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Time register, or ‘Pegging Clock’, made in Darlington, England, 1900-1939

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A system of ‘tell–tale clocks’ was installed in Sussex Lunatic Asylum in 1890. They checked the timings of night patrols. There were 400 patients when the Asylum opened in 1859. Doors to the wards and corridors were locked. Attendants patrolled the male and female sleeping areas. This clock device was fitted to the walls in the dormitories. The attendant operated the mechanism with a key. This made an electrical contact with the master control in the Hall Porter’s office. The master control was geared to a clock mechanism with a rotating drum. Graph paper, marked to coincide with an ordinary time clock, was placed over this drum every night. Pen and ink tracers showed the exact time and location a key was inserted. It showed staff were alert and where they should be. It also showed they were safe from attack. This system is symbolic of the rules, regulations and surveillance routines in large Victorian asylums. It also shows how staff as well as patients were rigidly controlled by institutional life. This contrasts with the flexible care now offered by psychiatric nurses in the community.

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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: time register

No description.