The UK is dotted with the empty shells of old mental health hospitals, which tended to be known as 'lunatic asylums' in their grim heyday. Some have been demolished, others transformed into flats. Some just sit and rot. /1
I used to be obsessed by St John's hospital in Bracebridge Heath, just south of Lincoln. It is an enormously creepy spot, even now when new developments encroach the ruin on all sides. /2
But beyond the weird attraction of sad and decaying places, there's a living history here, and this is where #autism comes into play. /3
The endless corridors of St John's led into countless tiny rooms and larger wards that were often full, and this was one of two major asylums in Lincoln. But the population was smaller then. /4
I realised that hundreds of #autistic people would have been held in buildings like that during the 19th and early 20th centuries. People who could have had rich lives. Sorry, this thread's a bit of a downer.
These buildings were huge. They would have held #autistic people, people with depression, people with learning difficulties, even women who had been diagnosed with 'hysteria' and post-natal depression. /7
In short, these ruined shells were a stone and mortar testament to the darker sides of human history, evidence of the abhorrent way #disabled and ill people have been treated throughout the centuries. /8
Let's not forget that visiting the local asylum was a family activity at times. St Mary of Bethlehem hospital in South London was so popular it gained a nickname - 'Bedlam'. I'm going to go ahead with a TW here - some of the tweets that follow are a bit grim and upsetting /9
In the 17th and 18th century in particular, visiting Bethlem hospital, as it was semi-formally known was as popular as visiting the Tower of London. Though ostensibly an educational visit, the reality was that people wanted to be entertained by the inhabitants. /10
As the above engraving suggests, conditions were poor and treatment and care unhelpful or even non-existent. This was the fate of many #autistic people in the past who weren't lucky enough to be born into privilege and end up being genteel eccentric scientists. /11
#autism has always existed, and in our fun of trying to figure out which famous historical figures were #autistic, we so easily forget the millions who must have endured dreadful, distressing lives in institutions like these. It makes me quite angry to think of it. /12
So give a little thought on this as we carry on pushing for better awareness and acceptance of #autism and all other disabilities. We've got a lot of wrongs to right, I reckon. /13
I'll be adding this to my Patreon later.
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