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Shropshire asylum patient who grasped his freedom

By Toby Neal | Shrewsbury | Nostalgia | Published:

Charles Gilbert was no doubt considered a success story by Bicton Lunatic Asylum, as it was called then.

The main hall of Shelton Hospital. Picture: Shropshire Archives.

He first arrived at the asylum on the outskirts of Shrewsbury in June 1908 at the age of 51, coming from a prison where he had served a sentence imposed by Oswestry Borough police court for being drunk and refusing to quit licensed premises.

What happened next has been revealed by a project by volunteers of Friends of Shropshire Archives to catalogue admission documents from the asylum from the beginning of the 1900s to 1926.

Gilbert turns up again at the asylum – which was later known as Shelton Hospital – being admitted from Oswestry workhouse in February 1910, and then again is admitted in May 1913.

He was "sent to London to find work, but returned tramping by road and putting up as a casual at workhouses," an article by Delaine Haynes in the latest edition of the Salopian Recorder, the Friends' newsletter, reports.

The record went on to say he was improving, and he seemed popular, albeit having a disposition for drinking, and one report saying he "plays cards with other patients, whom he generally succeeds in relieving of spare cash."

Delaine writes that it was noted that he was "generally well behaved with occasional relapses and becomes noisy and abusive."

But then, on July 14, 1918: "Yesterday patient was permitted to go to town with the messenger's cart. He was allowed to go about the streets by himself and failed to return to the cart. He has not since been heard of."

The admissions which have been catalogued cover the period of the Great War, and include several of soldiers due to mental health problems.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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