‘No Cure, no Pay, Boarding excepted’

‘Mason’s Madhouses’ in old Fishponds

Publication Details
Number: 59
By: Mike Jempson
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 978-1-911522-70-6
Number of pages: 132
Format: Bound Booklet
Page Details
Section: BRHG Publications
Projects: Eastville Workhouse
Subjects: Workhouses & Poverty Laws
Tags: , , , ,
Posted: Modified:

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Long before the NHS, those who did not fit ‘the norm’ were consigned to workhouses or to private lunatic asylums. The latter provided a profitable business opportunity, as the wealthy were only too keen to offload family members whose behaviour was inconvenient. It was a system open to abuses that Daniel Defoe and others were keen to expose.

In the Fishponds area of Bristol, one family lived off the proceeds for more than a century. The revealing tale of ‘Mason’s Madhouses’ explains what life was like in such institutions, uncovers the techniques employed to cure or control the inmates, tells the stories of the main players, and recounts the sensational public inquiry that brought a dynasty down.


  • Read Mike Jempson’s article in the Bristol Cable.
  • A review of the book by Eugene Byrne in the Bristol Times history supplement Bristol Times -28/11/2023
  • A review of the book by Kate Brook in Fishponds Voice (Jan 2024)

Front cover shownig a head with a plan of the mad house projected onto it.Back cover showing a rotational therapy device


An important contribution to the history of Bristol and of mental health provision in the region.

Dr. Leonard Smith, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham

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