22 June 2024

A recovered lunatic

The West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum opened to patients on 23rd November 1818 with the aim of providing mental health care assistance to people from poorer backgrounds.

In 1831, Dr Charles Caesar Corsellis was appointed Director and Resident Physician; he remained there until 1853.

Corsellis was one of the many children of Nicholas Caesar Corsellis and his long-term mistress, Sarah Plampin. He was born in Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, on 1 February 1800 and baptised at St Mary the Virgin, Wivenhoe, Essex on 8 July 1813. On 31 August 1827 he married Caroline Coolidge Turkington in London. After his time at Wakefield, he moved to Llandysul, Cardiganshire, and then to Oxford where he died on 1 January 1876.

Mary Hutton, née Taylor, the writer of these lines appreciative of the care given to her by Dr. and Mrs. Corsellis, was born in Wakefield on 10 July 1794. She moved to Sheffield when young and spent most of her life there.

On 4 March 1844, the Sheffield social campaigner, Samuel Roberts, and the poet, James Montgomery, published an open letter in a Sheffield newspaper entitled The case of Mrs Mary Hutton. This letter detailed the plight of Mary Hutton and her husband, who had been "thrown into great difficulties...his wife, who detested and publicly denounced, in verse, the dreadful New Poor Law, was of too independent a spirit to apply to it for relief. They struggled on but the struggle was too much for them both; their strength, their health, and, at length, HER reason gave way. Her husband was then compelled to apply for her to the Workhouse, while he himself was admitted as an in-patient of the Infirmary". 

In 1843 Mary was sent to Attercliffe Asylum, which had recently been the subject of an enquiry into the forced restraint of inmates. The letter continues "There she remained during two weeks of such dreadful sufferings, that had they been longer continued, they must, she says, have precluded all hope of recovery". 

Mary was then sent to the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, and the care of Dr. and Mrs. Corsellis, "a change as she states, almost resembling a removal from hell to heaven".

Leeds Intelligencer - Saturday 23 March 1844

The following lines, which we have great pleasure in publishing, have been written by Mrs. Mary Hutton, the poetess, of Sheffield. The writer, who has long had to struggle with poverty and privations, was a few months ago deprived of her reason and she became an inmate of the Lunatic Asylum at Wakefield, where she continued for four months, when she happily recovered. 

In some letters to her friends, written whilst she was in the Asylum, she speaks in the highest terms of thankfulness to Dr. Corsellis and his lady, and on her release she wrote the following lines.

To Dr. and Mrs. Corsellis

To you, ye worthy, noble minded pair.
Devoted love and gratitude I owe;
For your exalted skill and timely care,
Uprais'd me from the lowest depths of woe.

When in a storm of wild convulsions toss'd
My health and strength and blessed reason lost;
And when I scarce could know my depth of pain,
Through the wild whirlings fever'd brain;

Angelic tones fell softly my ear,
And sweetly soothed and bade banish fear,
And cheer'd poor desponding soul with love,
And bade me hope and trust heaven above.


We may just add that Samuel Roberts and James Montgomery, Esqrs., of Sheffield, have made an appeal to the public on behalf of this poor woman which we hope will be successful.