Perhaps one of the greatest horrors of the “golden age” of the massive public asylums is the countless children who died within their walls. Many children were committed to asylums of the era, very few of whom were mentally ill.

Children with epilepsy, developmental disabilities, and other disabilities were often committed to getting them of their families’ hair. These children were treated exactly like adults, including with the same torturous methods such as branding. Due to either security or stigmas of the era, children involuntarily committed were rarely visited by family members and thus had no outside oversight of their treatment.

It is perhaps unsurprising, given these bleak factors, that children had an unusually high rate of death in large state-run asylums. Some of this may be attributable to natural deaths from untreated or under-treated epilepsy.

However, one wonders how many more were due to abuse, suicide, malarial infection, and the countless other hazards visited upon them by their time in asylums.


The obsession with eugenics in the early 20th century added another horrifying element, with intellectually disabled and “racially impure” children also being institutionalised to help society cleanse itself of the undesirable.


Thankfully time has moved on but it needs to keep moving and being more accepting of everyone


Research by Liz Smullen uncovered the following 

Lair 130 Robert Yuill was institutionalised at the age of 7. His notes simply state he could not do certain things for himself but could do most. Born out of wedlock in the early 1900s may have had a bearing on the path that was taken. He lived in an institution in Larbert before becoming a patient in Hartwood as a teenager. His noted behaviours changed over the years until he was simply a clappy happy drooling young man.

One observation stated nothing changed in their observations, the next day's observation was that he had died. No detailed explanation is given to his demise at the age of 26. My thoughts are that this must certainly have been a lonely scared little boy and obviously being removed from his family by the parish council, the treatments and possibly solitude would have had an adverse effect on him. I imagine He would have been one of the first patients in Hartwood Hospital and as a family we were saddened to discover his story.

We are Very grateful to the team who found his grave and a marker has been placed in the hope he can see that he is now not forgotten