Inside Victorian Broadmoor
Stories from England's first Criminal Lunatic Asylum
Dr William Orange
The Royal Berkshire Archive looks after the historic archives of Broadmoor Hospital. Thanks to generous grants from The Wellcome Trust these archives are now available for research, subject to access restrictions. The archives tell the history of this unique institution.
There are many individual patient histories within the archive, and the pages below tell some of these.
An updated edition of the book Broadmoor Revealed was published for the hospital's 150th anniversary in 2013; a related book, Life in the Victorian Asylum, is also available.
Edward Oxford, by permission of Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum
Edward Oxford was tried for a sensational crime, that of trying to kill the young Queen Victoria. In the spring of 1840, he fired two pistols at the pregnant Queen as she was being driven with Prince Albert outside Buckingham Palace.
There was no evidence that Oxford's pistols were loaded, and he was acquitted as suffering from mental illness. He was sent first to Bethlem Hospital in London and later to Broadmoor. A short biography of Oxford can be downloaded from the link below.
Richard Dadd, by permission of Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum
Richard Dadd's case is well-known. A brilliant artist, he believed that he was controlled by the Egyptian God Osiris. It was Osiris who commanded Dadd to kill his father, with the result that Dadd's talent was confined to asylums for the rest of his life.
A brief biography of Dadd can be downloaded via the link below.
Christiana Edmunds (sometimes spelt incorrectly as Christina) was responsible for a one-woman poisoning campaign in Brighton in the early 1870s. She was eventually caught and sentenced to death, but reprieved and sent to Broadmoor.
You can read more about Christiana's 'death by chocolate' via the short biography below.
William Chester Minor - The Surgeon of Crowthorne - was an American surgeon who emigrated to London and shot a man near Waterloo Bridge. In Broadmoor, he became a prolific contributor to the first Oxford English Dictionary. Simon Winchester's bestseller about Minor's story - also known as The Professor and the Madman - was published in the late 1990s.
Minor's story is told in more detail in Broadmoor Revealed. A shorter biography is available in the pdf below.
(Henry Dodwell) – Probably of his brother George
The Reverend Henry Dodwell is an example of a conspiracy theorist driven to a criminal act. Deprived of his living, and denied restitution by the courts, in 1878 he shot at Sir George Jessel, the Master of the Rolls. He would go on to attack Dr William Orange at Broadmoor. Like other, similar Broadmoor patients, he always argued that he had sought merely to highlight the injustice of his case.
You can read more about Dodwell in the biography below.