When it was constructed, the entire facility was designed to be a completely self-sustaining environment complete with a working farm, a dairy and waterworks, gas well, and cemetery. The building’s construction itself was designed to let in lots of natural light and give each patient their own room. For the first twenty or so years of its operation, the asylum wasn’t a bad or inhumane place to live. But that all changed in 1881.
The Victorians have a reputation for being an uptight bunch. In the late 1800s, there was an uptick in the number of psychiatric diagnoses handed out to patients. Everything from alcoholism to epilepsy was considered a mental defect, and patients were carted off to the asylum. In many cases, against their will. Soon enough, the asylum was overrun, and the population ballooned to twice as many as the building was initially intended to house.