One prisoner who suffered from facial cramps, another with severe anorexia, a third who was ‘talking all the time’ – these women were all prisoners in brutal insane asylums in the 19th century.
Their terrifying images are set amongst several photos of people imprisoned in institutions in both the UK and France, which have been painstakingly colored and enhanced.
Also on display is Harriet Jordan, a cloak and cloak maker, who was admitted to the infamous Bethlem Asylum in London in May 1858 at the age of 24 and suffered from what has been described as ‘acute mania’.
The institution was nicknamed ‘Bedlam’ because it specialized in treating people who were thought to be crazy.
Constance Butterworth was a patient at Holloway Sanitorium, a posh insane asylum in north London.
Pictured in 1898, she had a bicycle accident that left her “gloomy” and left her thinking that “devils had taken possession of her.” She would have deteriorated quickly then.
There are also two photos of male prisoners, including Grenadier Guard William Green, who was admitted to infamous Bethlam in March 1857, when he was 33 after being diagnosed with “paroxysmal and intermittent mania.”
The images were colored in by Colin Webb, 40, of Aldershot, Hampshire, who runs the popular Electric Color Facebook page.
Colin Webb, from Aldershot, who runs the popular Facebook page Electric Color, has colored a series of images of people who were inmates in insane asylums in the 1800s. Above: A woman at the Salpetriere Hospital in Paris in the 1880s who suffered from facial spasms, which were considered a sign of ‘hysteria’
Mary Alice Thorpe was admitted to Prestwich Asylum, Manchester, on 7 March 1901, when she was 31 years old. She is described as being noisy and constantly talking. Her file says she believes she is “akin to royalty and nobility and has friends who are very wealthy”
The married father of two said, “I mainly use Photoshop Elements and historical research to get the colors as accurate as possible.
“It usually takes between three and six hours per image, but it can take longer depending on how much detail there is in the image.
‘I have always been interested in all periods of history and color photos to make history more accessible.
“Hopefully it should give people a better idea of what people used to look like when they were alive. It’s a kind of digital time travel.’
Several patients can also be seen who were imprisoned at the Salpetriere hospital in Paris. A severely malnourished woman suffered from what was described as ‘anorexia emaciation’ due to hysteria.
A severely malnourished woman treated at the hospital in Salpetriere suffered from what has been described as ‘anorexia emaciation’ due to hysteria. She is seen above in the 1890s
Constance Butterworth was a patient at Holloway Sanatorium, a posh insane asylum in north London. She is pictured in 1898. Constance had a bicycle accident that made her appear ‘gloomy’ and left her thinking that ‘devils had taken possession of her’. She then quickly deteriorated into ‘acute mania’
Eva Margaret Allingham was also a patient at Holloway Sanatorium. She is pictured above in 1898. Eva is said to have suffered from delusions and voices in her head. Colouriser Mr Webb said: ‘I mainly use Photoshop Elements and historical research to get the colors as accurate as possible. It usually takes between three and six hours per image, but it can take longer depending on how much detail there is in the image.”
Another image shows only the lower half of a woman in Salpetriere whose muscles tightened – a condition attributed to hysteria. It was noted that she was going to have surgery
A colorized photograph of Harriet Jordan, a cloak and cloak maker, who was admitted to Bethlem Asylum, London, in May 1858, aged 24, suffering from acute mania
Another image just showed the lower half of a woman in Salpetriere whose muscles were tensing – a condition attributed to hysteria. It was noted that she would be operated on.
While the institutionalization of patients with mental health problems was not invented in the Victorian era, the 19th century saw a huge increase in the number of asylums and patients admitted to them.
The first known asylum in the UK was at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in London. It had been a hospital since 1247, but started to take in patients with mental illness around 1407.
Matthew Greenwood, 45, was a farmer who was admitted to Norwich Country Asylum on December 8, 1882. He has been addicted to booze for the past two years and is “astonished and troubled in his mind.” He was impoverished and his mother was also a patient in the asylum. He recovers and is discharged in April of the following year
A female patient at Salpetriere Hospital who reportedly had hysteria-induced narcolepsy. She seems tied to her bed
William Green, a Grenadier Guard, was 33 when he was admitted to Bethlem Asylum in March 1857. He was diagnosed with ‘paroxysmal and intermittent mania’.
Sarah Ann Russell was admitted to Prestwich Asylum, Manchester, on 17 April 1901, when she was 24 years old. Her notes read: “She says she doesn’t know why she’s refusing her food. She’s also afraid that the people in the workhouse will kill her.”
Patients were often considered “mad,” as suggested by The Mad House Act of 1774. It was replaced in 1853 by The Lunatic Asylums Act.
Treatments include coercion and confinement in a stuffed cell, water therapy, and drug treatments.
The old asylum system in the UK had grown too big to manage by the 1960s and in 1961 it was announced that many would be closing.
To see more of Colin’s coloring work, click here.