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Alarm whistle for use by psychiatric warders, Birmingham, England, 1890-1914

Warders at Winson Green Mental Hospital used this alarm whistle. It is representative of the level of institutional security within psychiatric hospitals around the early 20th century. Whistles such as this were part of control measures to curb patients’ disruptive or aggressive behaviour. They were also for the warder to call assistance. It was made of German silver by J. Hudson and Company in Birmingham.

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Glossary: Galton whistle

An instrument for emitting high-pitched tones and ultrasound for determining the upper limits of the hearing range in humans and other animals

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.