Parsimony, power and prescriptive legislation: the politics of pauper lunacy in Northamptonshire 1845-1876

Catherine A Smith

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


The Northampton General Lunatic Asylum opened in 1836 and was funded through local subscriptions. Unlike many other subscription asylums, it did not become a county asylum after the 1845 Lunacy Acts, but was registered as a charitable hospital. This article explores the dynamics that resulted in the Northamptonshire authorities' successfully evading their responsibility to build a county asylum. The loopholes in the supposedly mandatory legislation are examined, with the implications this had for the relationship between the Commissioners in Lunacy and the NGLA governors, as well as the conflict between the local magistrates and the NGLA governors that eventually forced Northamptonshire to conform and build its own specific county asylum in 1876
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 359-385
Number of pages26
JournalBulletin of the History of Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007



  • lunacy legislation
  • lunatic asylum
  • charitable hospital
  • Commissioners in Lunacy
  • local and central politics
  • Northamptonshire

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