Stanley Royd Hospital, Wakefield (formerley the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum), Records (C85))

Scope and Content

Including admissions books, registers, case books and patients' case files, post mortem records, minutes and reports, photographs, maps, plans and correspondence

This collection is in the process of being renumbered so please conatct he Wakefield Office for further guidance

Female case books pre 1900 and some male case books are available to view online as part of the History to Herstory website

Administrative / Biographical History

The County Asylums Act 1808 authorised the establishment of county asylums for the care and treatment of the insane poor. As a result the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum was opened at Wakefield in 1818. This was the only such institution in the county, apart from the Lunatic Asylum at York, which had been built by general subscription in 1774. Originally set up for the accommodation of pauper lunatics, the York asylum subsequently admitted paying patients. This change led to such continued abuse that a thorough reform was considered necessary, and was carried out in 1813 by, among others, Samuel Tuke. His advice was later sought by the magistrates in the planning of the new asylum, as a result of which he produced his 'Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums', and his detailed instructions to the architects.

An earlier result of the abuses at the York asylum was the foundation in 1796 by William Tuke, tea merchant, Quaker and grandfather of Samuel, of the Retreat, a Quaker institution run on the basis of kindness and a minimum of restraint. This was for many years a model for treatment in the rest of the country, and its influence undoubtedly affected the principles on which the county asylum was founded.

The new county asylum was administered by the magistrates at quarter sessions from 1818 until responsibility was transferred to the County Council, through its Asylums Committee, in 1889. From 1912 the County Council shared the task with the county boroughs, forming the Asylums (later Mental Hospitals) Board. After 1948 the re-named Stanley Royd Hospital, came under the control of the local health authority. The hospital closed in 1995

A further influence on the development of the asylum was that of the Lunacy Commission, a government body created in 1845 to supervise and inspect local provision for the insane. To supplement the asylum at Wakefield further asylums were established at Wadsley (Sheffield) in 1872, Menston (Leeds) in 1888 and Storthes Hall (Huddersfield) in 1904.

Throughout the nineteenth century there was a considerable amount of legislation relating to the regulation of pauper lunatic asylums, culminating in the Lunacy Act 1890 (53 Victoria, c.5). This Act remained in force alone until 1930, when it was supplemented by the Mental Treatment Act. It was finally repealed until the Mental Health Act of 1959.

For further details see:

A.L. Ashworth 'Stanley Royd Hospital, Wakefield, one hundred and fifty years, a history' (1975)

J. Shaw Bolton 'The Evolution of a Mental Hospital - Wakefield, 1818-1928' Journal of Medical Science vol. LXXIV, no.307 (Oct.1928)

D.P. Fry 'Lunacy Law: the statutes relating to private lunatics, pauper lunatics, criminal lunatics, commissions of lunacy, public and private asylums and the commissioners in lunacy...' 3rd edn.

Access Information

Some records under 100 years old are subject to legal restrictions on access. You will be informed of any restrictions which apply when you contact Wakefield Archives. For further information please see the West Yorkshire Archive Service Policy on Access to Records, which is available on our web site

These records are available from the Wakefield Office by appointment. WYAS uses the CARN readers ticket system, please see our website at

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Related Material

See also C110 for West Riding Mental Hospitals Board reports and minutes; also estate plans.

Some photographs of inmates held at Wakefield Headquarters (GB 201) under reference Z169

Some items also held at the Stephen Beaumont Museum at Fieldhead Hospital, Wakefield

Records of some child and youth patients may also be found in the records of the Northern Counties Asylum (later the Royal Albert Hospital), Lancaster; held as ref HRRAat the Lancashire Record Office (

Geographical Names