Victorian Cases: Moral Causes

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Victorian Cases: Moral Causes

Male patients case book: George Webb’s notes

Date: 1870-1874 | Reference: D/H10/D2/1/1

George Webb was admitted to Fair Mile on 30 September 1870. He was one of the first group of patients to be transferred from Littlemore Asylum in Oxford, where the Berkshire lunatics had previously been housed. He had been a patient there since 1862, having been previously a shoemaker in Reading. He was married, and 55 years old.

The cause of his insanity was supposedly his intemperance, as he spent everything he earned on alcohol. His admissions paper stated that 'he is told that he is the saviour of the world and the creator; that he is a physician, understands the weather, and that it will be fine until 4pm; conversation is incomprehensible.’ He was also prone to destroying his bedding.

He had ulcers on his legs, which were lanced and dressed, but these took a long time to heal and kept recurring on his legs and other parts of his body. These ulcers were caused by scrofula, a kind of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes. It is now rare in the developed world, except in people with reduced immunity. It can usually be successfully treated either with antibiotics or with surgery. Instead, George was treated with extra rations of meat, dairy products and beer to help build up his strength, as well as various medicines.

He continued in his delusions but was otherwise placid. He remained in the Asylum, working in the shoemaker’s workshop. In 1881, he developed an ulcer on his nose which gradually ate away at his face, causing him to lose most of his nose, his right eye, and part of his forehead, so that by April 1883 the medical officer wrote that ‘one side of his face is now a cavern.’ It was skin cancer. Apparently he suffered no pain, but he became weaker and eventually died in Fair Mile on 11 October 1883.

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