref - This may be the reference number of a register or case book. There may be more than one document referenced for a patient, depending on whether entries were made from more than one case book or register.
  • Page Number - Page numbers only apply to case book references.
  • Record Title – This is the title of the document, for example, “Admissions Register”, “Female Patients Case Book”.

Follow the link for a full list of Staffordshire places/parishes within the Poor Law Unions.

What if I cannot find someone in this index?

If you cannot find the person you are looking for this might be because:

  1. The records may not have survived. There are gaps in the records, particularly for Stafford Asylum.
  2. The index record for the patient includes information post-1920.
  3. Our team of volunteers is still working on improving and adding information to the index which will be updated in due course.

Please contact us ( if you have not found who you are looking for and we will let you know if there are surviving records. We can also advise on who can apply for access to restricted records.

Other useful sites

A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921. Compiled by the Ministry of Labour and published by HMSO, 1927. The digital version of this Dictionary was prepared by Peter Christian, November 2016, and is available at

Classification of occupations, England and Wales, 1931, can be consulted online at HistPop. Search for “Classification of occupations, England and Wales, 1931” and then search for page 14.

The Historic Hospital Admission Registers Project (HHARP) and their medical glossary at

Worcester Medical Museums: patients of Powick Hospital 1852-1916

The Workhouse: The story of an institution


This project could not have been completed without the support of Wellcome who provided a Research Resources Grant for this project.

We are pleased to acknowledge the work of volunteers at Staffordshire Record Office who have contributed to this index.