Edward Long Fox lived in a time when people with mental illnesses were treated cruelly in asylums. His first foray into finding a new method to treat people came when he established Bristol’s Brislington House in 1804, with the ambition of finding a new ‘moral treatment’ for his patients. His methods tended towards the more humane, moving away from chain restraints and instead using exercise and outdoor activities to assist in treatment and recovery.
Brislington House (now known as Long Fox Manor) was built as a private lunatic asylum. When it opened in 1806 it was one of the first purpose-built asylums in England. The buildings, estate and therapeutic regime designed by Edward Long Fox were based on the principles of moral treatment that was fashionable at the time. Brislington House later influenced the design and construction of other asylums and influenced Acts of Parliament.
Fox divided the patients at the Palladian-fronted House according to social class, ‘1st’, ‘2nd’ and ‘3rd’ class ladies and gentlemen, who were housed in different blocks, as well as behavioural presentation. Fox insisted that patients should be separated from their families as they needed to move away from the conventional authority of the head of the household following the madness of King George III. It had erroneously been suggested that the king become a patient at Brislington House.
By1844 there were 60 private patients. The building was re-fronted and a chapel added in 1851 just two years before these cloches were made. The design of the buildings and the therapeutic regime were seen as models to be followed elsewhere.
The asylum continued to be owned and run by physicians from the Fox family until the Second World War. The asylum did not become part of the National Health Service when it was formed in 1948, being categorised as a “disclaimed hospital”. In 1951 it was sold to the Royal United Hospital, who used it as a nurses’ home until the 1980s, when it became a care home for the elderly. In the 2002 / 2003 it was converted into flats and its name changed to Long Fox Manor.
John Thomas Perceval, the son of Spencer Perceval, spent about a year at Brislington House, from 1831 until February 1832, followed by two years at Ticehurst House, Ticehurst in Sussex. In Brislington House Perceval experienced, in spite of the expense, a regime of deprivation, brutality and degradation. For eight months, during which time he was completely under the control of his voices, spirits and presences, he was kept under restraint, either in a straitjacket or tied down in bed. Treatment consisted of cold baths and an operation to sever his temporal artery.
Although they could be still used as intended this pair simply provide us with a huge sense of gravitas and atmosphere, if only they could utter a word.