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Replica of a 19th-century restraint harness, England, 1930-1940

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The original of this leather restraint harness was found in a chest at the Hanwell Asylum in Middlesex in 1930. Hanwell Asylum is now West London Mental Health NHS Trust at St Bernard’s Hospital. Such garments restricted the movements of patients considered violent. They were universally used until the end of the 1700s. More humane methods of management were gradually introduced after this time. Hanwell Asylum’s superintendent was John Conolly (1794-1866). He famously renounced instruments of mechanical restraint in favour of ‘moral treatment’. Moral treatment was regular labour under constant surveillance. It is possible copies made of this and other articles found at the same time were created to illustrate to patients and staff the former treatment of inmates. It appears there was originally a wax figure of a woman, now destroyed, to show how the restraints were used.

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Glossary: asylum

A historic term for a psychiatric hospital. The term in this context was common in the 1700s and 1800s, but is no longer in use.

Glossary: restraint harness

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