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The Cottage System and Gheel

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 February 2018

John Sibbald*
Royal Edinburgh Asylum for the Insane


A System, called the cottage system, has of late years been attracting the attention of many of those interested in the construction of our lunatic asylums. The careful study of the requirements of the insane, which distinguishes many of the beautiful structures recently erected by the English counties has succeeded in producing what may be regarded as nearly the perfection of our present system; and unless it can be shown that an arrangement based on entirely new principles ought to be adopted, there remains little to be done in the way of improvement. Every proposal, therefore, which suggests a new principle of construction deserves the serious consideration of our profession; and the cottage system has been so highly commended by many respectable authorities that an examination of its merits will not be unacceptable to the readers of the Journal. The following pages are intended to be devoted to this object, as well as to the consideration of how much, if any, of the peculiarities of the system should be adopted in future arrangements for the accommodation of the insane; whether it should be adopted in place of our present system, engrafted upon it, or rejected altogether as unsuitable or impracticable.

Research Article
Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1861 

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‘Gheel, ou une Colonie d'Aliénés vivant en famille et en liberté,’ par Jules Duval. Paris, Guillaumin et Cie.Google Scholar

M. Moreau has evidently mistaken the church of St. Dymphna for St. Amand, which is in the centre of the town, while St. Dymphna is near one extremity.Google Scholar

For those interested in the subject, we may mention that one of the most readable statements of the merits of Gheel is ‘L'Air Libre et la Vie de Famille dans la commune de Gheel,‘ par le Dr. J. Parigot, Bruxelles, 1852.Google Scholar

‘Quarterly Review,’ 1857, republished in the ‘Curiosities of Civilization.‘Google Scholar

Op. cit.Google Scholar

It is impossible to determine by statistics what has been the value of Gheel as a place of cure. Ninety-six recoveries took place during the four years preceding 1860, and during that time there were five hundred and twenty-seven admissions, making a proportion of 18 per cent, recovered. The fact, that patients labouring under various curable forms of insanity are excluded from the colony, vitiates any dcdviction which might be made from this calculation, with the view of making a comparison with other establishments.Google Scholar

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