During the current COVID-19 pandemic, Wellcome Collection is closed. Please read our full statement.
The library at Wellcome Collection
More search options
Portrait of Dr Alexander Newington by a patient. Ticehurst House Hospital casebook, 1891.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London
James Adam (1834-1908) was an asylum superindendent in several state asylums in the United Kingdom. Through his superintendent diaries for the period 1872-1888, we get a glimpse into the day to day workings of 19th century asylums.
In the 1860s the Metropolitan Asylum Board began to remove the "insane poor" from the workhouses of London. They built two Metropolitan District Asylums to house them: one north of London in Levesdon and one to the south in Caterham. The Metropolitan District Asylum Caterham opened in 1870 with James Adam as its first Medical Superintendent. After 10 years at Caterham, Adam returned to Scotland, where he was born and educated, to take up a new post as Physician Superintindent at the Crichton Royal Institution in Dumfries. He left Crichton in 1883 to open a private asylum in West Malling, Kent, where he remained for the rest of his life.
His superintendent diaries offer an insight into the daily running of an asylum in the late 19th century. They record patient statistics, unusual incidents and staff employed, and contain inserted letters, memoranda, and programmes of events. Seven of the diaries are from Adam's time at Caterham from 1872 to 1879. The remaining three diaries are for the period 1880 to 1882 when he was at Crichton Royal Institution; these complement the Crichton Royal Institution archives, which are also being digitised.
The original James Adam papers may be consulted at the Wellcome Library.
The digitised James Adam papers are available under a Creative Commons Non-Commerical Attribution license; they can be freely downloaded and reused for non-commercial purposes, so long as attribution is given to Wellcome Library.
Browse the full list of James Adam papers
21 August 2015
Explore the collections by author, genre and topic
Find archival material in the Library