Madhouses Act 1774
Madhouses Act 1774An Act of Parliament which created the first legal framework for regulating madhouses in Great Britain. Before the Act, the mentally ill were either kept in the family home or placed in a madhouse—a private house whose owner was paid a fee by the Crown for detaining those who had been deemed “mad” (insane).
Madhouses previous to the act had little to no medical supervision and invited two types of abuse: appalling mistreatment of the truly mentally disturbed, and virtual incarceration (unlawful detention) of those who really were not, but had been put there as an expediency by a relative (as the madhouse’s income was based on head count). The Act put an end to such practices by requiring annual licensing and inspections by the Royal College of Physicians, with hefty fines for having more than one insane person without a license and for each patient taken in without an order from a doctor. The Act received Royal Assent in 1774, was made permanent in 1786 and was repealed by the Madhouse Act 1828.