Was your ancestor admitted to the South Yorkshire Asylum (later known as the Middlewood Hospital) because of love, religious mania or fright? Explore 17,368 hospital admission records from 1872 to 1910. Discover when your ancestor was admitted to the asylum, the cause of insanity and whether or not he/she recovered. Many records also record your ancestor’s residence and occupation.

Each record includes a transcript of the original records from the Sheffield Archives. The details in each record can vary depending on the patient, but most will include the following information:

  • Name and sex
  • Birth year and age
  • Status or occupation
  • Admission date
  • Institution
  • Cause of insanity
  • Outcome
  • Death year
  • Discharge, removal or death date
  • Residence
  • County and Country
  • Archive
  • Reference

Discover more about these records

South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum (later known as the Middlewood Hospital) was established in Sheffield at Wadsley Park in 1872. Prior to its construction, the largest asylum in Yorkshire was the West Riding County Asylum in Wakefield, which opened in 1818, but due to overcrowding an alternative hospital was needed.

We can find the South Yorkshire Asylum in the 1881 England & Wales census. According to the census records there were 1,203 patients and 103 staff at the asylum. All the patients’ ages and occupations are listed with their names and birth places. The chief attendant to the asylum was William Hodgson, who lived there with his wife. At the time of the census, his niece and nephew were staying with them. There were 2 cooks, 9 housemaids and kitchen maids, 64 nurses and 22 attendants, including Walter Harner the gatekeeper and his wife.

During the First World War the hospital was used as a war hospital. Over a thousand beds were made available for the War Office. It was used as a war hospital again during the Second World War. The hospital had its own church and a working farm until the early 1960s. Eventually the hospital was scaled down and then closed in the late 1990s. Today the site has been converted into residential apartments.

Causes of Insanity

Many of the first patients admitted were not insane. Some were paupers brought over from the workhouses and others suffered from epilepsy. In the records there are 361 patients admitted with epilepsy. During the years these records were recorded, depression was not as well known or recognized as it is today. Only 28 were admitted with depression and an additional two admitted with melancholy. Of course these numbers do not represent all the patients admitted to the asylum at this time because many records did not record the cause of insanity.


We have heard that love can push people to their limits, but for many patients at the South Yorkshire Lunatic Asylum it really did. The records show 54 people admitted because of love. The cause of insanity was often listed as ‘Disappointment in love.’ The patients were both men and women and from a range of backgrounds including: Dr. Edward Jeffrey, 42 years old of Barnsley, admitted in June 1880 and released after recovery in April 1881; Eliza Hawley, a former school teacher of Barnsley stayed at the asylum for four years after being admitted because of love; and 40 year old farmer, John Throup was admitted in June 1882, but never improved.


For over 200 patients, religion, religious mania or religious excitement was a ‘cause of insanity.’ Just as was the case with those admitted for love, those admitted for reasons of religion came from a variety of backgrounds. Unfortunately for Ann Elizabeth Addey, she suffered from both Love and Religon. Addey, 24 years old, was admitted in Feb 1891, but recovered quickly and was released by June 1891.


A further 60 patients are found to have been admitted because of fright or because of being frightened. These include: Harry Goodrum, a 29 year old hammer man from Rotherham; Anne Mary Barnes, a 27 year old domestic servant, who recovered after her fright during pregnancy; and John Appleyard, a horse keeper at a colliery, died after a fright by a horse in 1886.