Lebanon Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders Archive

Scope and Content

Records, 1896-1997, of the London General Committee of the Lebanon Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders (formerly Lebanon Hospital for the Insane), comprising:

papers, 1907-1983, relating to the Hospital constitution, financial and legal postition, and closure, including copies of the constitution, 1907, 1965, and photocopies of the Wakf Deed (1912);

minutes of the London General Committee, 1897-1982, and Sub-Committee, 1910-1920;

copies of minutes of the Beirut Executive Committee, 1950-1982;

accounts and balance sheets, 1941-1982, including some auditors' reports from 1953 onwards;

ledgers, c1950-1982, recording transactions, investments, funds and expenses;

cash book, 1977-1981, recording transactions and investments;

correspondence and papers, 1896-1916, of and relating to Theophilus Waldmeier in connection with the Hospital, including correspondence with the London General Committee and Treasurer, and Waldmeier's progress reports written for donors and subscribers, the subjects including building and equipping the Hospital, patients, treatment and recovery, fundraising and financial matters, also including press cuttings and obituaries on Waldmeier, 1915-1916;

general files of correspondence and papers relating to Hospital administration, 1902-1997, the subjects including staffing, trust funds and endowments, appeals for funds and other financial matters, and closure, including some correspondence of Sir Geoffrey Furlonge (Chairman of the London General Committee), 1971-1981, and correspondence with the Charity Commission, 1984-1997;

annual reports, 1899, 1956-1974 (incomplete series);

publicity material, c1897-1971, including speeches, texts of radio broadcasts, various publications, and autobiography of Theophilus Waldmeier;

photographs, 1909, 1956, 1974, including the hospital at Asfuriyeh and the site at Aramoun;

miscellaneous papers, 1898-c1992, including undated list of Chairmen of the London General Committee (1906-1970), reports on visits to the Hospital, 1964-1965, reports and photographs of damage to Aramoun, 1991-c1992, and ground plan of Asfuriyeh, revised 1907.

Administrative / Biographical History

"The Lebanon Hospital for the Insane", Asfuriyeh, was founded in 1898 by Dr Theophilus Waldmeir (1832-1915), a Swiss Quaker, to provide care for the "mentally afflicted" of the Lebanon, Syria and the Middle East.

On 17 April 1896, a public meeting was held at Dr Henry Jessup's house in Beirut, to announce the plan for founding 'the first Home for the insane in Bible Lands'. The campaign was launched, Waldmeier travelled to Europe and the USA to collect funds, and the Beirut Executive Committee was founded. The first meeting of the London General Committee (LGC) was held at the Bethlem Royal Asylum on 11 March 1897 and its Medical Superintendent, Dr Percy Smith, was elected as Chairman. The Asfuriyeh estate was purchased in April 1898, six miles from the centre of Beirut. The Hospital opened on 6 August 1900 with 10 patients. The Hospital's Constitution and Rules were formally drawn up in 1907. Under the Constitution, the Beirut Committee officially became the local executive committee in Beirut of the London General Committee, which retained overall authority over the Hospital.

In 1912 the property became a 'Wakf' , i.e. it was dedicated as a religious foundation under the code of law prevailing in the Lebanon, to be held by the Chairman of the London General Committee (who became the 'Trustee' or 'Mutawalli'). This set down the responsibilities of the 'Trustee' and his agents (in this case the Beirut Executive Committee) for managing the property. It was made a condition that the Hospital should be international and interdenominational.

The Lebanon Hospital for the Insane gradually expanded, and there was reportedly accommodation for 150 people by 1924; 350 by 1935; and 410 by 1936. By 1949, 14,000 patients had been treated since the opening of the Hospital. In 1938 the Hospital was renamed the Lebanon Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders.

In addition to clinical work, the Hospital contributed to training in the field of psychiatry. In 1922 it was affiliated with the American University of Beirut and became the Psychiatric Division of the University Hospital. In 1939 it was recognised by the Royal Medical/Psychological Association as a Training Centre for the Mental Nursing Certificate. In 1948, it opened a School of Psychiatric Nursing, the first of its kind in the Middle East, and which was subsequently used by the World Health Organisation for the training of specialised personnel. Treatment at the Hospital followed world-wide medical advances, and included Insulin Coma Therapy, Cardiazol Convulsion Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Electric Convulsion Therapy. Chemotherapy was introduced in 1952.

Between 1941 and 1946, a large part of the Hospital had to be handed over to the British Military Authorities, then in occupation of the Lebanon, to house their 43rd General Hospital. In the post-war climate, the Hospital's financial status never fully recovered, and by 1972 the Hospital was experiencing real financial difficulties. It was decided to sell the existing site and buildings and to re-build the Hospital on a more modern plan. A new site was chosen at Aramoun, near Beirut Airport. Asfuriyeh was sold in April 1973. The building programme was brought to a halt by the Lebanese Civil War (April 1975 - November 1976), and construction did not resume until summer 1977. The need for replacement materials and inflated prices meant that by the end of 1977, the Hospital was on the point of bankruptcy.

Despite appeals for funds, by early 1981 negotiations had commenced between the London General Committee and the Beirut Executive Committee to close the Hospital and to dispose of the property in accordance with the legal terms of the 'Wakf'. The Hospital at Asfuriyeh was officially closed on 10 April 1982. Aramoun continued to operate, although extensively damaged during the Civil War and occupied by the Israeli Army until 17 October 1982.

The LGC eventually resigned control of the Hospital itself to the Beirut Committee. However, in accordance with its continued responsibilities for trust funds established in the Hospital's name and held in the UK, it retained several of its members as London Trustees of the Lebanon Hospital for Nervous and Mental Disorders and established a scheme for the administration of these funds under charitable status. The Trustees continue to operate.

The Hospital's founder, Theophilus Waldmeier, was born in 1832 in Basle, Switzerland. He attended the missionary college of St Crischona, near Basle, and went to Abyssinia as a missionary in 1858. He left in 1868 and went to Syria, settling at Beirut in connection with the British Syrian Mission founded in 1860. In 1873, he started the Friends' Syrian Mission at Brummana, where he was superintendent, and founded Brummana High School. He relinquished his position in 1896 in order to promote his plan of providing a home for the insane. He travelled extensively to appeal for funds. Returning to Beirut in 1898, he purchased the site at Asfuriyeh. He became business superintendent at the Lebanon Hospital and retired in 1915, the year of his death. He published The Autobiography of Theophilus Waldmeier, Missionary, being an account of Ten Years' Life in Abyssinia and Sixteen Years in Syria (1886).

Access Information

Unrestricted, except for Box 17 (correspondence and papers containing sensitive personal data from the general files), which is closed until 2045.


Acquisition Information

This collection was donated to SOAS by Lawrence Naish, on behalf of the London Trustees of the Lebanon Hospital for Mental and Nervous Disorders, on 20 July 1998.

Other Finding Aids

Unpublished handlist.

Conditions Governing Use

For permission to publish, please contact Archives & Special Collections, SOAS Library in the first instance

Custodial History

The papers were donated to SOAS by Lawrence Naish, former Secretary of the London Trustees of the Lebanon Hospital for Nervous and Mental Disorders. The bulk of the papers had previously been given to Lawrence Naish by Oscar Darton's widow. Darton was the former Treasurer of the London General Committee.

Related Material

NHS Greater Glasgow Archive holds a collection of material relating to the hospital [Ref: GB 812 HB 26] including annual reports, 1941-1952; minutes, 1943-1955; and correspondence of Dr Angus MacNiven, 1943-1955.

Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York holds a collection of material relating to the hosptial [Ref: Retreat/1] comprising minutes and correspondence, 1907-1928.