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18 steel forks for use in an asylum, London, England, 1775-1825

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Based on a standard cutlery design, these forks have been adapted for use in an early private psychiatric institution. They are not associated with a specific asylum, but are stamped with the maker’s name, W. B. Thompson of London. The size of the collection indicates a significant asylum population. The market was big enough for cutlery makers to adapt their standard designs. The steel forks were created with special prongs joined close to the top. Users could pierce food, but not seriously damage themselves or others.

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Glossary: psychiatric hospital

Psychiatric hospital specialising in the treatment of serious mental illness, usually for relatively long-term patients.

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: fork - flatware

Articles of flatware having a handle with a shank terminating in two or more tines, used to manipulate food especially in serving and eating.