Having always had a morbid fascination for criminals, the insane and asylums in general, and being the kind of girl whose dad saves the true crime supplements out of the Sunday papers for – I knew this book would be right up my street! When Historical Honey advertised their recent competition to win a copy of Mark Stevens new book, Broadmoor Revealed, I was definitely getting involved! I was thrilled to have been picked as the winner, and it certainly didn’t disappoint – I devoured it within one evening!
From the more ‘celebrated’ inmates, such as the sexually oppressed Oxford (who made contributions to the Oxford Dictionary from within the asylum) and artist, Dadd (whose religious fervour caused him to kill his own father, believing him to be the devil), to the tragic women who’d committed infanticide only to give birth to new life within the asylum walls – Stevens takes the reader on a journey that will challenge any pre-conceptions on the Victorian Asylum, lunatics and even Broadmoor itself.
Each chapter is jam packed with information taken from the archives, building up a picture of Broadmoor as an institution, the patients that resided inside and events that led them to its door in a clear. It is presented in a concise and entertaining way, with a few surprises thrown in – who knew that back then, attendants didn’t actually have to be medically trained to look after mentally ill patients!
Patients inside Victorian Broadmoor.
My Favourite Chapter
Personally, my favourite chapter detailed all the ingenious escape attempts by patients, both successful and unsuccessful, which led to many reforms within the Broadmoor system, aimed to enhance security. Another favourite was the story of Christina Edmunds, the chocolate box poisoner whose unrequited love sparked a murderous spree of poisonings and led her to becoming one of the most infamous Broadmoor patients. Known as the ‘Venus of Broadmoor’, her files detailed her behaviour inside the institution, and offer a fascinating glimpse into the character of a woman who kills.
Entwined within each personal story and chapter, Stevens has managed to sprinkle facts about Victorian attitudes towards criminals and the mentally ill, the treatment offered within institution walls, and the hierarchy in Broadmoor itself. And what is great, is that he does this in such a way that the reader is informed, but not bogged down with heavy information.
Should You Read It?
After reading this book, my appetite has certainly been wetted, and I want to discover more about Broadmoor and its history! I’m excited to hear there will be another book to follow – Its already on my “to read” list and this book should definitely be on yours!
Broadmoor. What a place. What are your thoughts of the Victorian treatment of the criminally insane? Let us know your views in the comments box below…