James Lawson Gent

James Lawson Gent was born in 1840, he was the son of Henry Medcalf Gent (b 1809) and grandson of Jonathan Gent (b 1785).

JL Gent (ances)

The first reference to James Gent as a patient at the Lancaster City Lunatic Asylum, Whittingham, Nr Preston we found in the 1881 census.

His records at Whittingham Hospital showed that he had initially been declared a ‘Pauper Lunatic’ on 1 Aug 1865 in Bolton and sent to Rainhill Asylum nr Prescot. On 6 May 1873 he was transferred to Whittingham Asylum, nr Preston, which had newly opened, where he stayed until he died on 22 June 1901.

An exact transcription of the ‘Order for the Reception of a Pauper Patient’ is below as well as a transcription of his ‘Notice of Admission’ to Whittingham Hospital. The supposed causes of his insanity (below) are well worth a look!

Admission to Rainhill Asylum in 1865
Order for the Reception of a Pauper Patient

We the undersigned Henry Powell clergyman and Alfred Henderson, Relieving Officer having called to our assistance a Surgeon and having personally examined James Gent a pauper and being satisfied that the said James Gent is a Lunatic and a proper person to be taken charge of and detained under care and treatment, hereby direct you to receive the said James Gent.

Signed Henry Powell, Officiating Clergyman of the Parish of Bolton
Alfred Henderson, Relieving Officer at the Parish of Bolton
1 Aug 1865

 Name James Gent
 Sex & Age Male, 25 yrs, Single
 Previous Occupation Architect
 Religion Protestant
 Previous Place of Abode 155 Bradshawgate, Great Bolton
 Whether first attack Yes
 Age on first attack 25yrs
 Previous Treatment Not under treatment anywhere
 Duration of existing attack About 2 weeks
 Supposed cause Nervousness & over-study
 Subject to epilepsy No
 Whether suicidal Yes
 Whether dangerous to others Yes
 Union to which lunatic is chargeable Common Fund, Bolton Union
 Name & abode of nearest relative Alice Gent, his mother, 155 Bradshawgate, Great Bolton
 Medical Certificate

I the undersigned, Thomas Blacklidge Garstang, being a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, London and a member of the Apothecaries Company, London and being in actual Practice as a Surgeon, hereby certify that I, on the 1 Aug at 155 Bradshawgate, Great Bolton in the County of Lancaster, personally examined James Gent of 155 Bradshawgate, Great Bolton, Architect and that the said James Gent is a Lunatic and a proper person to be taken charge of and detained under Care & Treatment, and that I have formed this opinion upon the following grounds; viz:-

1. Facts indicating insanity observed by myself:
Wild, excited appearance and obstinate refusal to speak a word to me.
2. Other facts indicating insanity communicated to me by others:
His sister told me that on Sunday he went to church and conducted himself very extravagantly.

Signed J B Garstang
Abode: The Height, Bolton
1 Aug 1865

Notice of Admission, Whittingham Hospital nr Preston  1873
James Gent
Date of Admission 6 May 1873
Admission No. 122
Date of continuation of reception order Apr 22 1891
Apr 20 1892
Apr 19 1894Apr 20 1897
Age 33
Previous Occupation Architect
Previous Place of Abode Rainhill Asylum
Union, County or Borough to which chargable Bolton
By whose authority sent H Earle & J Bibby
Form of mental disorder Dementia
Supposed cause of insanity Nervousness and overstudy
Bodily condition Good
Duration of existing attacks 8 yrs
Age of first attack 25yrs
Date of removal, discharge or death Died 22 June 1901


Whittingham Asylum

whittingham_in_the_C19 660

Whittingham Hospital opened officially on 1st April 1873 so James Gent would have been one of its first patients. Burdett wrote of Whittingham in his ‘Hospitals & Asylums of the World’ (Vol 2)

“This is beyond doubt one of the finest specimens of asylum architecture in England and its leading features show at once that it was designed by a Medical Superintendent”.
But it wasn’t just its outward appearance that was excellent, its rules and regulations were remarkable for their high standards regarding the care and treatment of patients.

The Asylum had its own reservoir, grounds, brewery, railway branch (1887), post office, telephone (1884), electric lamps (1892), chapel and cemetery. In 1885 its maintenance rates for pauper lunatics was 9s 4d/week, private patients had to pay 14s/week. The daily diet of patients and staff included one glass of ale, brewed in the asylum. Unfortunately, it was necessary to discipline staff members for drunkenness on duty and the brewery was discontinued in 1902.

whittingham_day_room 660



Whittingham_male_ward 660


As a male patient, James would probably have worked on one of the asylum farms.

whittingham_one_of_the_farms 300




whittingham hospital

whittingham photo album