History of mental health and wellbeing collections guide

This guide was created in collaboration with The Dragon Café, which is run by Mental Fight Club and meets at St George the Martyr Church. A group of patrons visited Southwark Archives every Monday throughout June and July 2019 to research the history of mental health and wellbeing.

Most of this reading material is held in the book, press cuttings and pamphlet box collections at Southwark Archives. Please note, that we do not hold hospital records. The London Metropolitan Archives holds many of the records relating to Southwark’s old hospitals. You can download a list of hospitals and their corresponding archive repository from data.gov.uk.

Mental health terminology

The language around mental health has changed over time and you may encounter the following terms, that would now be considered problematic or offensive when researching this subject.

Hospitals for people with mental illness were variously called lunatic asylums, hospitals for the mentally unstable, insane or lepers. People with mental illness were sometimes called lunatic, idiotic, insane, mad, maladjusted, mischievous, mentally handicapped or emotionally disturbed.

Subjects headings to access in the archives searchroom

  • Acupressure (Shiatsu)  615.89
  • Aikido  796.8156
  • Alcoholism  616.861
  • Almshouses  361.2
  • Artists  706.9
  • Art: paintings  750
  • Asylums, Lunatic Ref: 362.3
  • Asylums for female orphans  362.73
  • Autism  618.928982
  • Asylums for ‘Deaf and Dumb’  371.912
  • Barnadoes’ Homes  362.73
  • Benevolent societies  334.7
  • Bermondsey Distress Committee  331.137
  • Bermondsey Medical Mission  361.1
  • Bethlem Hospital  362.3
  • Board of Guardians (parishes)  362.5
  • Borough Medical Schools  610.71
  • British Red Cross Society  361.5
  • Carers  360
  • Camberwell House  362.3
  • Camberwell Old People’s Welfare Association  362.6
  • Camberwell Fresh Air and Help Society  362.7
  • Chemists/Manufacturing  615/661
  • Child welfare  362.7 Children with disabilities: welfare  362.7
  • Children’s Homes  362.73
  • Community Centres  366.6
  • Community Health Councils  614
  • Dances/dancing  793.3
  • Days centres (mental illness) A-Z  362.3
  • ‘Deaf and dumb’ asylums  371.912
  • Dispensaries  361.1
  • Drug abuse  616.86
  • Educational psychology  370.15
  • Exhibitions, health  614
  • Fairby Grange  362.16
  • Family Crisis Centre  362.82
  • Family Welfare Association  361.8
  • Friendship links  352.9
  • Gardens/botanical/gardeners  635
  • Gardens/pleasure  725.76
  • Health promotion/authorities/commissions  614
  • Herbalists  615.521
  • Homes for people with mental illness  362.3
  • Hospices  362.175
  • Hospitals  362.1
  • Institute of Psychiatry  362.3
  • Judo/Karate  796.815
  • Leisure Centres  796.0
  • Literary societies  806
  • Maudsley Hospital  362.3
  • Medical missions  361.1
  • Medical Officers of Health: reports – see Public health
  • Mental health  616.8
  • Mother and baby clinics  361.1
  • Music – various  780-784
  • Noise  614.7
  • Nursing homes  362.14
  • Open spaces/parks  712.5
  • Pioneer/Peckham Health Centre  613
  • Playing fields  712.5
  • Pleasure gardens  725.76
  • Poor law  362.5
  • Prejudice  303.385
  • Primary healthcare  614
  • Prisons  365.3
  • Psychiatric services  362.3
  • Public assistance  361.05
  • Public health Ref: 614
  • Recreation centres  796.06
  • Salvation Army  267.15
  • Schools for the maladjusted  371.93
  • Schools, special, for emotionally disburbed  371.94
  • Schools, special, for mentally handicapped  371.92
  • Settlements  360.76
  • Society of Friends  298.6
  • Social services  360
  • Social centres  366.6
  • Southwark Association for Mental Health  362.3
  • Southwark Distress Committee  331.137
  • Swimming baths  613.47
  • Sports  796.06
  • Suicide  364.1522
  • Temperance  178
  • Victim support schemes  364
  • Welfare, social  360
  • Wildlife  570
  • Workhouses  362.51

Resources recommended by the Patrons of The Dragon Café

PC = press cuttings
P = pamphlets collection
number only = book

  • The Story of Peckham House  
  • Villa Street Medical Centre, Walworth PC 616.269
  • Newington Workhouse/Lodge Alfred Fiest and Robert Hogg P362.51
  • The Story of Peckham House by Derek Kinrade P362.3
  • Medical Relief Arrangements (25/05/1913) P362.51
  • ‘One in a Hundred: A community Based Mental handicap project’ by Paul White P362.3
  • Camberwell Register and Camberwell Psychiatric Services P362.3
  • A Comprehensive Service for Mentally Handicapped People: a consultative document by King’s Health Distric  P362.3
  • Poor Law Workhouses 1: St Mary Newington – Medical Committee Minutes (1845-54) P.11 descriptions of 2 women ‘lunatic paupers’ with descriptions of their ‘diagnoses’ and behaviours, P.11-14, 28th May 1846 P362.5034
  • Scenes from Bedlam (book) by David Russell 362.3BET
  • Medieaval English Hospitals P362.1 St Thom
  • Leper Hospitals P362
  • The Story of Baldwins and Herbal Remedies P615.521
  • Proceedings at Laying the first stone of the new buildings at Bethlem Hospital on Thursday, the 26th Day of July with Historical notes and illustrations, and official documents by Peter Laurie, 1838 362.3
  • Periodicals collections: Southwark Association for Mental Health from the 1970s and 80s.

SELON poor law name indexes

A range of name indexes have been produced from original poor law records held here at Southwark Archives and at the Surrey History Centre. These include records of workhouse inmates, settlement examinations, affiliation orders and minutes of meetings.

The fullest surviving Poor Law records relate to the parishes of St Mary Newington, and St George the Martyr. Some of our original material is currently unavailable. Please contact us for more information on accessing these items.

Records of the local Boards of Guardians, which were formed in 1834, are mostly deposited in the London Metropolitan Archives, as are the earlier Poor Law records of some parishes.

Council records

Local Authority records, such as vestry and council minutes, which will hold information on decisions made about patients, asylums, hospitals and workhouses. The following can be requested in advance:

  • Full minutes of the Metropolitan Borough of Southwark 1900 – 1965
  • Full minutes of the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey 1900 – 1965
  • Full minutes of the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell 1900 – 1965
  • Full minutes of the London Borough of Southwark 1965 – 1990
  • Vestry minutes of the Parish of Saint Saviour 1855 – 1900
  • Vestry minutes of the Parish of Saint George the Martyr 1855 – 1900

Page last updated: 31 March 2022

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