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  • Writer's pictureJessica Feinstein

Thomas Murfin’s melancholia

Thanks to the very helpful service provided by staff at the Derbyshire Record Office at Matlock, I now have some more information about Thomas Murfin. They were able to send me four pages. One was the Register of Removals, Discharges and Deaths, which says that he was admitted to Mickleover Asylum on 1 April 1896 (so he was in the asylum for three years). The record says that he died from tuberculosis of the lungs and cerebral degeneration, and the archives assistant who sent me the pages said “possibly this refers to senile dementia”. There was a post-mortem.

The pages from the male patient case books were also provided. First come the patient’s details:

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Then the details about the reason for being in the asylum:

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I didn’t know that he had a brother, so it was very exciting to see that.

The other pages describe Thomas’s symptoms and behaviour:

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Over the following weeks and months there was no change, until December when he was “much stronger in bodily health”, “still subject to delusions, but … not so much influenced by them”.

Then in March 1897:

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And a year later, another report noted that he was not improved, “remaining profoundly depressed, with a constant expression of abject misery”.

He died at 9.20 in the evening of 5 March 1899, and the Statement to Coroner is pasted into the case notes:

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Finding a brother wasn’t difficult, with a Charles Murfin listed in the UK, Lunacy Patients Admission Registers, 1846–1912 on Ancestry (admitted in 1881, died in 1895). This in turn allowed me to find other siblings, including some born after 1837, which enabled me to find out their mother’s maiden name.

So I now know that Thomas’s parents were John Murfin and Hannah Allsop, and that has given us another generation further back, to her parents Charles Allsop and Sarah, who lived in Bradley.

In May 1898, the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald published a long article on an inspection visit to the asylum. This is just a small part, giving us some idea of what it was like.

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